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Contemporary Canadian Govt. & Politics: A Research Guide: Facts and Figures

Brief factual and statistical information may be found by using one or more of the following specialized reference sources. These include directories for contact information, sources giving election results, details on ridings, biographical information, important dates, sources that describe and help locate relevant places, that explain the structure of government, and that provide general statistics.

General Facts about Canadian Government and Politics:

Under "General Facts" are listed sources that provide details on the structure of government, contact information, election results, etc. as well as broader sources that may also cover important dates, people, places and statistics.

About Parliament. Parliament of Canada. Created and maintained by the Senate, the House of Commons and the Library of Parliament.

Selected sources are listed separately in this guide under appropriate headings but there is much more here and more is being added quite regularly. An excellent place to start for basic general facts about Canadian government and Parliament. Includes resources for teachers, and publications such as "Our Country, Our Parliament" and "How Canadians Govern Themselves".

The Almanac of Canadian Politics. By Munroe Eagles, et al. 2nd ed. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1995. 765 p.

Profiles all 295 federal constituencies with an overview of the regions written by political science professors. 1988 and 1993 federal election results and the Constitutional Referendum vote in 1992 are provided for each riding with socio-economic statistics on the population for each. Appendices include an alphabetical list of candidates and campaign calendar of tours and leaders' appearances in the 1993 election.

Canada Votes, 1935-1988. By Frank Feigert. Durham: Duke University Press, 1989. 216 p.

Provides the number of votes and the percentage of votes each party received, by riding. Analysis includes a description of the electoral systems in each province.

Canadian Almanac and Directory. Toronto: IHS/Micromedia, Grey House Publishing. 1848 -- . Annual.

Government sections include addresses, phone numbers, websites, etc. for federal, provincial, and municipal government departments and agencies. Has Canadian symbols, forms of address, national statistics and more. Also available online in Grey House Publishing's CIRC database.

Canadian Election Study. By researchers from several Canadian universities.

This is a large survey of Canadian voters that tries to find out why citizens vote the way they do, conducted each election year since the 1960s. Questionnaires and datasets in various formats are available.

Canadian Guide of Leadership and Electoral History, 1867-1997. Ed. by Wayne Madden. Fort McMurray, AB: W.D. Madden, 1998. 160 p. (Analytical Supplement. 83 p.)

Provides lists of Prime Ministers, Governor Generals, Opposition Leaders, Speakers, numbers of each party in Senate and the House of Commons, provincial Premiers, election results and votes won since 1886 by major parties. The supplement adds governing second and third parties in federal and provincial general elections, the strength of government and opposition parties, and compares these across all jurisdictions.

Canadian Parliamentary Guide. Toronto: Grey House Publishing (publisher varies). 1909 -- . Annual.

Has federal and provincial election results from 1867 on and information on federal and provincial legislators.

Canadian Parliamentary Handbook. By John Bejermi. Ottawa, ON: Borealis Press. 1982 -- . Annual.

Bilingual listing of contact information and brief biographical information on Members of Senate, House of Commons, Governor General, etc. More general information includes the parliamentary process, Table of Precedence for Canada, Table of Titles used in Canada, alphabetical constituency listing and election results for each constituency.

Canadian Political Facts, 1945-1976. By Colin Campbell. Toronto: Methuen, 1977. 151 p.

A compilation of facts from various sources, for the stated years only.

Collins Dictionary of Canadian History: 1867 to the Present. By David J. Bercuson and J. L. Granatstein. Toronto: Collins, 1988. 270 p.

More than just a dictionary, brief entries describe people, institutions and events. Appendices list government officials, various statistics and election results.

Departments and Roles: 1867 - Today. Library of Parliament.

A key reference tool and part of the Parlinfo site, this database allows you to see the history of federal government departments, with their name changes, mandates, Ministers, Critics, and more.

Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship. Canada. Citizenship and Immigration.

The official study guide for Canada's citizenship test includes information on Canada's history, how government works, Canadian symbols, and regions.

Elections Canada website.

This is the official source for a great deal of information on elections and political parties in Canada. The Elections Canada website has the official voting results (poll by poll) of recent federal elections and by-elections, voter turn-out at elections and referenda, rules on elections financing, election handbook for candidates, many publications including Backgrounders on election-related issues, and more. Registered parties are listed with their financial reports, contact information and links to their websites. Electoral district associations across Canada are listed with contact information. The electoral district database allows you to search for your electoral district by postal code, keyword, candidate, place name, or by using a map. Additional information frequently added.

