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Canadian federal election

Canadian federal elections are nation-wide votes that are held to decide who will govern Canada.

Elections can be called by the ruling party at any time and must be called within five years of the last election. Traditionally governments have waited four years between elections, but under Jean Chrétien's Liberal government elections have been held every three and half years. Parties generally only wait the maximum of five years between elections if they expect to lose and hope a postponement will allow more time for things to change in their favour.

Elections are generally held in either the fall of spring. This avoids the problems of a winter campaign, where outdoor events are hard to hold and voters are generally grumpier. It also avoids the problems of the summer with many people on holiday and many more uninterested in politics.

Using a first past the post system Canadians vote for members of Parliament, who are sent to the House of Commons. Canadians do not vote directly for the prime minister, nor do they vote for other positions such as senators. See also Canadian electoral system for more detail.

By-elections held between general elections can also be held. The federal government can also hold nation-wide referendums on major issues. The last referendum was held in 1992 over the Charlottetown Accord. On occasion elections can also act as referendums. The most recent instance of this was the 1988 election, which was proclaimed by most parties to be a referendum on free trade with the United States.

Canadian election turn-out is generally higher than that in the United States but lower than in most European nations. Election turn-out has also steadily been falling for many decades. Currently about two-thirds of eligible voters vote in federal elections.

The next Canadian election is expected in the spring of 2004.

List of Canadian Elections

For a more detailed list with results: List of Canadian federal elections