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Referendum Act (S.C. 1992, c. 30)

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Act current to 2021-06-28 and last amended on 2005-12-31. Previous Versions

Referendum Act

S.C. 1992, c. 30

Assented to 1992-06-23

An Act to provide for referendums on the Constitution of Canada

Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:

Short Title

Marginal note:Short title

 This Act may be cited as the Referendum Act.


Marginal note:Definitions

  •  (1) In this Act,

    chief agent

    chief agent, in respect of a registered referendum committee, means the person recorded in the registry maintained under section 17 as the chief agent of that committee; (agent principal)


    contribution means money, and the commercial value of goods and services, other than volunteer labour, provided by any person, group or government, whether as a contribution, gift, loan, advance, deposit or otherwise, to any other person or group to be used by that other person or group for the purposes of a referendum, but does not include

    • (a) money provided in the normal course of business, by way of loan, advance or other means of lending, under normal terms and conditions, including the rate of interest thereon, for money provided in that way, and

    • (b) the actual cost to the recipient thereof of goods and services provided in the normal course of business at not less than their commercial value; (contribution)

    electoral district

    electoral district, in respect of a referendum, means any place or territorial area that would be entitled, at a general election, to return a member to serve in the House of Commons if that House were dissolved on the day on which the proclamation is issued; (circonscription)

    federal party

    federal party means any political party that has one or more elected members in the House of Commons on the day on which writs of referendum are issued; (parti fédéral)


    group means any unincorporated trade union, trade association or other group of persons acting together by mutual consent for a common purpose, and includes a federal party and a provincial party; (groupe)


    oppose, in respect of a referendum question, means to be in favour of voting “no” to the question; (s’opposer)

    polling day

    polling day, in respect of a referendum, means the day named in the writs of referendum on which the poll is to be held at the referendum; (jour du scrutin)


    proclamation means a proclamation referred to in subsection 3(1); (proclamation)

    provincial party

    provincial party means any political party that has one or more elected members in a provincial legislature on the day on which writs of referendum are issued or, if the legislature is then dissolved, had one or more of those members immediately before dissolution; (parti provincial)


    referendum means a referendum held pursuant to a proclamation; (référendum)

    referendum committee

    referendum committee means any person who, or group that, intends to incur referendum expenses over five thousand dollars; (comité référendaire)

    referendum expenses

    referendum expenses means

    • (a) amounts paid,

    • (b) liabilities incurred,

    • (c) the commercial value of goods and services, other than volunteer labour, donated or provided, and

    • (d) amounts that represent the differences between amounts paid and liabilities incurred for goods and services, other than volunteer labour, and the commercial value thereof where they are provided at less than their commercial value,

    (all of which are in this definition referred to as the “cost”) for the purpose of supporting or opposing, directly and during a referendum period, a referendum question and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes the following costs when incurred for that purpose:

    • (e) the cost of acquiring the right to the use of time on the facilities of any broadcasting undertaking or of acquiring the right to the publication of an advertisement in any periodical publication,

    • (f) the cost of acquiring the services of any person, including remuneration paid to the person or on behalf of the person, as an agent or otherwise, except where the services are donated or provided free of charge,

    • (g) the cost of acquiring meeting space, of provision of light refreshment and of acquiring and distributing mailing objects, material or devices of a promotional nature, and

    • (h) the cost of goods or services provided by a government,

    but does not include any costs incurred by a member of the Senate or the House of Commons in the discharge of the member’s duties and paid out of any allowance or other amount provided to the member pursuant to the Parliament of Canada Act; (dépenses référendaires)

    referendum finances return

    referendum finances return means the return required by subsection 19(1) to be filed with the Chief Electoral Officer by the chief agent of a registered referendum committee and includes the bills, vouchers and receipts referred to in subsection 19(2); (rapport financier référendaire)

    referendum period

    referendum period means the period beginning on the day on which the text of the referendum question is approved under section 5 and ending on polling day at the referendum; (période référendaire)

    referendum question

    referendum question means a question directed to be put to electors by a proclamation; (question référendaire)

    registered referendum committee

    registered referendum committee means a referendum committee that is registered under section 13; (comité référendaire enregistré)


    support, in respect of a referendum question, means to be in favour of voting “yes” to the question. (favoriser)

  • Marginal note:Words and expressions

    (2) Unless a contrary intention appears, words and expressions used in this Act have the same meaning as in the Canada Elections Act.

