Secondary menu

Political Financing Handbook for Registered Parties and Chief Agents (EC 20231) – October 2017

1. Reference Tables and Timelines

This chapter presents quick reference tools for eligible and registered parties, chief agents and registered agents. It covers the following topics:

Becoming a registered political party

Why become a registered political party?

A political party is an organization with the following 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.

A party has to register with Elections Canada if it would like to:

  • have the party's name appear on ballots under the names of its confirmed candidates
  • issue tax receipts
  • be eligible for a reimbursement of paid election expenses after a general election
  • purchase an allocated amount of prime broadcasting time in a general election
  • obtain voters lists from Elections Canada for electoral districts where it ran candidates in the last general election
  • transfer funds, property or services to other political entities (see the transfer rules later in this chapter)
  • accept surplus funds from a candidate, a leadership contestant or a nomination contestant
  • register electoral district associations (maximum of one in each electoral district)
  • sit on the Advisory Committee of Political Parties, which provides Elections Canada with advice and recommendations relating to elections and political financing

Three steps to registration

Apply for registration > Become an eligible party > Become a registered party

Step 1: Applying for registration

To apply for registration, the party has to fill out the General Form—Political Party and send it to Elections Canada.

The form explains what information and signatures to include, notably:

  • the party's full name and, optionally, its logo and short-form name or abbreviation
  • the party leader's contact information and a copy of the party's resolution to appoint the leader
  • contact information and signed consent to act in that role for the following positions:
    • at least three party officers other than the party leader
    • the chief agent
    • the auditor
  • names and addresses of at least 250 electors and their declarations in the prescribed form that they are members of the party and support the party's application for registration

Note: It is advisable to provide 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.

Step 2: Becoming an eligible party

Elections Canada's review of the application

Elections Canada will review the application for registration and inform the party leader of whether or not the party is eligible for registration.

A political party becomes an eligible party if:

  • the party's name, short-form name, abbreviation or logo does not so resemble another eligible or registered 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 that the information is accurate

If the party did not meet all requirements, Elections Canada will inform the party leader of which requirements were not met.

Maintaining eligible party status

An eligible party cannot become registered until a general election or a by-election is called. To keep its eligible status in the meantime, an eligible party must provide:

  • a statement confirming the validity of the party's registry information by June 30 each year
  • a declaration by the party leader, submitted by June 30 each year, regarding the party's fundamental purpose to participate in public affairs
  • any document required to inform Elections Canada about a change in the party's registry information or any new appointment within 30 days of the event
  • within 10 days after a general election is called, a statement confirming the validity of the party's registry information and a list of the party's designated representatives for the purpose of endorsing candidates in the election
  • the names, addresses and declarations of 250 party members every third year

Step 3: Becoming a registered party

An eligible party becomes a registered party during a general election or by-election if:

  • it has at least one candidate whose nomination has been confirmed for the election, and
  • its application for registration was made at least 60 days before the election was called

Note: An eligible party that makes an application after the 60-day deadline can become a registered party only for the next general election or by-election.

Elections Canada will check whether an eligible party has any confirmed candidates after nominations close. It then notifies the party leader that:

  • the party has been registered in the Registry of Political Parties, or
  • the party has lost its eligibility for registration because it has no confirmed candidates (in the case of a general election only)

A party remains registered as long as it continues to meet the requirements for staying registered, including mandatory reporting. The party does not need to reapply at each election.

Note: For political financing purposes, an eligible party that becomes registered is deemed to have been registered from the day the general election or by-election was called.

Establishing the first fiscal period after registration

A registered party's fiscal year must be a calendar year (January 1 to December 31).

Depending on the date of registration, the length of a registered party's first fiscal period must be modified to end on December 31. The first fiscal period may not be less than 6 months or more than 18 months.

Examples
  1. If a party is registered on October 1, the party's first fiscal period will end on December 31 in the following year, 15 months after registration.
  2. If a party is registered on March 1, the party's first fiscal period will end on December 31 in the same year, 10 months after registration.

