Secondary menu

Compendium of Election Administration in Canada: A Comparative Overview

F. Nomination and Registration of Political Entities

In all Canadian jurisdictions, those who wish to run as candidates at an election or establish a registered or authorized political party must meet certain requirements. In some cases, there are also registration requirements for local associations, leadership contestants and third parties.

The right to be a candidate is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section 3). In all jurisdictions, anyone who meets the eligibility requirements for voting is also eligible to be a candidate. Each jurisdiction also specifies who is not eligible to run, for instance, people who have been convicted of an election-related offence, the Chief Electoral Officer or returning officers, or inmates. Disqualifying criteria vary among jurisdictions and may result indirectly from Legislative Assembly or civil service Acts that disqualify certain people from sitting as members.

To encourage those who wish to seek nomination, some jurisdictions have provisions giving candidates the right to a leave of absence from work. That is the case in Canada, Quebec, Manitoba, British Columbia and Nunavut (for public service employees). In Canada, an employer may grant a leave of absence with or without pay, but in Quebec, Manitoba, British Columbia and Nunavut, a leave of absence may only be granted without pay.

To be a candidate, a person must file nomination or declaration papers with the returning officer. All jurisdictions require prospective candidates to gather a certain number of signatures, except Nunavut, which requires a simpler form of declaration of candidacy. Most jurisdictions require them to pay a deposit, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba being the exceptions. The deposit is usually reimbursed to candidates if they obtain a certain percentage of valid votes. In Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia (in force as of January 1, 2016, or earlier), New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, however, the deposit is entirely reimbursed if the candidate has completed and returned all required documents and forms, regardless of the percentage of votes.

With the exception of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, where political parties do not exist, a political party may register with the Chief Electoral Officer in its jurisdiction. Political parties must meet several criteria for registration. In particular, all jurisdictions except Quebec require political parties to nominate a minimum number of candidates, ranging from 1 in Canada to 43 in Alberta. In addition, a specified number of elector signatures is required, except in New Brunswick and British Columbia. In all jurisdictions, the Chief Electoral Officer may refuse a registration if he or she is of the opinion that the party name or its abbreviation so nearly resembles another party's name or its abbreviation that it may cause confusion. Like candidates, registered political parties must appoint an official agent or representative for financial matters.

Many jurisdictions do not specify when a political party's registration must come into effect. In some cases, the date is determined by the Chief Electoral Officer. However, in Canada, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia, the registration of a political party becomes effective only when certain criteria are met. For example, in Canada, political parties must have submitted their applications to the Chief Electoral Officer at least 60 days before the issuance of a writ and must confirm at least one candidate for an election, whereas in Prince Edward Island, the application must be received before the 23rd day before polling day. In Manitoba, a party becomes registered upon receipt by the Chief Electoral Officer of all financial statements and related documents. British Columbia, meanwhile, requires the Chief Electoral Officer to rule on the registration application within 30 days, unless an election is called.

Only Canada and Quebec have legislation covering the merger of two registered political parties. In Canada, registered political parties may merge at any time except during the period beginning 30 days before the issue of a writ and ending on polling day. Registered political parties in Quebec may merge at any time, so long as the Chief Electoral Officer is notified and the merger is certified by two or more officers from each of the merging parties.

Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta require local associations of political parties to register with the Chief Electoral Officer. In British Columbia, this is true only if the local association wishes to issue tax receipts or incur election expenses.

Leadership contestants must submit an application for registration to the Chief Electoral Officer. In Canada, Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba, registered parties proposing to hold a leadership contest must submit a statement to the Chief Electoral Officer setting out the dates on which the leadership contest is to begin and end. In Quebec and New Brunswick, financing of leadership campaigns is regulated.

In Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, third parties are required to register with the Chief Electoral Officer. Third parties are those individuals or groups other than candidates, registered political parties or local associations who spend, or intend to spend, money on election advertising to promote or oppose a registered political party or a candidate during the course of an election campaign. In Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario, third parties are required to register if they spend more than $500 on election advertising. In Alberta, the limit is $1,000, while in Quebec and British Columbia third parties must register if they wish to advertise at all. In Saskatchewan, third parties are only allowed to advertise and incur expenses if the costs were incurred to gain support for views held by the person on an issue of policy or to advance their non-partisan association or group.

Where the legislation provides for a given registered entity, an official agent must be appointed, except in the case of political parties in the Yukon, or in the case of third parties in British Columbia and Ontario. In Ontario, a third party that incurs expenses of $5,000 or more for third party election advertising must appoint a professionally licensed auditor required to sign-off on all financial statements without delay. Usually, entities appoint their official agent when they complete their registration or nomination form. In all jurisdictions, official agents may appoint deputies to assist them in receiving contributions, issuing tax receipts, and/or authorizing specific persons to incur expenses. As a rule, only one official agent may be appointed exclusively per entity, except in Nova Scotia (where political parties may appoint up to three official agents) and in Saskatchewan (where official agents may act for more than one candidate).

