Political Financing Handbook for Registered Parties and Chief Agents (EC 20231) – July 2015
This document is Elections Canada's guideline: OGI 2015-01.
Click on the link for the latest Political Financing Handbook for Registered Parties and Chief Agents.
Chapter 1 – Registering a Political Party
This chapter covers the following topics:
This chapter focuses on the process of becoming a registered political party. The chapter also explains the reasons for and consequences of deregistration, and the consequences of party mergers.
1.1 The registration process
A political party is an organization whose fundamental purpose is to participate in public affairs by endorsing one or more of its members as candidates and supporting their election.
The Canada Elections Act differentiates between the following:
- Eligible party – a political party that has fulfilled the requirements for registration but has yet to endorse a candidate in an election in order to become a registered party
- Registered party – a political party that is entered as a registered party in the Registry of Political Parties maintained by Elections Canada
- Deregistered party – a party that has been deregistered under the Canada Elections Act
Registering with Elections Canada
A political party has to apply to register with Elections Canada to participate in a federal election and qualify for certain rights and benefits.
The application to register must include the following:
- the full name of the political party
- the short-form name of the party or its abbreviation, if any, that is to be shown in election documents
- the party's logo, if any
- the name and address of the leader of the party and a copy of the party's resolution to appoint the leader, certified by the leader and another officer of the party
- the address of the party office where records are kept and to which communications may be addressed
- the names and addresses of the officers of the party and their signed consent to act
- the name and address of the party's auditor and his or her signed consent to act
- the name and address of the party's chief agent and his or her signed consent to act
- the names and addresses of a minimum of 250 electors and their declarations in the prescribed form that they are members of the party and support the party's application for registration
- the leader's declaration in the prescribed form that one of the party's fundamental purposes is to participate in public affairs by endorsing one or more of its members as candidates and supporting their election
Verifying the information
When Elections Canada receives an application for registration, the Registrar of Political Parties verifies the information provided by the party members listed on the application.
Note: It is advisable to provide the contact information and declarations of more than 250 party members to ensure that there are at least 250 valid declarations after the information is verified.
Eligibility for registration
A political party becomes eligible for registration if:
- the party's name, short-form name, abbreviation or logo does not so resemble another party's name, short-form name, abbreviation or logo as to be confused with it
- the party's name does not include the word "independent"
- at least 250 declarations have been received from party members and verified by Elections Canada
- the party has at least three officers in addition to its leader
- the party has appointed a chief agent and an auditor
- Elections Canada is satisfied that the party has provided all the information required and the information is accurate
Elections Canada will determine whether the political party is eligible for registration and inform the leader of the party:
- If all requirements are met, Elections Canada informs the party that it is eligible to become registered.
- If the requirements are not met, Elections Canada informs the party which requirements have not been met.
An eligible party becomes a registered party when:
- it has at least one candidate whose nomination has been confirmed for a general election or a by-election, and
- its application for registration was made at least 60 days before the general election or by-election was called
Note: An eligible party that makes an application after the 60-day deadline becomes a registered party for the next general election or by-election if it satisfies the requirements for registration.
Elections Canada notifies the leader of an eligible party after the closure of nominations:
- if the party has been registered, or
- if the party has lost its eligibility for registration
From a political financing perspective, an eligible party that becomes registered is deemed to have been registered from the day the general election or by-election was called.
Registry of Political Parties
The registered status of a party is maintained in the Registry of Political Parties for as long as the party meets the requirements of the law to maintain that status. The party does not need to reapply at each general election.
Benefits of being a registered party
Being registered means that the party may:
- include the short-form name or abbreviation of the party's name on ballots under the name of the confirmed candidates endorsed by the party
- issue receipts valid for income tax purposes
- be eligible for a reimbursement of paid election expenses after a general election
- purchase from broadcasters an allocated amount of prime broadcasting time in a general election
- provide the returning officer with names of suitable persons to act as election officers
- obtain from Elections Canada, by November 15th of each year, the updated voters lists in electoral districts where its candidates ran in the last general election
- transfer funds or property or services to a candidate endorsed by the registered party or to a registered association of the party without being subject to restrictions on contributions
- accept surplus funds from a candidate, leadership contestant or nomination contestant
- register electoral district associations
Note: A registered party may not have more than one registered association in an electoral district.