The Electoral System of Canada Ottawa: Elections Canada, 2015. 4th. ed. 58 p.

Describes how the political and electoral system works in Canada. Appendices include a chronology of election milestones, a list of all Parliaments and Prime Ministers, distribution of seats in the House of Commons from 1867-2015, voter turnout, and links to more on the Elections Canada website.

Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates. Ed. by Richard W. Pound. 3rd ed. updated & enlarged. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2005. 988 p.

A chronology of Canadian facts from prehistory to the present. Has a subject and name index in the back.

Government of Canada Contacts.

Scroll to see contact information by department and agency, general enquiry options, and the Government Employee Directory. From here you can also find your Member of Parliament by riding, Member's name or your postal code.

Government Websites

Almost all federal government departments, agencies, boards and commissions have their own official websites with a brief descriptive statement on what they do, their mandate, mission statement, an overview and/or background information.
The official Government of Canada website:  has a link to Departments and Agencies.
If you are unsure which federal government departments and agencies deal with a certain topic, search the website, or search the Inventory of Federal Organizations by portfolio. (See entry below.)

Guide to Canadian Ministries since Confederation. Public Archives Canada and Government of Canada Privy Council Office, 1982. 200 p. Updated by: Ledoux, Denise. Guide to Canadian Ministries since Confederation: Supplement 1980-2000. Ottawa: Library of Parliament, Information & Documentation Branch, 2000. Cumulative online version: (1867-present) available on the Privy Council Office website:

A chronological list of ministries since Confederation with names and dates of the ministers responsible.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice. Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit. Ottawa: House of Commons and Montreal: Chenelière/McGraw-Hill, 2000. 1152 p. 3rd ed., 2017 online:

Listed as a 'key textbook' but also has 15 appendices that provide general election results from 1867 to 1997, a list of Prime Ministers, Leaders of the Official Opposition, Speakers, and Party Leaders in the House of Commons. Its detailed and cross-referenced index also makes it useful as a quick reference tool for just about any fact on Parliamentary procedure in Canada.

Information About Programs and Holdings (formerly Info Source). Print: 1983 - . Annual. Ottawa: Treasury Board Secretariat.

For federal departments and agencies subject to the Access to Information Act, has details on the information held and the contact information for requesting information.

Inventory of Federal Organizations and Interests. Government of Canada.

A listing of over 300 federal government organizations (departments, agencies, shared-governance corporations, current and some historical), each with a description that includes where they fit in the government structure and how they relate to other government organizations. Can be searched by name, or browsed by portfolio, organization type, and population group.

Our Procedure. House of Commons. Parliament of Canada. (Formerly "Compendium of Procedure", "Précis of Procedure" and House of Commons fact sheets.)

Brings together articles and fact sheets that describe procedures in the House of Commons and its committees. Links to more in-depth publications such as the House of Commons Procedures and Practice and other Procedural Reference Material.

Parlinfo. Library of Parliament.

A key site. An important collection of current and historical information on Parliament since 1867. Includes details on the people and work of Parliament, the histories of government departments and federal election ridings, election results, information on political parties and candidates, etc.  

Scott's Canadian Sourcebook. Don Mills, Ont.: Southam Inc. 1966 - . Annual. (Formerly Corpus Almanac and Canadian Sourcebook.)

Has the same kind of information as Canadian Almanac and Directory.

Structure of Government. Government of Canada.

Links are provided to the websites of and information on the Sovereign, the Governor General, Parliament, Senate, House of Commons, Prime Minister, Cabinet, etc.

See also General Facts in Special Topics.


Important dates in contemporary government and politics will be found in many sources including some listed above under "General Facts". The following are specifically useful for finding dates:

Canada, 875-1973: A Chronology and Fact Book. Edited by Brian H.W. Hill. Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, 1973. 152 p.

The first part of the book is a chronology of events related to the shaping of Canada as a nation from 875-1973. Also contains reprints of some early Constitutional documents

How Ottawa Spends. Toronto: J. Lorimer, 1983  . Annual.

A new feature starting with the 1998/99 volume is Appendix A: Canadian Political Facts and Trends. It provides a chronology of key Canadian political events (federal and provincial) based on news reports published in The Globe and Mail.

Parliaments (1867 to Date). PARLINFO website. Library of Parliament.

The table provided shows the start and end dates of each Parliament and session, the number of sittings in the House of Commons and Senate per session, and more, from 1867 to date.

"Timelines" in The Canadian Encyclopedia.

