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Compendium of Election Administration in Canada: A Comparative Overview

H. Enforcement

In all jurisdictions except Nunavut, the Chief Electoral Officer is responsible for ensuring that electoral legislation is enforced. Federally, enforcement is carried out by the Commissioner of Canada Elections, who is appointed by the Director of Public Prosecutions for a seven-year term (subject to removal for cause). As a rule, the Chief Electoral Officer in each jurisdiction has the power to investigate possible breaches of electoral law. However, investigation is often delegated to the police or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. However, in Manitoba, enforcement is carried out by Manitoba's Commissioner of Elections, who is appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer, after consultation with leaders of political parties represented in the Legislative Assembly. In Nunavut, solely the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is responsible for investigating and enforcing violations of the territorial election law.

The Commissioner of Canada Elections may enter into a compliance agreement with any person who has committed or is about to commit an offence against the Act. Similar powers exist in Nova Scotia, Manitoba, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, where the Chief Electoral Officers or the Integrity Commissioner in the case of Nunavut, may intervene to avoid the commission of an offence or may issue a certificate to order a person to stop contravening the Act. Such provisions do not exist in other jurisdictions. If the Commissioner of Canada Elections believes on reasonable grounds that an offence has been committed, he or she may also refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who decides whether to initiate a prosecution. Court proceedings may be instituted by either the Chief Electoral Officer or the Attorney General of the province. Most jurisdictions set a time limit for prosecuting an offender and also stipulate the level of court that can hear the case.

All jurisdictions impose a standard penalty for offences against their respective electoral legislation, with the exception of Canada, New Brunswick and British Columbia, where specific penalties are matched to infractions. As well, most jurisdictions levy additional penalties for offences that are classified as corrupt or illegal practices. These offences, such as impersonation or intimidation, are usually related to voting and to polling day. In most jurisdictions, a person convicted of such offences may not run for election, sit as a member or be nominated or appointed to an office by the Crown for a period of between five and eight years after conviction. In some cases, convicted persons may also be denied the right to vote for a certain period.

Table H.1 Enforcement authority

Jurisdiction Power to investigate Power to institute proceedings Time limit for prosecution Body that renders judgment
Canada Commissioner of Canada Elections, housed within the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions Director of Public Prosecutions
  • For offences under subsection 500(1), not later than six years after the day on which the subject matter of the proceedings arose
  • For offences under subsection 500(2) to (5), at any time
  • 1 year from date of return of defendant if defendant has absconded the jurisdiction
  • In Ontario, Ontario Court of Justice
  • In Quebec, Court of Québec
  • In Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon and Northwest Territories, Provincial Court
  • In Nunavut, Nunavut Court of Justice
Newfoundland and Labrador Chief Electoral Officer Attorney General No limit Trial Division of Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island
  • General offences:
    Police or Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Election financing:
    Chief Electoral Officer
  • General offences:
    Attorney General, with the consent of the Chief Electoral Officer, or Chief Electoral Officer
  • Election financing:
    Chief Electoral Officer
  • General offences:
    No limit
  • Election financing:
    1 year after facts become known to Chief Electoral Officer
General offences:
Varies by case
Nova Scotia
  • Preliminary investigation:
    Chief Electoral Officer
  • Further investigation:
    Appropriate police authorities
General offences:
Public Prosecution Service, with the consent of the Chief Electoral Officer
Not later than 1 year after day on which Chief Electoral Officer has reasonable grounds to believe an offence has been committed, and no later than 5 years after date of offence Varies by case
New Brunswick
  • Electoral and political financing offences:
    Municipal police or Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Supervisor of Political Financing may hold an inquiry, with powers of a Commissioner under Inquiries Act
Attorney General General offences:
No limit

Political financing:

  • 2 years from date of offence
  • 1 year from date of return of defendant to the jurisdiction if defendant has previously absconded out of the jurisdiction
  • General offences:
    Varies by case
  • Political financing:
    Court of Queen's Bench
Quebec Chief Electoral Officer or person appointed by him or her Chief Electoral Officer 5 years after date of offence, and 10 years for certain election offences Court of Quebec
Ontario Chief Electoral Officer Anyone, with the consent of the Chief Electoral Officer 2 years after facts become known to Chief Electoral Officer Ontario Court of Justice
Manitoba Commissioner or appointed representative Commissioner
  • Failure to comply with compliance agreement:
    5 years after date on which Commissioner became aware of facts giving rise to prosecution
  • All other offences:
    1 year after date on which Commissioner has reasonable and probable grounds to believe an offence has been committed
Varies by case
Saskatchewan Chief Electoral Officer Attorney General, with the recommendation of the Chief Electoral Officer 2 years from date of alleged offence Varies by case
Alberta Chief Electoral Officer
  • General offences:
    Attorney General
  • Election financing:
    Chief Electoral Officer
  • Administrative penalties: Chief Electoral Officer
3 years from date of alleged offence Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta
British Columbia Chief Electoral Officer Attorney General, with consent of Chief Electoral Officer 1 year after facts become known to Chief Electoral Officer Supreme Court of British Columbia
Yukon Chief Electoral Officer Chief Electoral Officer or any person who is a qualified elector 6 months after date of offence or discovery of commission of offence, whichever is later Varies by case
Northwest Territories Chief Electoral Officer Chief Electoral Officer
  • 1 year from date of offence
  • 1 year from date of return of defendant if defendant has absconded the jurisdiction
Varies by case
Nunavut Any person who believes that an offence has been, is being or may be committed may request that police investigate Attorney General
  • 1 year from date of offence or date action, suit or proceeding was first brought, whichever is later
  • 1 year from date the accused returns if accused has absconded the jurisdiction
  • 6 months from date of hearing of any application to void an election for offence by returning officer for wilful delay, neglect or refusal to return an elected candidate
  • May be extended until 60 days after notice of default sent by Integrity Commissioner in default of compliance agreement
Nunavut Court of Justice

