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Canada’s Democracy in Action

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By voting in an election, you help decide who will represent you in Parliament! The opinions of voting Canadians like you are reflected between elections by the decisions made by Members and Senators.

When and Why Are Federal Elections Held?

  • By constitutional rule: According to Canada’s Constitution, a federal election must be held at least once every five years to give Canadians the chance to consider whether the governing party should remain in power.
  • A question of confidence: The Government must maintain the support of the majority of the Members in the House of Commons; this is known as having the confidence of the House. Losing the confidence of the House on an important vote may result in an election call.

About Federal Elections

Canada is divided into areas called ridings. There is one riding for each seat in the House of Commons, for a total of 338. Ridings are determined based on population; approximately 70,000 people live in each riding.

Once an election is launched, candidates campaign to get the support of people in the riding in which they are running. Any Canadian citizen 18 years of age or older who wants to vote can have his or her name added to the list of voters. On Election Day voters cast their ballots for the candidate they think will best represent their riding in the House of Commons. The candidate who gets the most votes becomes a Member of Parliament. The political party with the most Members in the House of Commons usually forms the Government.

Forming a Government

The outcome of an election determines which party will form the Government in the House of Commons and will be the governing party in the Senate.

After a party wins the most seats in an election: