Better know a Canadian functionary: the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada

Before 1920 federal elections in Canada were overseen by an official known as the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. His authorities over federal elections were limited to administrative and archival spheres, though:  elections were still run locally, and the Clerk just authorized elections, certified candidates, and recorded results. (He also controlled the publication of the official journals of the House and Senate, a responsibility eventually transferred to the clerks of those chambers.) The Clerks of the Crown in Chancery were:

1867-73: Edouard-Joseph Langevin
1873-74: Henry Steele
1874-88: Richard Pope
1888-1900: Samuel-Edmour St.-Onge Chapleau
1900-08: H.G. LaMothe
1908-20: James G. Foley

The general election of 1917, fueled by wartime hysteria, saw some of the most corrupt practices in decades. In 1920, Parliament decided to replace the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery with a new Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, empowered to control everything from the counting of votes, to the placement of polling stations, to the compiling of electors’ rolls. The Chief Electoral Officers of Canada have been:

1920-27: Col. Oliver Mowat Biggar. Grandson of Sir Oliver Mowat, Father of Confederation, Col. Biggar was Judge Advocate General of Canada from 1918 to 1920 and headed the Canadian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Later he served as co-chair of the Canada-U.S. Joint Defense Board in World War II with former New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia.

1927-49: Jules P. Castonguay ISO. Castonguay had no more than a grade-school education, but had been at the Clerk’s office since 1908, and knew its administration inside and out.

1949-66: Nelson Jules Castonguay. Son of Jules, the younger Castonguay had a high-school education, captained a frigate in the Navy in WWII, and was executive assistant to his father for four years.

1966-90: Jean-Marc Hamel. The highly-qualified Hamel held a master’s degree in public administration from Syracuse University and worked for the Civil Service Commission for fourteen years. 1990-2007: Jean-Pierre Kingsley. Kingsley had made a career of running hospitals, including time as the President of the Ottawa General Hospital and Chairman of the Board of the Montfort Hospital in Ottawa.

2007–present: Marc Mayrand. Mayrand studied law at the LSE and served as the Superintendent of Bankruptcy of Canada from 1997 to 2007.

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Canadian recipients of the Imperial Service Order | Jeremy Turcotte, Trained Journalist

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