Table H.2 General offences and penalties

Jurisdiction General offences fines (to a maximum of) Prison term not exceeding Or both
Canada $50,000 5 years Yes
Newfoundland and Labrador $1,000 3 months Yes
Prince Edward Island $2,000 2 years Yes
Nova Scotia $5,000 – –
New Brunswick General offences and illegal practices, $50,000 For second and subsequent offences, category E–F offence convictions may include imprisonment up to 30–90 days.

Category G–I offences may include imprisonment up to 120–365 days

–
Quebec $500 – –
Ontario $5,000 – –
Manitoba $10,000 1 year Yes
Saskatchewan $5,000 2 years Yes
Alberta $10,000 – –
British Columbia – – –
Yukon $5,000 1 year Yes
Northwest Territories $5,000 1 year Yes
Nunavut $5,000 1 year Yes

Table H.3 Additional penalties for corrupt or illegal practices and major election offences

Jurisdiction Penalty period Cannot be nominated as a candidate Cannot be elected as a member Cannot sit as a member Cannot be nominated or appointed to office Cannot vote Cannot be appointed to the Civil Service Other
Canada
  • Illegal practice: 5 years
  • Corrupt practice: 7 years
– Yes Yes Yes – – May be ordered for all offences under the Act to: do community service; pay amount equal to financial benefit or contribution that resulted from offence; pay compensation to person who suffered damages; perform obligation, non-performance of which resulted in offence; take any other reasonable measure court considers appropriate
Newfoundland and Labrador – – – – – – – –
Prince Edward Island Corrupt practice: 5 years – Yes Yes Yes – Yes –
Nova Scotia Corrupt practice: 5 years – Yes Yes Yes – – Additional fine of up to $10,000 or prison for a term of not more than 1 year, or both fine and imprisonment
New Brunswick
  • Illegal practice: 30–90 days
  • Corrupt practice: 6 months to 1 year
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes – –
Quebec Corrupt practice: 5 years Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes – Loses right to engage in partisan work for 5 years
Ontario Corrupt practice: 8 years Yes Yes Yes Yes – – –
Manitoba 1 year Yes Yes Yes – – – May be liable for additional fine equal to double the benefit involved
Saskatchewan Corrupt practice: 5 years – Yes Yes – Yes – –
Alberta 8 years Yes yesFootnote 1 Yes Yes Yes – –
British Columbia – – – – – – – –
Yukon – – – – – – – –
Northwest Territories Major election offence: 5 years Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes – –
Nunavut 5 years Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes – Judge given discretion to make other orders listed in s. 269 of NEA

Footnote 1 Under any Act of the Alberta Legislature.