This section allows you to browse timelines for people, places or things, or search timelines by keyword. Browseable categories include: "Acts & Treaties", "Elections & Prime Ministers", "Politics & Government".

See also Special Topics.


Brief biographical sketches can be found in many places. The kinds of facts usually available in directories include the person's birth and death dates, professional experience and honours, address, and sometimes family and social connections. Biographies and autobiographies give the fullest details.
For tips on contacting people in government and politics see What's Happening Now -- Contacting People

Parlinfo: People. Library of Parliament.

The "People" section of the Parlinfo site has lists, from 1867 to the present, of Governors General, Prime Ministers and their senior staff, leaders of the official opposition, all Parliamentarians, parliamentary committee members, Senators, officers of Parliament, and more. In most cases, clicking on the name links to a biographical profile.

Members of the House of Commons and Senate. Parliament of Canada.

Select "House of Commons", then "Members", or Senate, then "Senators" to see photographs, contact information, and brief biographical information for members since 1997. Also has the names of candidates in elections since 1997. (Earlier information is on the Parlinfo, Library of Parliament site.)

Canadian Parliamentary Guide. Toronto, Ont.: Grey House Publishing (earlier publishers vary), 1862 -  . Annual.

Has very concise biographies of members of federal and provincial/territorial governments, federal Superior courts, Privy Council, Governor General's office, and Parliament. Also has election results from 1867 on and the results of the most recent provincial elections.

Canadian Parliamentary Handbook. By John Bejermi. Ottawa: Borealis Press, 1982 - . Annual.

A bilingual source for brief biographies with photograph and contact information for Members of the Senate and House of Commons, and the Governor General. Also includes lists of Cabinet Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Table of Precedence, Table of Titles used in Canada, and more.

Canadian Who's Who. Toronto, Ont.: Grey House Publishing, (earlier publishers vary), 1910 - . Annual.

This biographical dictionary of prominent Canadian men and women provides a brief sketch including address, date and place of birth, profession, education, list of honours and achievements, leisure interests, and social memberships, for approximately 10,000 living Canadians selected for inclusion on the basis of merit and position. Index volume covers 1898-1984.

Contemporary Canadian Biographies. Scarborough, Ont.: Gale Canada, 1998 - . Annual. CD-ROM and online.

Directory of Political Scientists in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Political Science Association (CPSA). Annual.

This directory provides names, brief biographical information and subject specialization of members of CPSA and La Société québécoise de science politique. Also has a list of university political science departments and graduate programs in Canada.

First Among Equals: The Prime Minister in Canadian Life and Politics.

Archived bilingual site by the National Library of Canada provides details on the political careers and private lives of all of Canada's Prime Ministers, including the text of selected speeches on various topics. The site is geared to a Grade 4-6 audience with online games and resources for teachers.

Former Governors General. Governor General of Canada.

For each former governor general there is a portrait, dates in office and a brief biographical sketch.

Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Edited by W. Steward Wallace. 4th ed. Revised and updated by W. A. McKay. Toronto: Macmillan, 1978. 914 p.

Has brief biographies of prominent Canadians who died before 1976.

Parlinfo: Political Parties. Library of Parliament.

This section of the Parlinfo site lists federal political parties and their leaders since 1866, and current officers of party caucuses,  executives of federal political parties, and the current party standings in the House of Commons and Senate.

Who's Who in America. Chicago: Marquis. 1922 -. Annual.

Brief biographical entries on over 80,000 contemporary people from Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

Who's Who in Canada. Toronto: Global Press. 1922 - . Annual.

Over 2,000 brief sketches, with photographs, mostly of people in business and government.

Who's Who of Canadian Women. Toronto: Who's Who Publications and Chatelaine magazine. 1984-1996. CD-ROM, 1997. U. of Toronto Press, 1999.

Best source of brief biographical information for thousands of Canadian women chosen based on merit.

Note: Major Biographies (Books about People)

Biographies about politicians are a form of historical writing that can make the history of a party or government more interesting by combining it with the human interest of the personal life of the subject and their experiences.

Find these using a library catalogue: Enter the person's last name as a subject (e.g. Trudeau, Pierre) or do a keyword search combining the person's name and the word biography (e.g. Trudeau and biography).

Shorter biographies can also be published as articles in journals and magazines.

See Finding Articles for a selection of indexes to use to search for these kinds of articles.

TIP: Search for the person as a subject when possible, as a keyword search of a well-known figure will retrieve far too many hits.