Obligations after registration
Establish a fiscal year
The fiscal year of a registered party must be a calendar year. Depending on the date of the registration, the party must modify the length of its first fiscal period so that it ends on December 31st. The first fiscal period may not be less than six months or more than 18 months.
- If a party registers on October 1st, the party's first fiscal period will end on December 31st in the following year, 15 months after registration.
- If a party registers on March 1st, the party's first fiscal period will end on December 31st in the same year, 10 months after registration.
Registered and eligible parties must meet various reporting obligations. These include the following:
- Notify Elections Canada about changes in the party's registry information within 30 days after a change.
- Confirm the validity of the registry information or report changes annually.
- Within 10 days after a general election is called: confirm the validity of the registry information or report changes, and list the party's designated representatives for the purpose of endorsing candidates at the election.
- Provide Elections Canada with the names and addresses and declarations of 250 party members every third year.
- Provide a declaration by the party's leader annually.
The following reporting obligations apply to registered parties only:
- Within 30 days after the appointment, report the names and addresses of the party's registered agents, including the terms and conditions of the appointments.
- Within six months after becoming registered, report assets and liabilities as of the day before the date of registration, accompanied by an audit report and a declaration from the chief agent.
- Submit quarterly financial reports, accompanied by a declaration from the chief agent, if the candidates endorsed by the party received at least 2% of the valid votes cast at the most recent election, or 5% of the valid votes cast in the electoral districts where the party endorsed a candidate.
- Submit financial reports annually, accompanied by an audit report and a declaration from the chief agent.
- Report the party's election expenses after a general election, accompanied by an audit report and a declaration from the chief agent.
- Report in the annual financial report and in the quarterly reports (if applicable) any directed contributions received and transferred to leadership contestants.
- Send a statement of directed contributions to a leadership contestant campaign with the transfer.
- Report in the annual financial report any general election and by-election expenses.
- Report a nomination contest held by the party within one month after the contest. (Nomination contests held by electoral district associations have to be reported by the electoral district associations.)
- Notify Elections Canada about a leadership contest.
Note: Elections Canada may deregister a registered party if it fails to comply with reporting obligations. Similarly, an eligible party may lose its eligibility if it fails to comply with the reporting obligations.
For more about reporting obligations, see Chapter 4, Reporting Requirements.
Advisory Committee of Political Parties
The Advisory Committee of Political Parties was established to provide Elections Canada with advice and recommendations relating to elections and political financing. The Chief Electoral Officer presides over the committee.
The committee meets at least once per year and consists of two representatives per party.
Provincial or territorial divisions of a registered party
A provincial or territorial division of the registered party is a division of the party for which the registered party provided Elections Canada with the following information:
- the name of the division and of the province or territory
- the name of the party
- the address of the party office where records are kept
- the names and addresses of the chief executive officer and other officers of the division
- the name and address of any registered agent appointed by the division
- a declaration signed by the leader of the party
- updates about changes of registry information
Registered parties may be deregistered for several reasons. The party might ask to be deregistered, or the registered party may be deregistered for failing to perform an obligation required under the Canada Elections Act.
This section discusses the reasons for and consequences of deregistration.
The registered party may send a request to Elections Canada to become deregistered. The leader and two officers of the party have to sign the application.
Note: Elections Canada cannot deregister a party during an election period.
- Elections Canada will deregister a registered party if it fails to endorse a candidate in a general election.
- Elections Canada may deregister a registered party if it fails to submit reports or financial returns required by the Canada Elections Act.
If the registered party has failed to perform its obligations with respect to officers or members, Elections Canada notifies the party and requests that:
- within 60 days after receiving a notice about party officers, the party appoints at least three officers in addition to the leader
- within 90 days after receiving a notice about party members, the party submits the names, addresses and declarations of 250 party members
Note: If Elections Canada is satisfied that the registered party made reasonable efforts to comply with the request, it may grant an extension to comply.