Table H.4 Specific offences and penalties

Offences related to Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Prince Edward Island Nova Scotia New Brunswick Quebec Ontario Manitoba Saskatchewan Alberta British Columbia Yukon Northwest Territories Nunavut
Access Up to $5,000, 6 months or both – – – – $500–$30,000 – Up to $2,000, 2 months or both – Up to $1,000 – Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $2,000, six months or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both
False statements Up to $50,000, 5 years or both Up to $5,000, 6 months or both Up to $2,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000 – $100–$30,000 Up to $5,000 Up to $10,000, 1 year or bothFootnote 1 Up to $5,000, 2 years or both Up to $2,000 Up to $20,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $3,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both
Beverage alcohol – – $100 – – – – – Up to $5,000, 2 years or both – – Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both
Gambling and betting – – – – – – – – Up to $5,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000, 2 years or both – – – –
False information on voters lists Up to $50,000, 5 years or both Up to $1,000, 3 months or both Up to $2,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000 $500–$20,500 $5,000–$30,000 – Up to $10,000, 1 year or both – Up to $5,000, 2 years or both – Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both
Use of information on voters lists Up to $10,000, 1 year or both Up to $1,000, 3 months or both Up to $2,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000 $240–$10,200 $5,000–$30,000 Up to $5,000 Up to $10,000, 1 year or both – Up to $100,000, 1 year or both Up to $20,000, 2 years or both – Up to $2,000, 6 months or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both
Voting or bribery Up to $50,000, 5 years or both Up to $5,000, 6 months or both Up to $2,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000 $500–$20,500 $500–$2,000
Bribery: $5,000–$30,000
Up to $5,000 and 6 months Up to $10,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000, 2 years or both Up to $20,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both
Impersonation of elector Up to $50,000, 5 years or both. Not entitled to sit in House or hold Crown or GIC nominated office for 7 years Up to $5,000, 6 months or both Up to $2,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000 $500–$20,500 $500–$2,000 – $10,000 and up to 1 year Up to $5,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000, 2 years or both Up to $20,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both
Intimidation Up to $50,000, 5 years or both Up to $5,000, 6 months or both Up to $2,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000 $500–$50,000 $100–$30,000 – Up to $10,000, 1 year or bothFootnote 2 Up to $5,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000, 2 years or both Up to $20,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $2,000, 6 months or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both
Secrecy of the vote Up to $5,000, 6 months or both Up to $5,000, 6 months or both Up to $2,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000 $240–$10,200 $5,000–$200,000 Up to $5,000 Up to $10,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000, 2 years or both Up to $10,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $2,000, 6 months or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both
Ballots Depending on the specific offence, up to $5,000, 6 months or both OR up to $50,000, 5 years or both Up to $5,000, 6 months or both Up to $2,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000 $240–$10,200 $100–$60,000 Up to $5,000 and 6 months Up to $10,000, 1 year or both Up to 2 years Up to $5,000, 2 years or both Up to $10,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $2,000, 6 months or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both
Election officers Depending on the specific offence, up to $2,000, 3 months or both OR up to $5,000, 6 months or both OR up to $50,000, 5 years or both Up to $1,000, 3 months or both Up to $2,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000 $140–$1,100 $500–$30,000 Up to $5,000, 6 months or both Up to $10,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 2 years or both Up to $1,000 Up to $20,000, 2 years or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $2,000, 6 months or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both
Advertising and surveys Depending on the specific offence, up to $2,000, 3 months or both OR up to $5,000, 6 months or both OR up to $50,000 OR up to $50,000, 5 years or both Up to $1,000, 3 months or both Up to $10,000 – $140–$10,200 $5,000–$200,000 Up to $50,000 Up to $50,000 in the case of a regis-tered political party; not excee-ding $5,000 in all other cases Up to $5,000, 2 years or both Up to $500

Third parties: $10,000 (individual) $100,000 (organization)
Up to $10,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $2,000, 6 months or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both
Election signs Up to $5,000, 6 months or both Up to $5,000, 6 months or both – – $140–$1,100 $500–$2,000 – Up to $2,000, 2 months or both Up to $5,000, 2 years or both Up to $500 Up to $10,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $2,000, 6 months or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both
Broadcasting Up to $50,000 Up to $1,000, 3 months or both Up to $10,000 – $140–$10,200 $500–$200,000 Up to $50,000 Up to $25,000 – – Up to $10,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both Up to $5,000, 6 months or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both
Third party advertising Depending on the specific offence, up to $2,000, 3 months or both OR up to $50,000, 5 years or both – for some offences, also liable to fines up to 5 times excess spending – – – Fine of between $500–$20,500 or up to 180 days in prison or payment of the sum equal to $50 for each day the Chief Financial Officer is in default of filing the report $500–$10,000 Up to $50,000 in the case of a union or corpora-tion; not exceeding $5,000 for an individual Up to $50,000 in the case of an organiza-tion or corpora-tion; not exceeding $5,000 for an individual – Fine of $10,000 for an individual, $100,000 for an organization Ten times the amount by which the value of the election advertising sponsored exceeds the limit – – Up to $5,000, 1 year or both
Election finances Depending on the specific offence, up to $2,000, 3 months or both OR up to $5,000, 6 months or both OR up to $50,000, 5 years or both Up to $10,000, 3 months or both Up to $10,000 Up to $5,000 Up to $20,500 or up to 180 days in prison or payment of the sum equal to $50 for each day the Chief Financial Officer is in default of filing the report $5,000–$50,000 Up to $50,000 in the case of a union or corpora-tion; not exceeding $5,000 for an individual party, consti-tuency associa-tion Up to $50,000 in the case of a registered political party; not exceeding $5,000 in all other cases Up to $5,000, 2 years or both Up to $10,000 Up to $10,000, 1 year or both – Up to $2,000, 6 months or both Up to $5,000, 1 year or both

Footnote 1 The Election Financing Act provides for a penalty of $25,000 for a political party or $5,000 for any other person or organization. There is no imprisonment penalty.

Footnote 2 The Election Financing Act provides for a penalty of $25,000 for a political party or $5,000 for any other person or organization. There is no imprisonment penalty.