Registering provincial or territorial divisions of the party

Registered parties may choose to register provincial or territorial divisions with Elections Canada.

A provincial or territorial division of the registered party is a division of the party for which Elections Canada has received the following information:

  • the name of the party, the division and the province or territory
  • the address of the party office where records are kept
  • the names and addresses of the chief executive officer, other officers of the division and any registered agent appointed by the division
  • a declaration signed by the party leader
  • updates about changes to registry information

Merger of registered parties

Applying to merge two or more registered parties

Two or more registered parties may apply to Elections Canada to become a single registered party. An application for a merger can be submitted at any time, except during an election period or 30 days before it.

The application for a 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 normally required to register a party, 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 a merger was not made in an 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 that the parties have been merged and publishes the information about the merger in the Canada Gazette.

Note: The effective date of the merger is the day on which Elections Canada amends the Registry of Political Parties.

Consequences for registered parties and registered associations involved in the merger

Registered parties

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.
Registered associations

Any registered association of a merging party is deregistered. It may transfer funds or property to the merged party or to a registered association of the 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

Voluntary and involuntary deregistration of a registered party

Reasons for the deregistration of a registered party

VOLUNTARY
  1. The registered party asks to be deregistered (the request must be made in writing, signed by the leader and two officers of the party)

Note: Elections Canada cannot process a request for voluntary deregistration during an election period.

INVOLUNTARY
  1. The registered party fails to endorse a candidate in a general election
  2. A court orders Elections Canada to deregister the party because the party, its chief agent, a registered agent or one of its officers has been convicted of an offence under subsection 501(3) of the Canada Elections Act
  3. A court orders Elections Canada to deregister the party, after a judicial application by the Commissioner of Canada Elections, if the court is 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
  4. The registered party fails to submit reports or financial returns (see below)
  5. The registered party fails to meet its obligations with respect to officers or members (see below)

Failure to submit reports or financial returns: risk of deregistration

Elections Canada may deregister a registered party if it fails to provide:

  • the Statement of Registered Party Assets and Liabilities within six months after the effective date of registration
  • a statement confirming the validity of its registry information by June 30 each year
  • a declaration by the party leader, submitted by June 30 each year, regarding the party's fundamental purpose to participate in public affairs
  • any document required to inform Elections Canada about a change in the party's registry information or any new appointment within 30 days of the event
  • within 10 days after a general election is called, a statement confirming the validity of the party's registry information and a list of the party's designated representatives for the purpose of endorsing candidates in the election
  • the names, addresses and declarations of 250 party members every third year
  • the party's annual financial report, accompanied by an audit report
  • the party's election expenses report after a general election, accompanied by an audit report
  • quarterly financial reports, if required
  • a statement of directed contributions to a leadership contestant along with the transfer
  • a nomination contest report within 30 days after the contest selection date
  • a leadership contest report

If a registered party fails in its reporting obligations, Elections Canada will notify the party of the failure. It will ask the party to:

  • within five days of receiving a notice about confirming the registry information during an election period, send the required statement
  • within 30 days of receiving a notice about a reporting omission, submit the required report, or
  • satisfy Elections Canada that the omission was not the result of negligence or a 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 a 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.

Failure to meet obligations with respect to officers and members: risk of deregistration

If a registered party fails to perform its obligations with respect to officers or members, Elections Canada will notify the party of the failure. It will ask the party to:

  • within 60 days after receiving a notice about party officers, appoint at least three officers in addition to the leader
  • within 90 days after receiving a notice about party members, submit the names, addresses and declarations of 250 party members

If Elections Canada is satisfied that the registered party made reasonable efforts to comply with the request, it may grant an extension to comply.

Note: Failure to comply with notices from Elections Canada may lead to deregistration of the party.

Deregistration process

If a registered party is deregistered:

  • Elections Canada sends a notice to the party and its registered associations with the effective date of deregistration.
  • The effective date of deregistration will be at least 15 days after the notice date.
  • The notice is published on Elections Canada's website and in the Canada Gazette.