If the registered party has failed to perform its obligations with respect to reporting, Elections Canada notifies the party and requests that:
- within 5 days of receiving a notice about confirming the registry information during an election period, the party sends the required statement
- within 30 days of receiving a notice about a reporting omission, the party submits the required report
- the party satisfies Elections Canada that the omission was not the result of negligence or lack of good faith
If the party does not correct the omission but instead satisfies Elections Canada that the omission was not the result of negligence or lack of good faith, Elections Canada may:
- exempt the party in whole or in part from complying with the obligation, or
- specify a new deadline to comply with the obligation
Note: Failure to comply with notices from Elections Canada may lead to deregistration of the party.
If a registered party, its chief agent or registered agent or one of its officers has been convicted of an offence under the Canada Elections Act, the court may order Elections Canada to deregister the party.
After a judicial application by the Commissioner of Canada Elections, should the court be satisfied that the party does not have as one of its fundamental purposes to participate in public affairs by endorsing one or more of its members as candidates and supporting their election, the court shall, by order, direct the Chief Electoral Officer to deregister the party.
Process of deregistration
If a registered party is deregistered, Elections Canada notifies the party and its registered associations in writing. The written notice contains the effective date of deregistration, which will be at least 15 days after the date of the notice.
Elections Canada enters the deregistration of the party in the Registry of Political Parties and publishes the notice of deregistration on its website and in the Canada Gazette.
Note: If a registered party is deregistered, its registered associations are also deregistered.
Obligations after deregistration
After the effective date of deregistration, the party is no longer allowed to perform the following tasks:
- issue receipts valid for income tax purposes
- transfer funds or property or services to a candidate endorsed by the registered party
- accept surplus funds from a candidate, leadership contestant or nomination contestant
A political party that is deregistered remains responsible for filing financial returns within six months after becoming deregistered. The financial returns have to cover:
- financial returns for the fiscal period in which it is deregistered and any other fiscal period for which the party has not filed a return
- any election expenses return not yet filed
- any audit reports, as required
1.3 Merger of registered parties
Application for merger
Two or more registered parties may apply to Elections Canada to become a single registered party. An application for merger can be submitted any time except during an election period or 30 days before it.
An application for merger must include:
- certifications from the leaders of the merging parties
- a resolution from each of the merging parties, approving the proposed merger
- the information required from a party to be registered, except for the names, addresses and signed declarations of 250 members
After 30 days of receiving the application for a merger, Elections Canada updates the Registry of Political Parties if the following conditions are met:
- The application for merger was not made in the election period or 30 days before it.
- The merged party is eligible for registration as defined in the Canada Elections Act.
- The merging parties have discharged their reporting obligations.
Elections Canada then notifies the officers of the merging parties in writing and publishes the information about the merger in the Canada Gazette. The effective date of the merger is the day on which Elections Canada amends the Registry of Political Parties.
Consequences of merger
The following happens when two or more registered parties merge:
- The merged party is the successor of each merging party.
- The merged party becomes a registered party.
- The assets of each merging party belong to the merged party.
- The merged party is responsible for the liabilities of each merging party.
- The merged party is responsible for the obligations of each merging party to report financial transactions and election expenses for any period before the merger.
- The merged party replaces a merging party in any legal proceedings.
- Any decision involving a merging party may be enforced by or against the merged party.
What happens with the registered associations of merging parties
Any registered association of a merging party is deregistered and may transfer funds or property to the merged party or to a registered association of a merged party within six months after the merger.
Electoral district associations of the merged party must register with Elections Canada.
Obligations after a merger
Within six months after the date of the merger, the merging parties must provide:
- financial returns not provided for any earlier fiscal period
- audit reports not provided for any earlier fiscal period
Within six months after the date of the merger, the merged party must provide:
- a statement of assets and liabilities as of the date of the merger, accompanied by an audit report and a declaration from the chief agent