Biography Sites on the Internet:

If the biographical sources listed do not provide information or not enough information on the person you are studying, try an Internet search engine to find any websites that might have been set up with information on the person. Many libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions are digitizing information from their collections. For the present, there is no one index, or single place to look to find them all, so an Internet-wide search using a generic search engine such as Google is required.

TIPS: Use a search engine that allows you to limit results to Canadian sites. Make sure you know the search rules for each search engine you use. Read the search tips!

For an example of one collection of information on a Canadian political figure see: the SchoolNet Project site on George R. Pearkes, with archival material from the University of Victoria Archives and Special Collections.

Make sure you know how to evaluate what you might find if you do an Internet-wide search, as you are sure to find several sources that are not reliable or suitable for use in research. See Evaluating Information: Internet Sites.

Autobiographies (Biographies written by a person about themselves):

This form of biographical writing, because it comes directly from the source, is considered primary source material. It may not be based on the kind of research a biography is, but should provide more personal insights and details. See Using Primary Source Material - Personal Papers.

See also People in Special Topics.

When researching an event that took place in a specific electoral riding, community, or larger area, it can be very helpful to consult a map, atlas or gazetteer to get a clear idea of the actual location and size of the place. A map, or graphic presentation of a place, can also be a useful addition to your research paper.

Atlas of Canada. 1906 - .  Select "Map Archives" to access all digitized editions.

Canada's national atlas since 1906 is now a collection of maps online. Includes some on elections from 1968 to 2010, and political outline maps of each province.

Elections Canada "Maps Corner" and "Historical Maps". Elections Canada.

Has maps of current and historical electoral districts, election results, polling divisions, etc. You can also see a map of your riding by entering your postal code from the homepage. Other options: Search by candidate, place name, district keyword, province, or by clicking on a larger map, to see a map of each of the 300+ federal electoral districts or ridings in Canada during the latest federal election. There is also a map of the new electoral districts created by the latest redistribution process and lots of related information. Historical collection includes maps of general election results, voter turnout, etc. from several past elections.

Gazetteer of Canada. (One for each province) and Concise Gazetteer of Canada. Ottawa: Natural Resources Canada. Irregular.
Online:  Canadian Geographical Names Database.

Useful for locating places, for finding out which larger geopolitical unit a smaller place is a part (e.g. which county a town is in), etc.

Official Boundary Maps. International Boundary Commission.

Has over 200 boundary maps showing the official boundary between the United States and Canada.


See also Places in Special Topics.

The government, particularly the federal government, is the largest gatherer and publisher of statistics in Canada. Statistics Canada is Canada's official statistical agency and the main source for demographic, economic, environmental, and social statistics. There are many other sources for statistics depending on the topic. Data collected by Statistics Canada and government departments, agencies, boards and commissions, are the major sources of information for the government's policy research.


TIPS: Using statistics to help make a point or show a trend can be very effective if done well. Always read the fine print (footnotes, preface, etc.) that qualifies and explains the methodology and limitations of the statistics you use. This includes the currency of the data, definitions of terms, etc.

When quoting statistics, always give the source! Readers cannot be expected to believe a statistic if the source is not documented. (You should not be using it yourself, if you have not verified it to be from a reliable source and relevant in your context.)


The following are some of the major sources of statistical information. See also the "General Facts" tab for election statistics among others, and Special Topics for provincial, municipal and more topic-specific statistics.

Statistics Canada website.

Canada's national statistical office website has the largest collection of historical and current data, statistics, and related analytical information. Some major works and sections listed below. (See also the "Finding Statistics" tab.)

Canada Year Book. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 1867 -  2012. Annual. Catalogue no. 11-402-X. Online: 1867 - 1967: and  (Click on "Continued by" to see subsequent editions as the title changed.)
2006 - 2012:

This is a compilation of hundreds of charts and tables on Canada's natural resources, people, institutions, social and economic conditions. Chapters on government and the legal system have basic, introductory information. Tables show sources. Use the Statistics Canada Catalogue numbers given to find more detailed data or related statistics.

CANSIM (Canadian Socio-Economic Information Management database). Discontinued and replaced by the "Data" section on the Statistics Canada website

Includes millions of time series of Canadian social and economic statistics including national accounts, social conditions, trade, etc. Time series can start as early as 1901. CANSIM numbers can be used to search the website for historical and current data tables. See the Frequently Asked Questions on Data for details and concordance table. 

