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Electoral Insight - Reform of Election Financing: Canada, Great Britain and the United States

Electoral Insight – May 2002

Electoral Facts

Wayne Brown, Co-Editor,
Electoral Insight, Elections Canada, and

Alain Lalonde, Associate Director,
Election Financing, Elections Canada

To help ensure the federal electoral system is open, fair and accessible, the Canada Elections Act includes financial provisions that apply to registered political parties, candidates and third parties. While there are no limits on the amounts they may receive in contributions, the Act restricts the amounts that candidates and political parties may spend on election expenses. Similar provisions concerning limits on the ability of third parties to spend on election advertising are currently being challenged before the courts. The public treasury reimburses part of the election expenses of candidates and registered political parties that meet certain conditions. How much could be spent and was spent by the parties, candidates and third parties that participated in the most recent general election, in 2000? The answers are below. For comparison purposes, we have also included the figures from the previous (1997) election.

Candidates and parties

There were 11 officially registered parties in the 2000 general election, and 10 in 1997. They each had at least 50 candidates, the minimum number required to qualify as registered parties. There were 1 808 candidates at the most recent election, as compared to 1 672 three and a half years earlier.

Election expenses limits for registered parties

The spending limits for parties are based on the number of electors on the preliminary or the revised voters lists (whichever is largest) in the ridings where the parties have confirmed candidates.

Election expenses limits for candidates

The limit for candidates varies from riding to riding, although all candidates in a riding are subject to the same limit. The limits are based on the number of electors on the preliminary or revised voters lists (whichever is largest) for each riding. The higher the numbers of electors, the higher the spending limit. The limits are adjusted for sparsely populated and geographically large ridings.

The average expenses limit for candidates in the 2000 election was $68 019. The highest limit of $83 654 applied to candidates in the riding of Peace River, in Alberta. The lowest limit of $51 855 applied to candidates in the riding of Malpeque, in Prince Edward Island.

The average expenses limit for candidates in the 1997 election was $62 624. The highest limit of $78 589 applied to candidates in the riding of Peace River. The lowest limit of $49 414 applied to candidates in the riding of Malpeque.

Spending by candidates (as submitted in candidates' campaign returns)

The average amount of election expenses for candidates in the 2000 election was $20 836. The average amount of election expenses for candidates in the 1997 election was $23 428.



Registered parties in 2000 election Number of candidates Limits
($)
Actual spending
($)
Bloc Québécois 75 3 383 175 1 968 693
Canadian Action Party 70 3 097 545 392 108
Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance 298 12 638 257 9 669 648
Communist Party of Canada 52 2 264 407 13 563
Liberal Party of Canada 301 12 710 074 12 525 174
Marijuana Party 73 3 284 537 9 724
Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada 84 3 817 444 2 088
Natural Law Party of Canada 69 3 096 518 38 304
New Democratic Party 298 12 584 911 6 334 585
Progressive Conservative Party of Canada 291 12 352 405 3 983 301
The Green Party of Canada 111 4 888 177 17 747

There were also 29 independent candidates and 57 with no affiliation.

Reimbursements

The public treasury reimburses part of the election expenses of registered political parties and candidates, if certain conditions are met, including the submission of detailed financial statements.

Reimbursements for registered political parties

Registered political parties that obtain at least 2 percent of the total valid votes cast in a general election, or 5 percent of the valid votes cast in the ridings where they present candidates, have the right to a reimbursement of 22.5 percent of their actual election expenses paid.

In 2000, five registered parties received reimbursements. The average reimbursement was $1 536 072. In 1997, five registered parties received reimbursements. The average reimbursement was $1 492 693.

Reimbursements for candidates

A candidate who is elected or receives at least 15 percent of the valid votes cast in his or her riding at the election is entitled to a reimbursement of 50 percent of actual election and personal expenses paid, to a maximum of 50 percent of the election expenses limit in that riding.

In 2000, 685 candidates were entitled to receive a reimbursement. In 1997, 801 candidates were entitled to receive reimbursements.

Third party limits and spending

Third parties are persons and groups that play a role in the election process, but are not candidates for office, registered political parties or their electoral district associations. Any third party that spends $500 or more for election advertising must register with the Chief Electoral Officer and submit a financial statement after the election. In the Canada Elections Act adopted in 2000, the election advertising expenses of third parties were limited to $150 000 for a general election, of which a maximum of $3 000 could be spent in any one electoral district. These limits are currently being challenged before the courts. There were 49 third parties at the 2000 general election. Elections Canada received 44 third party reports. The average amount spent by those third parties was $9 447.47.

Public disclosure

Every registered political party must submit an audited return of its election expenses to the Chief Electoral Officer within the six months following election day. Each candidate is required to submit an audited return of election expenses to the Chief Electoral Officer within four months of election day. The returns must show all election expenses incurred, indicate the amounts and sources of all contributions, and disclose the names and addresses of all those whose contributions exceed $200. Within four months of election day, third parties must report the contributions received to finance their election advertising, as well as the details of their election advertising expenses.


Note: 

The opinions expressed are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.