In the colonies that would later form Canada, the vote was a privilege reserved for a limited segment of the population – mainly affluent men.Eligibility was based on property ownership: to be eligible, an individual had to own property or assets of a specified value or pay a certain amount in taxes or rent.
In short, only a fraction of the population could vote.
Since then, the situation has improved markedly, and in the following pages we provide a brief history of its evolution.
Evolution of the right to vote was neither consistent nor ordered.
The right to vote was not extended gradually and steadily to encompass new categories of citizens; rather, it evolved haphazardly, with the franchise expanding and contracting numerous times and each colony proceeding at a different pace.
For example, the degree of wealth needed for eligibility changed several times, with the result that people who had been entitled to vote suddenly found themselves deprived of that right, only to have it returned sometime later.
Similarly, laws were adopted from time to time that withdrew the right to vote from groups that had previously enjoyed it.Charles Walter Simpson used gouache, watercolour and oil to depict the Conseil de Québec, established in 1657.Four of its six members – one each from Trois-Rivières and Montréal, two from Québec – were elected by the small number of New France residents who qualified as Moreover, there was often quite a discrepancy between legal provisions and reality.Having the right to vote did not – and does not now – guarantee that an elector could exercise that right.Early in Canada's history, voting conditions set out in the law opened the door to a host of fraudulent schemes that, in practical terms, restricted the voting rights of a significant portion of the electorate at various times.For example: How many voters, living far from their riding's only polling station, relinquished their right to vote rather than travel long distances in often harsh conditions? Oral voting made it easier for votes to be bought; it also opened the door to intimidation and blackmail, since bribers could easily tell whether the voters whose votes they had bought voted as instructed.