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Opinions, Guidelines and Interpretations - Overview

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Click to Expand What is the legal basis for written opinions, guidelines and interpretation notes?

Section 16.1 of the Canada Elections Act requires Elections Canada to issue guidelines and interpretation notes on the application of the Act to registered parties, registered associations, nomination contestants, candidates and leadership contestants. Elections Canada issues guidelines and interpretation notes at its discretion or on application by the chief agent of a registered party.

Section 16.2 of the Act requires Elections Canada to issue written opinions on the application of any provision of the Act to an activity or practice that a registered party, registered association, nomination contestant, candidate or leadership contestant of a registered party proposes to engage in. Elections Canada issues these opinions on application by the chief agent of a registered party.


Click to Expand What is the process for requesting a written opinion, guideline or interpretation note?

Requests must be submitted by the chief agent of the registered party using the online form.

The request must include the following information:

  • chief agent's name and contact information
  • name of the registered party
  • complete description of the question and all facts relevant to the application

Click to Expand Why would a request be rejected by Elections Canada?

Elections Canada would reject an application if:

  • it was not submitted by the chief agent of a registered party
  • it was not related to the application of the Canada Elections Act
  • it was not related to an activity that the registered party or one of its affiliated political entities proposed to engage in

Click to Expand What happens to a request after it is submitted to Elections Canada?

When Elections Canada receives a request, it will assess it to determine whether or not it includes enough information for a written opinion, guideline or interpretation note to be provided. If clarification or more information is needed, Elections Canada will contact the applicant within five business days. Once the application is complete, it will be assigned an application number and made public on Elections Canada's website.


Click to Expand Can a request be withdrawn?

Once a request has been made public on Elections Canada's website, it cannot be withdrawn.


Click to Expand Who else may initiate guidelines and interpretation notes?

Elections Canada may also initiate guidelines and interpretation notes. The process for issuing them is essentially the same as for those requested by a registered party.


Click to Expand How and when can parties comment on a proposed written opinion, guideline or interpretation note?

Elections Canada will provide proposed written opinions, guidelines and interpretation notes to members of the Advisory Committee of Political Parties for comment. Comments must be submitted within 15 days after the notice is sent. All comments will be made public on Elections Canada's website. Before finalizing a written opinion, guideline or interpretation note, the agency will take into consideration any comments received.

In the case of guidelines and interpretation notes initiated by Elections Canada, copies may be distributed for pre-consultation in advance of the formal 15-day comment period.


Click to Expand When are written opinions, guidelines and interpretation notes published?

The Canada Elections Act requires that written opinions, guidelines and interpretation notes requested by a registered party be made public on Elections Canada's website within 60 days after the request date. However, if this 60-day period overlaps with the election period for a general election (from the day an election is called until election day), the written opinion, guideline or interpretation note must be published within 60 days after election day.

A notice will also be published indicating that the guideline, interpretation note or written opinion will take effect 30 days from the publication date.


Click to Expand What is the effect of a written opinion, guideline or interpretation note?

Written opinions provide a certain protection to political entities since they are binding on Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections. They remain binding as long as the material facts on which the opinion was based have not changed; the activity or practice is carried out substantially as proposed; and a contrary interpretation has not been subsequently issued by way of a guideline, interpretation note or written opinion.

Guidelines and interpretation notes are for information purposes only. They are not binding on political entities.