Census. Statistics Canada. Print volumes, CD-ROM, and online:

The "Census" tab on Statistics Canada's website has data from the latest Census on the Canadian population, such as ethnic origin, language, level of education, income, etc. searchable by topic or geography. See "Federal Electoral District Profile" for a demographic profile of any riding in Canada. This can be used to show voting patterns. More variables and smaller geographic areas may be found in the print, CD-ROM and other electronic versions depending on the Census year.

Previous Census Years:

This page has links to the archived pages of Census data and related reference materials for the Census of Population since 1996 and the Census of Agriculture since 2001, and a link to the multi-Census-year portal for Census Datasets from 1981 on.

The Daily. Statistics Canada. Print: 1932 - 1968 (originally called Daily Bulletin, by Dominion Bureau of Statistics)  
Online: 1993 - 2015:
2012 to present:

Available 8:30 a.m. each working day since 1932, The Daily provides news releases announcing new Statistics Canada data with source and contact information for more details.

Historical Statistics of Canada. 2nd ed. Ottawa: Statistics Canada & Social Science Federation of Canada, 1983. Cat. No. 11-516. Print and Internet.

This is a large compilation of political, social, and economic statistics from 1867 to 1975 with brief analyses of trends and issues at the beginning of each section. Section Y: "Politics and Government" includes many tables of information on elections, parliaments, politicians, etc. compiled from a variety of sources.

Public Service Statistics. Treasury Board Secretariat.

This page has information on the number of employees in federal government departments and agencies from 2009 to the present. Statistics on the public service population are available by department, tenure, province, gender, age, etc. Also has links to related information.

Finding Statistics:
Most statistics published are gathered by governments. Statistics Canada, as the official statistical agency of Canada, publishes the most, but all other government departments and levels of government publish some as well. You will find these statistics in many different kinds of documents including annual reports, research papers, and on government websites. See Finding Government Information for more detail on finding possible sources.

For non-governmental sources of statistics see publications and websites of associations, polling groups, think tanks, research institutes, etc. See Finding Information: Research from Policy Institutes, Think Tanks, and Other Organizations for more detail on these sources.

TIP: Think of who might have an interest in the statistics you are looking for, and who would be in a position to gather them, before starting your search.

Finding Aids:

Library Catalogues: In most university library catalogues (those using the Library of Congress Classification System), you can search using the subject heading for your topic with the sub-heading:  - statistics. (e.g. Political parties - Canada - statistics)

For a broader search and to make sure you don't miss any books because of other sub-headings that might precede 'statistics', search by keyword in the subject field combining keywords for your topic with the word 'statistics'. (NOTE: The "keywords" you choose must be words used in LCSH Subject headings or sub-headings. e.g. political parties and statistics)

None of the above searches will be 100% effective since to be classified with the sub-heading 'statistics' a book has to have statistics as a major component. Many publications may still contain lots of interesting statistics and not be classified in this way.

Statistics Canada Library Catalogue

Search the catalogue for the complete collection of Statistics Canada publications, current and historic, in all formats, and some additional related publications. Some printed "catalogues" of Statistics Canada publications, e.g. Historical Catalogue of Statistics Canada Publications, 1918-1980 are linked to under the heading "InfoGuide: Historical Resources".

Canadian Research Index. Toronto: Micromedia ProQuest, 1973 - . Monthly. (Formerly Microlog, Publicat, Profile, etc.) Available in print, CD-ROM and online by subscription.

This is an index to monograph and annual publications "of research value" from local, provincial and federal governments in Canada and from research institutions. Includes statistical reports.

Open Data.

Canada's official open data portal. Datasets from all federal government sources should be accessible from this portal.


Guides to Finding and Using Statistics:

Finding and Using Statistics. Statistics Canada. Cat. no. 11-533-X.

This is a brief guide to Statistics Canada data covering sources and research tips. Updated periodically.

Evaluating Statistics:

Best, Joel. Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists. Berkeley: U. of California Press, 2001.

The author, a sociology professor, uses examples from contemporary public policy issues to show how important it is to evaluate statistical information. See in particular: "Characteristics of Good Statistics" p.59-61, where he sums up the major issues to consider when evaluating statistics: the method used to gather the statistics, definitions of terms, what is being measured, and the sample.

The sequel: More Damned Lies and Statistics: How Numbers Confuse Public Issues. Berkeley: U. of California Press, 2004, provides more examples of common misleading uses of statistics and advice on critical evaluation.


Citing Statistics and Data:

How to Cite Statistics Canada Products. Statistics Canada. Cat. no. 12-519-X :

Quick Guide to Data Citation. IASSIST (International Association for Social Science Information Services & Technology).


See also Statistics in Special Topics.