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History of electoral process from 1870 to 2011

In examining historical election results it is important to be aware of the legislation that existed at the time the elections were held. What follows is a summary of the evolution of electoral law in Manitoba designed to accompany the summaries of result that follow. Information is organized chronologically by subject area. Many of the dates given are for the year the new procedures were first used. In many cases, however, the legislation was passed in the years preceding the elections. Many of the 2008 procedural changes reflect the establishment of a set date for elections. Source information is provided in the end notes.



  • The Elections Finances Act (EFA) is proclaimed. It introduces advertising spending limits for candidates and parties, a tax credit system for contributions to registered political parties and candidates, and provisions for financial disclosure.
  • Paid advertising of elections is allowed.


  • Candidate and political party accountability is increased
  • Provisions are added to enhance public disclosure of contributions and expenses
  • Voluntarism is excluded as an election expense
  • Definition of election expense is clarified
  • Provisions are added to make advance payments and assign reimbursements for candidates and parties.


  • Specific requirements are outlined for auditors of political parties and candidates.


  • Spending and contribution limitations for party leadership contests held by registered political parties are added to the EFA.
  • Maximum amount for payments to auditors is increased.


  • An interpretation of "reasonable personal or child care expenses" is added to clarify that only the additional and unique child care expenses incurred by a candidate as a result of an election will be eligible for a 100% reimbursement and only the unique additional personal expenses will be considered as an election expense.
  • Pre-writ advertising by a candidate or a constituency association must be authorized (previously only writ advertising was required to be authorized).
  • Changes to government advertising provisions specify what advertising is permitted in a general election plus provisions specific to a by-election.
  • The filing deadline for the election financial returns of candidates and political parties is extended to four months after Election Day.
  • Election financial statements to be accompanied by copies of receipts or other evidence of the disbursements and expenses set out in the statement as well as the details of outstanding liabilities.
  • Advisory opinions (on whether acts or omissions contravene the law) may be requested by the financial agent of a registered political party, constituency association, candidate or leadership contestant.
  • Money received by a candidate or a political party as a reimbursement of election expenses must first be used to reduce or eliminate outstanding liabilities.
  • Candidates who want to issue income tax receipts for cash contributions must register with the CEO by the end of the candidacy period.


  • Political parties are now entitled to public funding (referred to as an "annual allowance") but must file a statement if they wish to receive the allowance.
  • Ban on government advertising and publications extended to 90 days before a set date election.
  • Advertising rates charged to political entities must not exceed the lowest rate charged to anyone else.



  • Time limit for prosecutions extended to not later than two years after the alleged offence was committed.
  • Penalties for election offences increased.


  • Time limit for prosecutions changed to not later than one year after the date on which the Chief Electoral Officer has reasonable and probably grounds to believe that an offence has been committed.


  • A late filing fee now applies for statements filed after the prescribed deadline. The late filing fee would operate on a daily basis. If the return or information is filed by a certain date and the appropriate fee paid, then there would be no prosecution.


  • Reporting requirements clarified for parties and candidates in the event of cancellation of a by-election because a general election has been called.
  • CEO may deduct the late filing fees that were incurred under the EFA from any amounts that may be payable to the political entity under the Act.
  • CEO may make public the name of the person who is obligated to pay a late filing fee and the amount payable.

Contributions and Loans


  • Requirements for recording minimal value donation in kind contributions become less onerous.


  • EFA now clarifies who may collect contributions (only individuals normally resident in Manitoba) and how they may be collected.
  • EFA also clarifies that a contribution towards the deficit of a leadership contestant will be part of the annual $3,000 contribution limit.
  • No one shall use force or intimidation to induce or compel an individual to make or to refrain from making a contribution.
  • No person or organization can make or refinance a loan to a political party, candidate, leadership contestant or constituency association for a term exceeding 24 months and for an amount exceeding $3,000 (does not apply to loans made by financial institutions, political parties or constituency associations).
  • CEO must publish notice of loan agreement when amount exceeds $250, unless the loan is made by a financial institution.
  • Record of contribution must be signed by contributor when amount exceeds $100.


  • Thresholds are increased on tickets sold for a fundraising event and on items sold for the purposes of fundraising as well as for donations in kind.

Spending Limits


  • Spending limits expanded to include all expenses (not just advertising).
  • Partial reimbursement of actual election expenses introduced.


  • Advertising spending limits are eliminated.


  • After being eliminated in 1998, advertising spending limits are reinstated.


  • A minimum spending limit for political parties and candidates will be known at the start of an election.


