Registered Party Handbook
6. Compliance and Enforcement
6.1 Commissioner of Canada Elections and Director of Public Prosecutions
The Commissioner of Canada Elections is appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer. Both the Commissioner and the Director of Public Prosecutions have responsibilities for compliance and enforcement under the Canada Elections Act. The Commissioner assesses each case brought to his or her attention in light of the Act and the particular circumstances of the case.
If the Commissioner believes, on reasonable grounds, that an offence has been committed under the Canada Elections Act, he or she may refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who will decide whether to initiate a prosecution. The prosecution of offences under the Act can be undertaken only with the prior written consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. A prosecution for an offence under the Act must be instituted within five years of the day on which the Commissioner becomes aware of the facts giving rise to the prosecution and not later than 10 years after the day on which the offence was committed.
In addition to the power to refer matters for possible prosecution to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Commissioner may also apply for injunctions and enter into compliance agreements to ensure that the Act is complied with.
In an effort to educate and promote compliance with the Act, the Commissioner may issue a formal caution to a person who may have committed an offence under the Act.
During an election period, the Commissioner may apply to a competent court for an injunction if he or she has reasonable grounds to believe that a person has committed, is about to commit or is likely to commit an act or omission that is contrary to the Act. The court may order any person to refrain from committing any act that appears to the court to be contrary to the law or to do any act that appears to the court to be required by the law.
The Commissioner may also enter into a compliance agreement with any person to ensure compliance with the Act. For example, the Commissioner may enter into a compliance agreement if he or she believes on reasonable grounds that a person has committed, is about to commit or is likely to commit an act or omission that is contrary to the Act. A compliance agreement may contain any terms or conditions that the Commissioner considers necessary to ensure compliance with the Act.
Under section 521.1 of the Act, the Commissioner may apply to a court for an order to deregister a registered party if, after notice to the party, he or she still has reasonable grounds to suspect that a registered party does not have as one of its fundamental purposes participating in public affairs by endorsing one or more of its members as candidates and supporting their election.
6.2 Offences and penalties
All of the offences and penalties for violations of the Canada Elections Act are found in Part 19 of the Act.
Penalties vary for convictions, depending on the offence, the procedure selected to prosecute and the seriousness of the offence. Many offences have penalties that can result in fines, imprisonment or both. Section 500 of the Act should be consulted with respect to the specific potential penalties for conviction for a particular offence.
The Act also enables a court to impose additional penalties when a person has been convicted, having regard to the nature of the offence and the circumstances surrounding its commission. A person may be liable, in addition to any other penalty, to:
- perform community service
- pay an amount to the Receiver General if the offence resulted in a financial benefit
- compensate any other person who has suffered damages as a result of the commission of the offence
- perform any obligation whose non-performance gave rise to the offence
- take any other reasonable measure that the court considers appropriate to ensure compliance with the Act
Certain offences, listed in section 502 of the Act, are known as “illegal and corrupt” practices. For persons convicted of illegal or corrupt practices, the Act provides for further penalties. As well as any other penalty that may be imposed, a person found guilty of one of these offences loses the right to be a candidate in a federal election, sit as a member in the House of Commons and hold any office to which the incumbent is appointed by the Crown or by Governor in Council. The time limit is five years in the case of an illegal act and seven years in the case of corrupt practices.
Many of the obligations imposed by the Act on registered or deregistered parties may give rise to an offence if a party or its officers or agents violate the obligations. Penalties vary according to the nature of the offence and the circumstances surrounding its commission.
If a registered party, its chief agent, a registered agent or one of its officers has been convicted of an offence referred to in subsection 501(3), having regard to the nature of the offence and the circumstances surrounding its commission, and in addition to any other punishment that may be imposed under the Act, a court may:
- direct the Chief Electoral Officer to deregister the party
- if it directs the deregistration of the party, direct the chief agent or another person specified by the court to liquidate the party's assets
- if it directs the liquidation of the party's assets, direct the financial agent of each registered association or another person specified by the court to liquidate the registered association's assets