Proclamation of Referendum

Marginal note:Proclamation of referendum

  •  (1) Where the Governor in Council considers that it is in the public interest to obtain by means of a referendum the opinion of electors on any question relating to the Constitution of Canada, the Governor in Council may, by proclamation, direct that the opinion of electors be obtained by putting the question to the electors of Canada or of one or more provinces specified in the proclamation at a referendum called for that purpose.

  • Marginal note:More than one question

    (2) A proclamation may direct that more than one question be put to electors.

  • Marginal note:Wording of question

    (3) A referendum question shall be so worded that each elector may express an opinion on the question by making a cross or other mark after the word “yes” or “no” on the ballot paper.

  • Marginal note:Form of ballot paper

    (4) The Chief Electoral Officer shall, for the purpose of a referendum, modify the form of the ballot paper used at a general election in such manner as, in the Chief Electoral Officer’s opinion, will best achieve that purpose.

  • Marginal note:Language

    (5) The Chief Electoral Officer shall ensure that the text of a referendum question is available in such aboriginal languages and in such places in those languages, as the Chief Electoral Officer, after consultation with representatives of aboriginal groups, may determine.

Marginal note:Restrictions

 No proclamation may be issued

  • (a) when the House of Commons stands dissolved; or

  • (b) before, or more than forty-five days after, the text of the referendum question has been approved under section 5.

Marginal note:Motion for approval of referendum question

  •  (1) Subject to subsections (2) and (4), a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada referred to in section 4.1 of the Salaries Act may, in accordance with the procedures of the House of Commons, give notice of a motion for the approval of the text of a referendum question.

  • Marginal note:Consultation

    (2) The Leader of the Opposition and the leader of each political party having a recognized membership of twelve or more persons in the House of Commons shall be provided with, and be consulted about, the proposed text of a referendum question at least three days before notice of the motion for approval of the text is given.

  • Marginal note:Extended hours

    (3) On the filing of a request with the Speaker of the House of Commons by any fifteen members of the House after consultation under subsection (2) has commenced, the House shall sit beyond the normal hour of adjournment on each day on which the House is considering the motion until no further member rises in debate, but in any event, not later than midnight.

  • Marginal note:Consideration of motion

    (4) The motion shall be moved and considered by the House of Commons on the next sitting day of the House following the day on which notice of the motion was given.

  • Marginal note:Vote

    (5) On the expiration of the third sitting day of the House of Commons on which the motion is considered, or at such earlier time as the House is ready for the question, the Speaker shall forthwith, without further debate or amendment, put every question necessary for the disposition of the motion.

  • Marginal note:Motion for concurrence

    (6) If the motion is adopted by the House of Commons, with or without amendment, a message shall be sent from that House informing the Senate that the motion has been so adopted and requesting that the motion be concurred in by the Senate.

  • Marginal note:Consideration of motion

    (7) A motion that is the subject of a request for concurrence shall be dealt with by the Senate in accordance with subsections (4) and (5).

  • Marginal note:Concurrence in amendments

    (8) If the motion is amended by the Senate, the motion in the House of Commons to concur in the amendment shall be moved and disposed of on the next sitting day of the House following the day on which the message of the amendment was received by the House, and any further amendment by the House shall be similarly dealt with in the Senate.

  • 1992, c. 30, s. 5
  • 2005, c. 16, s. 15
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