  • Election expense limits and election advertising expense limits for parties and candidates are increased.
  • The annual advertising limit for political parties is now only applicable in the year of a set date election. The advertising limit is applicable outside the election period and must not exceed $250,000.
  • An annual advertising limit of $6,000 is imposed for candidates in the year of a set date election.
  • Advertising definition, with respect to the annual advertising limit, expanded to include posters, leaflets, letters, cards, signs, banners or any print material which is used to support or oppose a party or candidate.
  • Base month for CPI calculations with respect to election expense limit and annual advertising limit changed from June 1996 to June 2008.

Chief Electoral Officer


  • First mention of Chief Electoral Officer. Appointed by Lieutenant Governor in council to be Clerk of Executive Council and administer elections.1


  • The Office fo the Chief Electoral Officer is established to serve as an independent office of the Legislative Assembly in order to administer fair elections.2


  • Investigative powers of the Chief Electoral Officer strengthened. Obstruction of the Chief Electoral Officer is now an election offence.


  • Chief Electoral Officer can appoint Returning Officers (the position of Returning Officer used to be a political appointment by Cabinet).

Commissioner of Elections


  • Investigation and prosecution responsibilities of the Chief Electoral Officer are seperated from the assistance and compliance responsibilities, similar to the Canadian federal model, through the appointment (by the Chief Electoral Officer) of a commissioner having the sole responsibility to conduct investigations.


  • The Commissioner of Elections must notify the subject that an investigation is taking place and again once a decision has been made.
  • The Commissioner may make the outcome fo the investigation publi cif he/she feels it is in the public's interest.
  • The Commissioner may apply to the Court of Queen's Bench for an injunction or enter into a compliance agreement if he/she has reasonable grounds to believe that a person or organization has or is likely to commit an act contrary to the EA or the EFA.
  • The Commissioner must publish a notice when a formal caution is issued or when entering into a compliance agreement.

Electoral Boundaries


  • Electoral Divisions Boundaries Commission formed to independently review boundaries. Manitoba is the first province with an independent boundaries commission.


  • Commission membership increased from three to five; presidents of Brandon University and University College of the North added.
  • Report of the Commission no longer enacted by legislature, thereby removing requirement for political approval of boundaries.

Electoral Process


  • The secret ballot is used for the first time.


  • Advance voting first introduced during the 1932 General Election.3


  • Provisions for hospital patients to vote (special blank ballot) first used.


  • Election day is always to be a Tuesday.4


  • Voters given the option of placing ballot in ballot box themselves.
  • Judicial recounts deemed to be solely for the purpose of declaring as elected the candidate with the highest number of votes.


  • Tie votes resolved through a by-election rather than having the returning officer cast the deciding ballot.
  • The minimum election period is shortened from 36 to 33 days.

Electoral Reform


  • Voting occurs at public constituency meetings where each voter publicly declares his preference. The electoral officer records the votes, and the simple plurality (or 'first-past-the-post') system is used to elect members for the 24 seats in the Legislative Assembly.


  • A new system of representation is introduced: Winnipeg is divided into three constituencies, each represented by two members.5 Voters in each constituency are issued two ballots, one for each seat. No candidate can be listed on both ballots. So, although Winnipeg voters, in effect, vote twice, the ballots are counted and the candidates delcared elected as if there were two seperate constituencies. The rural constituencies, meanwhile, retain the simple first-past-the-post system.


  • A "proportional representation" system of voting is introduced in Winnipeg. The city is consolidated into a single constituency electing 10 members. Voters indicate their preferences by numbering the candidates' names on the ballot paper 1,2,3 etc. A complex method of counting these ballot papers is provided by amendments to The Elections Act.


  • The rural constituencies abandon the simple plurality system in favour of an "alternative" or "referential" balloting system which is used until 1958. In constituencies where more than two candidates are nominated, voters indicate their preferences by marking the ballot 1,2,3 etc.
  • The practice of members of the Assembly who had been chosen to enter the Cabinet (Executive Council) resigning their seats to face a by-election is abolished.6
  • The practice of "deferring" elections is becoming increasingly common, especially in northern constituencies where transportation and communication were difficult. The elections in these constituencies are held after the General Election when results from the remainder of the province were already known. Deferred elections are last held in 1966.


  • The single, 10-member constituency of Winnipeg is replaced by three constituencies, each represented by four members. In addition, the constituency of St. Boniface is given two members.7 The preferential balloting system is retained for these multi-member seats.


  • Winnipeg is divided into 20 single-member constituencies. The system of referential or alternative voting is abandoned in favour of the first-past-the-post plurality system in all constituencies, rural and urban.


  • The Elections Act is re-written in plain language, resulting in significant changes in terminology.


  • Set election date established, with the first election set to take place on October 4, 2011 and subsequent elections to take place on the first Tuesday of October every four years.



