National elections must be held at least once every four years to decide who will represent Canadians in the House of Commons.

Canada is divided into areas called ridings (also called constituencies or electoral districts). Canadian citizens vote for the candidate in their riding who they think will best represent them. There are usually many different candidates in each riding. They may represent a political party or be running independently.

How does a person become a candidate? First, he or she has to be nominated (or chosen) by fellow party members in his or her riding during a special meeting called a nomination meeting. If more than one person in the party wants to be a candidate for that riding, there is a vote during the nomination meeting to decide who it will be. If a person does not belong to a party, then he or she can run for election in his or her riding as an independent candidate.

On Election Day, the candidate who gets the most votes becomes a Member of Parliament (MP) and represents his or her riding in the House of Commons in Ottawa. The party with the most number of elected MPs across the country usually forms the Government. The leader of that party becomes the Prime Minister.

Running for office takes dedication and lots of hard work. Some candidates run many times before they win an election. Once the candidates are elected, they spend part of the year in Ottawa and part of the year in their home ridings.


Imagine you were going to run in the next federal election. Do you know which party you would want to represent? Or would you choose to run as an independent? How would you decide?


Because each riding should represent a relatively fixed number of people,  as the population increases, the number of ridings has to be increased and the boundaries redrawn. In 1867, Canada had only 4 provinces and 181 ridings. Today, there are 338 ridings.


In the world of politics, the verb to run has a specific meaning. To run in an election means that you are competing with other candidates to represent your riding. During an election, you may hear the expressions run for office and running in an election. They both mean to compete in an election as a candidate.

to elect   election   electoral (process, vote, officer) or elective (surgery)

The word elect means to choose. Here are a few sentences with the word elect:

  • She was elected in 2006.
  • An election will be held this year.
  • He is the Chief Electoral Officer.