by Maurice Y. Michaud (he/him)
It never ceases to amaze me when people complain about "having yet another election." I only need to think about the failed attempt in the first 20 years of the 21st century to install some form of democracy in Afghanistan, or the current bloody struggle of Ukrainians to preserve their democracy, to come to a deep appreciation of how precious Canada's democracy is, despite its flawed electoral system.
Although Canadians are often accused of being smug when comparing themselves with their neighbours to the south, it is indisputable to me that the blush is off the rose that presents itself as "The Beacon of Democracy." Although we, too, are witnessing a sharper polarization within the electorate, at least we do not have to contend with systemic flaws that would make us vulnerable to shenanigans like gerrymandering, as is the case in the United States. As such, each time we are called to the polls, we should be celebrating and giving thanks to the fact that we have something that many people around the world would literally kill to have!
There! I am done editorializing, so let me tell you how many electoral events are recorded in this database and about which you can find all the details in this section of the website.
This table shows, by jurisdiction, the year of the earliest and latest recorded event as well as the number of the earliest and current assembly (or of the last one in the case of the North-Western Territory). Also keep in mind that, for each general election (Elec), there is an individual race in each riding, while more than one race could occur during any given by-election. What's more, note that this table makes a distinction between the absolute number of races (N) and the number of real races (n) by subtracting from the former the number of races won by acclamation (Accl.). This distinction is not made for referendums as they are by definition questions (Q) offering a choice between at least two options.
|Size of database in terms of electoral events and races|
|ΣElec+Q = ΣN =||461||34,651||1,057||33,594||2,203||3,158||1,181||1,977||41||2,563|
|The jurisdiction numbers are arbitrary and only hold significance for the maintenance of the data.
The MMP simulator can be run on 405 of the 461 general elections.
A small handful of by-elections that did not really occur was added to this database to record when someone's election was overturned and the seat was handed over to the challenger who had lost.
Because it was a two-pronged question, the 2018 referendum in British Columbia on electoral reform had to be recorded as two separate events but is counted as a single event. What's more, at this time, only the aggregate results by provinces and territories are available for the 1992 Canada/Québec referendum on the Charlottetown Accord, although efforts are underway to obtain the results by riding.
In the Westminster parliamentary system as practised in most jurisdictions in Canada up until the early 1930s, a person who was named to the cabinet for the first time was required to resign their seat and run in a ministerial by-election soon after their resignation. Many of those by-elections were won by acclamation, and extremely rare were the times when a newly minted minister would fail to regain their seat even if it was challenged. In addition during that period, unseating a member was commonplace and the mechanism to challenge someone's election seems to have been very lax when viewed through presentist lens, as many by-elections were held merely because the challenger — often the defeated incumbent — did not like the result. Therefore, by-elections were far more frequent back then than they are today.
In short, this database contains about 2,700 "elections" from 1866 to today with more than 40,000 individual "races" within them. Although Confederation only began in 1867, New Brunswick's 1866 general election is widely viewed today as its first of the Confederation era, while the three other new provinces each held a general election in 1867. Similarly, the 1873 general election on Prince Edward Island was held a few months before the province formally joined Confederation.
The detailed results of some by-elections still have to be found and recorded.