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Compendium of Election Administration in Canada: A Comparative Overview

J. Senate Nominee Elections

In the Canadian parliamentary system, members of the Senate of Canada are appointed by the Governor General on advice of the Prime Minister. To introduce an element of popular choice into the appointment process, some jurisdictions have introduced Senate nominee election legislation. Under this legislation individuals would be elected as Senate nominees for a particular province and their names would be submitted to the Privy Council of Canada, where the Prime Minister could then recommend to the Governor General their appointment to the Senate of Canada.

There is currently one Canadian jurisdiction, Alberta, with legislation in force regarding Senate nominee elections. In 1990, British Columbia had passed its own Senatorial Selection Act; however, this Act contained a sunset clause and has since lapsed. In 2009, Saskatchewan had also passed legislation providing for Senate nominee elections, The Senate Nominee Election Act; however, the Act was repealed in 2013.

General Provisions

Under the Senatorial Selection Act of Alberta, the province's Chief Electoral Officer is responsible for the administration of that jurisdiction's Senate nominee elections. An exception arises if a Senate election is held in conjunction with a municipal election, in which case the local municipal council becomes the electoral authority responsible for the administration and implementation of the Act.

It is the responsibility of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council to commence a Senate nominee election. A Senate election cannot be held in conjunction with a federal election; however, one can be held with a municipal election under the Local Authorities Election Act.

In order for a candidate to be eligible, the individual must meet the qualifications set out in section 23 of the Constitution Act, 1867, have lived in the province for six months and cannot be prohibited from being a candidate under the province's Election Act. In Alberta, a Senate nominee cannot be a Member of the House of Commons, the Senate, the Legislative Assembly, or a candidate in another election. Individuals who run as Senate nominee candidates may run as a member of a registered political party or as an independent.

With regard to the term of a Senate nominee, the nominee retains this status until he or she: is appointed to the Senate; resigns; goes bankrupt; is convicted of a crime; no longer meets the qualifications set out by section 23 of the Constitution Act, 1867; becomes a citizen of, or swears an oath to, a foreign power; or is no longer qualified for nomination under the jurisdiction's Senate election Act. In Alberta, the term does not expire unless the Lieutenant-Governor in Council chooses to fix it.

Senate Nominee Election Financing

The Senate election legislation of Alberta mandates that candidates pay a deposit of $4,000 in order to seek election. In the area of political financing, Alberta legislates contribution limits.

Table J.1 Senate nominee elections

Jurisdiction Jurisdictions with Senate election Acts Chief Electoral Officer's mandate Election timing Candidate eligibility Term as nominee Political affiliations
Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island
Nova Scotia
New Brunswick
Quebec
Ontario
Manitoba Footnote 1
Saskatchewan
Alberta Yes The Chief Electoral Officer of Alberta has full responsibility for the implementation and administration of this Act except when a Senate nominee election is held with a local election. In this case a municipal council will become the electoral authority responsible for conducting the vote as required under the Local Authorities Election Act. Lieutenant-Governor in Council may commence an election pursuant to this Act:

  • In conjunction with a provincial general election under the Alberta Election Act.
  • Separately on a date provided for in the order, or
  • In conjunction with a municipal election under the Local Authorities Election Act.
To be eligible to be a candidate for a Senate nominee election an individual:

  • Must meet the qualifications set out in sec. 23 of the Constitution Act, 1867.
  • Must not be a Member of the House of Commons, Senate or Legislative Assembly.
  • Must have lived in Alberta for at least 6 months.
  • Cannot be a candidate in another election, and;
  • Cannot be prohibited from being a candidate under the Election Act.
A person remains as a nominee until he/she:
  • Is appointed to the Senate of Canada.
  • Resigns.
  • Becomes a citizen of, or swears an oath to, a foreign power.
  • Goes bankrupt.
  • Is convicted of treason, a felony or any infamous crime.
  • Ceases to be eligible to be a candidate under sec. 8 of the Act, or
  • The term expires. (The Lieutenant-Governor in Council may fix the term of a Senate nominee if desirable)
A Senate nominee candidate must choose to run as:
  • A member of a registered political party; or,
  • An independent.
British Columbia Footnote 2
Yukon
Northwest Territories
Nunavut

Footnote 1 Under Schedule D of the Elections Reform Act (R.A. June 13, 2006) an all-party legislative committee was mandated to make recommendations on how to elect federal senators. The Special Legislative Committee on Senate Elections conducted public consultations and released its report in 2009.

Footnote 2 The BC Legislative Assembly passed the Senatorial Selection Act in 1990. However, this Act had a sunset clause and has since lapsed. The Act could be re-enacted by amendment.

Table J.2 Senate nominee election financing

Jurisdiction Candidate's deposit Expenditure limits Contribution limits Tax credit for political contributions
Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island
Nova Scotia
New Brunswick
Quebec
Ontario
Manitoba
Saskatchewan
Alberta $4,000
  • Contributions limits are imposed on individuals, corporations, trade unions, and other employee organizations.
  • Contributions to a candidate cannot exceed $30,000. If a candidate was nominated by a registered political party, any amount contributed to that party in that calendar year under the Senatorial Selection Act must be deducted from the $30,000.
  • Contributions can only be made to a candidate during a campaign period.
  • Contributions shall not exceed, in any year, $15,000 to each registered party.
  • In a campaign period, the maximum amount shall not exceed $30,000 multiplied by the number of persons to be elected for which there is a candidate, less any amount contributed to the party in that calendar year under the Senatorial Selection Act
  • Up to $200: 75%
  • Over $200 and up to $1,100: $150 + 50% of amount over $200
  • Over $1,100:
    lesser of $1,000, or $600 + 33.33% of amount over $1,100
British Columbia
Yukon
Northwest Territories
Nunavut