Referendum Act (S.C. 1992, c. 30)
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Act current to 2023-05-17 and last amended on 2023-04-27. Previous Versions
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:
Marginal note:Short title
1 This Act may be cited as the Referendum Act.
2 (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
3 (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.
(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.
4 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
5 (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.
(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.
(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
Writs of Referendum
Marginal note:Issue of writs of referendum
6 (1) On the issue of a proclamation, the Chief Electoral Officer shall, in accordance with the proclamation, issue writs of referendum in the form set out in Schedule I for all electoral districts in Canada or in the province or provinces specified in the proclamation.
Marginal note:Date of writs
(2) Writs of referendum shall be dated on such day as the Governor in Council may determine.
Marginal note:Polling day
(3) Polling day at a referendum shall be determined by the Governor in Council and be specified in the writs of referendum.
Marginal note:Forwarding to returning officers
(4) Writs of referendum shall be directed to the persons appointed pursuant to the Canada Elections Act as returning officers for the various electoral districts and shall be forwarded to them by the Chief Electoral Officer forthwith after their issue.
(5) Writs of referendum may not be issued during a general election nor may they be dated on a day later than the thirty-sixth day before polling day at the referendum.
Marginal note:Deemed withdrawal of writs of referendum
(6) Where writs of election at a general election are issued during the period beginning on the day on which writs of referendum are issued and ending on polling day at the referendum, the writs of referendum shall be deemed to be withdrawn on the day on which the writs of election are issued.
Marginal note:Notice of withdrawal of writs to be published
(7) Where writs of referendum are deemed by subsection (6) to be withdrawn, a notice of the withdrawal of the writs shall be published in the Canada Gazette by the Chief Electoral Officer.
Conduct of Referendum
Marginal note:Application of Canada Elections Act to referendum
7 (1) Subject to this Act, the Canada Elections Act, as adapted pursuant to subsection (3), applies in respect of a referendum, and, for the purposes of that application, the issue of writs of referendum shall be deemed to be the issue of writs for a general election.
Marginal note:Provisions not applicable
(2) The provisions of the Canada Elections Act referred to in Schedule II do not apply in respect of a referendum.
(3) Subject to this Act, the Chief Electoral Officer may, by regulation, adapt the Canada Elections Act in such manner as the Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary for the purposes of applying that Act in respect of a referendum.
(4) The Chief Electoral Officer may make regulations
(a) respecting the conduct of a referendum; and
(b) generally for carrying out the purposes and provisions of this Act.
Marginal note:No examination
(5) Section 3 of the Statutory Instruments Act does not apply in respect of a regulation made pursuant to subsection (3) or (4).
Marginal note:Deposit of regulation with Clerk
(6) A copy of each regulation that the Chief Electoral Officer proposes to make under this section shall be deposited with the Clerk of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Commons at least seven days before the day on which the regulation is proposed to be made.
Marginal note:Reference to committee
(7) A regulation deposited with the Clerk of the Senate stands referred to such committee of the Senate, if any, as is designated or established, prior to the deposit, to review the regulation, and a regulation deposited with the Clerk of the House of Commons stands referred to the Special Committee on Electoral Reform established on February 14, 1992 or, if that Special Committee no longer exists, to such committee of the House of Commons as may be designated or established to review the regulation, and the committees may make such recommendations to the Chief Electoral Officer with respect to the regulation as they consider appropriate.
8 and 9 [Repealed, 1996, c. 35, s. 88]
Marginal note:Appointment of deputy returning officers
9.1 (1) As soon as convenient after the issue of the writ for a referendum, a returning officer shall, by writing in the prescribed form executed under his hand, appoint one deputy returning officer in each polling division in the electoral district to be appointed from lists supplied by the registered party whose candidate finished first in the electoral district in the last election.
Marginal note:Appointment of poll clerks
(2) As soon as convenient after the issue of the writ for a referendum, a returning officer shall, by writing in the prescribed form executed under his hand, appoint one poll clerk in each polling division in the electoral district to be appointed from lists supplied by the registered party whose candidate finished second in the electoral district in the last election.
(3) to (5) [Repealed, 1996, c. 35, s. 89]
- 1992, c. 30, s. 9.1
- 1996, c. 35, s. 89
- Date modified: