Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
July 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


History of the Franchise in Canada


[This article was written in the 1930's and published in 1948. For the precise citation, see the end of the document.]

Franchise. For federal elections in Canada there is universal suffrage, with certain limitations which exclude judges, chief election officials, those who are deprived of the voting privilege under provincial laws, prisoners, Eskimo, Indians [Indians and Inuit now have the right to vote in federal and provincial elections] on reserves, and Indians who did not serve in the Great War, insane persons, and Doukhobors in British Columbia who have defied the law. The voter must be a British subject, resident in Canada for 12 months and in the electoral district for 3 months. The provinces in pioneer days began with a franchise based on the British policy of the forty-shilling freeholder, modified to suit local conditions. In Nova Scotia the owner of 100 acres, with 5 acres cultivated, could vote or be a candidate. In Canada , before 1867, owners or occupiers of real property, ranging in assessed value from $200 in rural areas to $600 in cities could vote. In Lower Canada the franchise was lower, the owner or tenant voting on an annual value of $20 for rural areas and $30 for urban. Since 1867 each province has determined its own franchise, which varies according to the legislative enactment. From 1867 to 1885 the provincial franchises applied in the federal elections. In the latter year the Macdonald government passed a law adding income voters ranging from $150 in country places to $300 in cities. This law involved a large increase in the number of voters, but caused heated debates, chiefly on the following points: the powers of the elections officers, non-resident voters, and Indian voters. The law with its annual revisions proved expensive and unpopular, and was repealed. The franchise was conferred upon women in the following years: 1916, in Alberta , Manitoba and Saskatchewan ; 1918, in Canada and Nova Scotia ; 1919, in Ontario and New Brunswick ; 1920, in British Columbia ; and 1922, in Prince Edward Island. Quebec has not conferred the franchise on women [until 1940]. See C. O. Z. Ermatinger, Canadian franchise and election laws (Toronto, 1886).

Source  : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. II, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 411p., pp. 383-384. 

© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College