Note: If a registered party is deregistered, its registered associations are also deregistered.

Restrictions and obligations after deregistration

After the effective date of deregistration, the party is no longer allowed to:

  • issue tax receipts
  • transfer funds, property or services to a candidate endorsed by the registered party
  • accept surplus funds from a candidate, leadership contestant or nomination contestant

The party remains responsible for filing financial returns within six months after deregistration. The following returns must be filed:

  • the return for the fiscal period in which the party became deregistered
  • the return for 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

Reporting deadlines for key events and during the fiscal year

Reporting deadlines for key events
Registration Leadership contest Nomination contest General election Deregistration
Statement of Registered Party's Assets and Liabilities

Due: 6 months after the effective date of registration
General Form—Registered Party Leadership Contest

Due: if the party plans to hold a leadership contest

Statement of Directed Contributions Received and Transferred to a Leadership Contestant

Due: when directed contributions are transferred to a leadership contestant

Submit to: leadership contestant
General Form—Nomination Contest

Due: 30 days after a nomination contest held by the party
General Form—Political Party

Endorsement of Candidates


Due: 10 days after a general election is called

Registered Party Return in Respect of General Election Expenses

Due: 8 months after election day
All outstanding returns

Due: 6 months after the effective date of deregistration
Reporting deadlines during the fiscal year
Change in registry information Quarterly returns Annual reports on June 30
General Form—Political Party

Due: 30 days after a change in registry information
Registered Party Financial Transactions Quarterly Return, if required

Due: 30 days after the end of a quarter
Contributions to a Registered Party or to a Registered Association—Information Return
Submit to: Canada Revenue Agency

Registered Party Financial Transactions Annual Return

General Form—Political Party:
  • registry updates
  • declaration of the party leader
  • declarations of 250 party members (every third year; next due in 2019)

Note: Reports in this table must be submitted to Elections Canada, unless otherwise noted. See Chapter 10, Reporting, for a description of the reports and obligations.

Role and appointment process—party leader

Party leader
Who is eligible? Yes / No
Canadian citizen who is at least 18 years old and resides in Canada Yes
Any other person or group not mentioned above No

Appointment process

  • The party has to appoint a leader before applying for registration.
  • If for any reason the leader is not able to continue in that role, the party must select a new leader.
  • If a registered party chooses to hold a leadership contest, the chief agent of the party must notify Elections Canada of the start and end dates of the contest.
  • The party must notify Elections Canada of a new appointment within 30 days after the appointment. The notice must include a copy of the party resolution appointing the new leader, certified by the new leader and another party officer.

Role summary

  • The party leader is responsible for certifying these forms:
    • General Form—Political Party when the party applies to register, when there is a change in the party's registry information and to confirm its registry information annually
    • Provincial and Territorial Divisions of a Registered Party
  • If a registered association of the party wishes to issue tax receipts, the party leader signs the authorization that allows the association to issue the receipts.
  • The party leader co-signs the application for deregistration of the party or one of the party's registered associations.
  • The party leader co-signs the application for a merger with one or more other registered parties.

Role and appointment process—party officers

Party officers
Who is eligible? Yes / No
Canadian citizen who is at least 18 years old and resides in Canada Yes
Any other person or group not mentioned above No

Appointment process

  • The party has to appoint at least three officers, in addition to the party leader, before applying for registration.
  • Party officers have to sign a statement consenting to act in that capacity.
  • If for any reason an officer is no longer able to continue in that role, and the number of officers including the party leader is less than four, the party must appoint a new officer within 30 days. The party must notify Elections Canada of the new appointment within 30 days after the appointment. The notice has to include a signed consent from the new officer.

Role summary

  • A party officer co-signs the party's resolution to appoint a leader.
  • Party officers co-sign the application for deregistration of the party or a registered association of the party.
  • Party officers co-sign the application to merge with one or more other registered parties.

