Nursing sisters at a Canadian hospital voting in the 1917 Canadian federal election. (Photo: Library and Archives Canada)
Only 50 per cent of the population was eligible to vote in 1921
About 50 per cent of the population was eligible to vote in the 1921 election. Canadian men and women could vote if they were 21 or older. This changed in 1970, when the voting age was lowered to 18, after Pierre Trudeau took office — due in part to active youth campaigning. These youth, mobilized by their success, lobby Parliament to lower the voting age. There was little debate in passing the bill.
Today, about 75 per cent of Canada’s population can vote in federal elections. The remaining 25 percent do not meet the age or citizenship requirements.
Some jobs, backgrounds and religions were excluded from voting
Originally, people with certain jobs, such as judges and government workers, were excluded from voting. So were people from certain racial backgrounds, such as South Asian Canadians. First Nations people could only vote if they gave up their Indian status under the law. In 1948, racial and religious barriers were removed. Mennonites and Doukhobors were both religions prevented from voting in early federal elections, because most members of both these groups refused to perform military service for religious reasons.
Inuit gained the right to vote federally in 1950, and in 1960, First Nations men and women obtained the right to vote unconditionally.
In 1992, polling stations were required to be accessible to those in wheelchairs or with mobility devices.
The longest federal election lasted 78 days
In 2015, Elections Canada administered Canada’s longest federal election, which lasted for 78 days. Elections law requires a minimum campaign of 37 days. It does not impose a maximum length. Then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper chose when the campaign began, essentially choosing to make the 2015 election the longest traditional campaign in Canadian history.
“Everybody knows the election date and the campaigns of the other parties, as near as I can tell, have already begun,” Harper told CBC at the time, about why he began the election so early. “I feel very strongly…that those campaigns need to be conducted under the rules of the law. That the money come from the parties themselves, not from government resources, parliamentary resources or taxpayer resources.”
During a typical 37-day election period, each party can spend a maximum of $25 million. For each additional day, that limit is increased by 1/37th, or an extra $675,000, meaning an 11-week campaign would allow parties to spend more than $50 million.