  • Only males who are established members of the community, in good financial standing, can vote.8


  • Requirement to be in good financial standing eliminated.
  • Residency requirement for voting increased to six months in Manitoba and one month in the electoral division.9


  • Residency requirements changed to three months in electoral division and one year in province.10


  • Persons receiving government salary of $350 or more could now vote.11


  • The voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 on October 10.


  • Effective July 1, only Canadian citizens can vote (British subjects and landed immigrants are not eligible).


  • Patients in mental health care facilities are eligible to vote for the first time (result of a Court of Queen's Bench decision).
  • Inmates in correctional institutions eligible to vote for the first time (result of a Court of Queen's Bench decision in March 1986). Subsequent decisions in November 1988, August 1990 and August 1999 uphold this eligibility.


  • Persons with a mental disability residing in an institution are eligible to vote for the first time (result of a Court of Queen's Bench decision in August 1990)


  • Judges allowed to vote


  • Residents who are members of the Canadian forces - and people who live with them - can now vote where they resided immediately before leaving.


  • Six-month limit on absence from Manitoba removed for students and government employees who may be on extended work-/study-related absence from the province but intend to return.


First Nations


  • First Nations persons in Armed Forces enfranchised.12


  • Manitoba's Treaty Indian population enfranchised.13



  • Manitoba is the first Canadian province to extend the franchise to women.14

Improved Service to Voters


  • Absentee voting introduced for eligible voters who are unable to vote on election day or advance voting days.
  • Reasons for use of advance voting expanded.
  • Revision period extended with longer local election office hours.
  • Public information mandate introduced to provide the public with information about the electoral process, the democratic right to vote and the right to be a candidate.
  • Declined ballot is now a secret ballot.


  • Advance voting extended to seven days. Eligible voters can vote at any advance voting station in Manitoba. Identification required.
  • Homebound voting extended to persons with any disability and to caregivers, if applicable.
  • Seperate voting stations permitted in residential complexes with 100 units or more.
  • Voting areas reduced to 250 voters in rural Manitoba to reduce travel to voting stations.


  • Voting on election day extended by one hour, beginning at 7:00 am.
  • An additional day of advance voting is added.
  • Maximum distance established for advance voting so that residents of population centres with more than 50 eligible voters will not have to travel more than 30 km to vote at an advance voting location.

Legislative Assembly


  • Increased to 40 seats.15


  • Increased to 49 seats.16


  • Increased to 55 seats.17


  • Three members are elected to represent the three branches of the Armed Forces (Army, Navy, and Air Force). These representatives are elected by Manitobans in the Armed Forces, many of whom are overseas. The addition of these seats increases the size of the Assembly to 58.


  • The three Armed Forces seats in the Assembly are eliminated, while the number of constituencies within Manitoba is increased to 57, as it is today.



  • $200 fee for nomination abolished and replaced with the requirement of signatures of 50 eligible voters in the electoral division in which the potential candidate wishes to become nominated.


  • Nomination papers now require 100 signatures.

Voters List


  • Eligible voters can have their names omitted or obscured from the voters list under rules of personal security protection.
  • Voters list no longer posted for public viewing or available for public use.
  • Access to voters lists more than 25 years old allowed for historical or research purposes.
  • Misuse of voters list is an election offence.


  • List of addresses (address database) to be prepared to assist with enumeration.
  • Enumeration may begin outside the election period, up to 75 days in advance of a set date election.
  • Revision period extended from six days to 29 days for a set date election, and reduced to four days for other election.

End Notes

1 MB Statutes-Elections Act 1949

2 MB Statutes-Elections Act 1980, Section 5, p 639

3 MB Statutes-MB Elections Act 1931

4 MB Statutes-Elections Act 1982,83,84, Section 4(d), p 303

5 Canadian Parliamentary Guide-Manitoba 1915

6 MB Statutes-MB Legislative Act 1927, Section 2, p 27

7 MB Statutes-MB Legislative Act 1949, Section 2, p 105

8 The British North American Act 1867-1962; The Manitoba Act 1870, Section 14

9 MB Statutes-MB Elections Act 1888, p 4

10 MB Statutes-MB Elections Act 1894, Section 1(d), pg 15

11 Statutes of MB-Manitoba Elections Act 1900, Section 4

12 Statutes of MB-MB Elections Act 1931, Section 16(5), p 97

13 Statutes of MB-MB Elections Act 1952, Section 5, p 51

14 ‘Celebrating Women’s History’ MB Statutes of Women Directorate, Spring 2002

15 MB Statutes-MB Electoral Divisions Act 1892, Section 8, p 27

16 MB Statutes-MB Legislative Act 1914

17 MB Statutes-MB Legislative Act 1920

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