Role and appointment process—chief agent

Party's chief agent
Who is eligible? Yes / No
Canadian citizen who is at least 18 years old and resides in Canada Yes
Corporation incorporated under the laws of Canada or a province Yes
Candidate No
Election officer or member of the staff of a returning officer No
Undischarged bankrupt No
Auditor appointed as required by the Canada Elections Act No
Person who does not have the capacity to enter into contracts in the province or territory in which the person ordinarily resides (e.g. a dissolved corporation or a person with a diminished mental capacity) No
Any other person or group not mentioned above No

Appointment process

  • The party has to appoint a chief agent before applying for registration.
  • The chief agent has to sign a statement consenting to act in that capacity.
  • If for any reason the chief agent is no longer able to continue in that role, the party must appoint a new chief agent without delay and notify Elections Canada within 30 days. The notice has to include a signed consent from the new chief agent.
  • The party may have only one chief agent at a time.

Role summary

  • The chief agent is responsible for administering the party's financial transactions and reporting those transactions to Elections Canada as required by the Canada Elections Act.
  • It is strongly recommended that the chief agent put in place controls to monitor election expenses so that the spending limit is not exceeded. For example, the chief agent could:
    • introduce a purchase requisition form that requires every purchase to be authorized by the chief agent
    • create a campaign budget and insist on being kept informed of financial transactions
    • intervene with campaign workers to address non-compliance in a timely fashion
  • The chief agent may apply to Elections Canada for a written opinion, guideline or interpretation note on political financing rules in the Canada Elections Act.
  • After deregistration, the chief agent's role continues until the party fulfills all financial reporting requirements.

Role and appointment process—registered agents

Party's registered agents
Who is eligible?* Yes / No
Canadian citizen who is at least 18 years old and resides in Canada Yes
Corporation incorporated under the laws of Canada or a province Yes
Candidate No
Election officer or member of the staff of a returning officer No
Undischarged bankrupt No
Auditor appointed as required by the Canada Elections Act No
Person who does not have the capacity to enter into contracts in the province or territory in which the person ordinarily resides (e.g. a dissolved corporation or a person with a diminished mental capacity) No
Any other person or group not mentioned above No

Appointment process*

  • The appointment of registered agents is optional.
  • The registered party may appoint any number of registered agents at any time.
  • Within 30 days after appointing one or more registered agents, the registered party has to send Elections Canada a written report that:
    • lists the names and addresses of the new agents
    • specifies the terms and conditions of the appointments (as a best practice, the party may wish to set limits on the amounts registered agents are authorized to incur)
    • is certified by the party leader or the chief agent
  • An eligible party that has appointed agents must send the report described above within 30 days after becoming eligible for registration.

Role summary

  • Registered agents may be authorized by the registered party to do one or more of the following:
    • accept contributions or loans on the registered party's behalf
    • accept or send transfers on the registered party's behalf
    • issue contribution receipts, including tax receipts
    • incur or pay the registered party's expenses

*The same eligibility criteria and appointment process apply to the agents of an eligible party, except where otherwise noted.

Role and appointment process—auditor

Party's auditor
Who is eligible? Yes / No
Person who is a member in good standing of a corporation, an association or an institute of provincially incorporated professional accountants (CPA designation)* Yes
Partnership of which every partner is a member in good standing of a corporation, an association or an institute of provincially incorporated professional accountants (CPA designation)* Yes
Any candidate or official agent No
Election officer or member of the staff of a returning officer No
Chief agent of a registered party or an eligible party No
Officer of a registered party or an eligible party No
Registered agent of a registered party No
Electoral district agent of a registered association No
Leadership contestant, their financial agent or a leadership campaign agent No
Nomination contestant or their financial agent No
Financial agent of a registered third party No
Any other person or group not mentioned above No

Appointment process

  • The party has to appoint an auditor before applying for registration.
  • The auditor has to sign a statement consenting to act in that capacity.
  • If for any reason the auditor is no longer able to continue in that role, the party must appoint a new auditor without delay and notify Elections Canada within 30 days. The notice has to include a signed consent from the new auditor.

Role summary

  • In accordance with generally accepted auditing standards, the auditor has to examine the party's financial records and give an opinion in a report as to whether the party's return presents fairly the information contained in the financial records on which it is based.
  • An auditor's report is required for the party's statement of assets and liabilities on registration, its annual financial return and its return in respect of general election expenses.
  • The auditor has a right to access all documents of the party, and may require the chief agent to provide any information or explanation that is necessary to enable the auditor to prepare the report.
  • When preparing a report on the Registered Party Return in Respect of General Election Expenses, the auditor must include a statement if it appears that the registered party and the chief agent have not complied with sections 363 to 445 of the Canada Elections Act.

*Provincial and territorial auditing bodies may require auditors to meet other professional criteria in order to perform this role.

Limits on contributions, loans and loan guarantees

Limits on contributions, loans and loan guarantees
Political entity 2017 annual limit Limit per election called between Jan. 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, 2017
To each registered party $1,550* n/a
In total to all the registered associations, nomination contestants and candidates of each registered party $1,550* n/a
In total to all leadership contestants in a particular contest $1,550* n/a
To each independent candidate n/a $1,550*

Notes

  • The contribution limits apply to total contributions, the unpaid balance of loans made during the contribution period, and the amount of any loan guarantees made during the contribution period that an individual is still liable for. The sum of these three amounts cannot at any time exceed the contribution limit.
  • A nomination contestant is permitted to give an additional $1,000 in total per contest in contributions, loans and loan guarantees to their own campaign.
  • A candidate is permitted to give a total of $5,000 in contributions, loans and loan guarantees to their campaign.
  • A candidate is also permitted to give an additional $1,550* in total per year in contributions, loans and loan guarantees to other candidates, registered associations and nomination contestants of each party. (This includes contributions to the registered association in the candidate's electoral district and contributions to the candidate's own nomination campaign.)
  • A leadership contestant is permitted to give a total of $25,000 in contributions, loans and loan guarantees to their campaign.
  • A leadership contestant is also permitted to give an additional $1,550* in total per year in contributions, loans and loan guarantees to other leadership contestants.

*The limits increase by $25 on January 1 in each subsequent year.

Transfers—types and rules

This table shows the allowable monetary and non-monetary transfers between related registered political entities.

TO
FROM Nomination Contestant Leadership Contestant Candidate Registered Electoral District Association Registered Party
Monetary Non-monetary Monetary Non-monetary Monetary Non-monetary Monetary Non-monetary Monetary Non-monetary
Nomination Contestant No No No No YesNote 1 No YesNote 2 No Yes No
Leadership Contestant No No No No No No Yes No Yes No
Candidate YesNote 3 YesNote 3 No No NoNote 4 NoNote 4 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Registered Electoral District Association No YesNote 5 No YesNote 5 YesNote 6 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Registered Party No YesNote 5 NoNote7 YesNote 5 YesNote 6 Yes YesNote 8 YesNote 8 n/a n/a

Note 1 A nomination contestant may transfer funds (but not property or services) to a candidate of the same party in the electoral district in which the nomination contest was held.

Note 2 A nomination contestant can only transfer funds to the registered electoral district association that held the nomination contest.

Note 3 Candidates may transfer property, services and funds to their own nomination contestant campaign for the same election.

Note 4 Candidates in a superseded by-election may transfer property, services and funds to their campaign for the general election.

Note 5 Non-monetary transfers must be offered equally to all contestants.

Note 6 Monetary transfers other than trust funds are allowed. After election day, monetary transfers are allowed only to pay claims and loans related to the candidate's campaign.

Note 7 Directed contributions are the only exception: they may be transferred to the leadership contestant.

Note 8 Registered parties may transfer property, services and funds to electoral district associations, whether registered or not.


Note: Independent candidates may not send or accept transfers of funds, property or services to or from other political entities.