Every jurisdiction has legislated criteria for eligibility as an official agent. The person must be eligible to vote and have the capacity to contract in all provinces and territories, except for Saskatchewan. In most cases, specific legislation prevents auditors, candidates, leadership contestants, leaders of parties, election staff, members of the legislative assembly or members of an executive committee of a political party from being eligible to act as official agents. In New Brunswick, the appointed official representative must be 19 years of age or older, eligible to vote, and may not be a candidate or election officer. Other impediments to becoming an official agent include having been convicted under an elections act or having previously failed, as an official agent, to file the required reports and statements within the prescribed deadlines. In Canada, official agents are barred from their duties if they have applied for and have not yet been discharged from bankruptcy protection.

The roles of official agents are similar from one jurisdiction to another, as they have more or less the same responsibilities related to managing financial matters (contributions, expenses, advertisement, filing and accounting). It is worth noting that Quebec is the only jurisdiction where matters surrounding contributions to each entity are strictly reserved for the Chief Electoral Officer, who is in charge of receiving and recording contributions as well as issuing receipts and returning illegal and anonymous contributions to the contributor or the Minister of Finance. Overall, official agents ensure that political parties, local associations, candidates, leadership contestants, nomination contestants or third parties are complying with the legislated provisions relating to election financing. In New Brunswick and Quebec, official agents share duties with official representatives. In New Brunswick, official representatives manage annual finances and statements, while official agents are in charge of election expenses. In Saskatchewan, chief official agents manage the party while business managers handle expenses, contributions, etc. for individual candidates.

Auditors are appointed to verify reports produced by official agents. They are appointed by entities required to audit their statements, except in Nova Scotia and Quebec, where official agents are responsible for appointing the auditor. In Saskatchewan, the chief official agent appoints the auditor for the party and business managers appoint auditors for individual candidates. In New Brunswick, the official representatives of only registered political parties appoint an accountant practicing in the province to serve as the auditor of that party.

Table F.1 Requirements to be a candidate

Jurisdiction 18 years of age Canadian citizen Ordinarily resident
Canada Yes Yes
Newfoundland and Labrador Yes Yes Yes
Prince Edward Island Yes Yes Yes
Nova Scotia Yes Yes Yes
New Brunswick Yes Yes Yes
Quebec Yes Yes Yes
Ontario Yes Yes Yes
Manitoba Yes Yes Yes
Saskatchewan Yes Yes Yes
Alberta Yes Yes Yes
British Columbia Yes Yes Yes
Yukon Yes Yes Yes
Northwest Territories Yes Yes Yes
Nunavut Yes Yes Yes

Table F.2 Impediments to being a candidate

Jurisdiction Convicted of corrupt or illegal practice Disqualified under any Act Member of Legislature or Parliament Chief Electoral Officer Assistant Chief Electoral Officer Returning officer Other election officer Judge Inmate Mayor or councillor of municipality Sheriff, clerk or Crown attorney Previous candidate who has not filed financial return
Canada Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Newfoundland and Labrador Yes
Prince Edward Island Yes Yes
Nova Scotia Yes Yes Yes
New Brunswick Yes Yes Yes
Quebec Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ontario Yes Yes Yes Yes
Manitoba Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Saskatchewan Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Alberta Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
British Columbia Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Yukon Yes Yes Yes Yes
Northwest Territories Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Nunavut Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Table F.3 Requirements for nomination and registration

Jurisdiction Political parties registration number of signatures Political parties registration number of candidates nominated Registration local associations and leadership contestants; Requirement to provide statement of assets and liabilities and/or identify financial institutions Third parties registration Candidates nomination number of signatures Candidates nomination deposit
Canada 250 electors who are party members 1
  • Local associations: Must provide Chief Electoral Officer with statement of assets and liabilities within 6 months after becoming registered
  • Leadership contestants: Must register with Chief Electoral Officer if they accept contributions or incur expenses for leadership campaign
Must register with Chief Electoral Officer after spending $500 on election advertising 100 electors in electoral district; 50 electors in special districts listed in Act $1,000
Newfoundland and Labrador 1,000 electors 12 10 electors in electoral district $200
Prince Edward Island 0.35% of number of persons eligible to vote at last election and still eligible to vote 10 25 electors in electoral district $200
Nova Scotia 25 electors in each of 10 electoral districts 10
  • Local associations: Must identify their financial institutions and provide account number
  • Political party: A petition in the prescribed form requesting registration of the political party must be signed by no fewer than twenty-five electors in each of ten different electoral districts, whose signatures must have been obtained no earlier than twelve months before the date the application is submitted to the Chief Electoral Officer
5 electors in electoral district $200
New Brunswick Leader elected by a convention and has district associations in at least 10 electoral districts Undertakes to present candidates in at least 10 electoral districts at the next general election
  • Local associations: Must register with Chief Electoral Officer to receive contributions or incur expenses. No requirement to provide any financial statement or to identify a financial institution when registering
  • Leadership contestants: Must register with Chief Electoral Officer after acceptance by their political party. No requirement to provide any financial statement or to identify a financial institution when registering
Must register with Chief Electoral Officer before or after spending $500 on election advertising 25 electors in electoral district $100
Quebec 100 electors who are party members Local associations: Must identify their financial institutions Must register with returning officer to advertise 100 electors on list of electors for electoral division
Ontario 1,000 electors 2
  • Local associations: Must provide Chief Electoral Officer with statement of assets and liabilities
  • Leadership contestants: Must identify their financial institutions
Must register with Chief Electoral Officer after spending $400 on election advertising 25 electors in electoral district
Manitoba 2,500 persons eligible to vote in most recent general election 5 50 electors in electoral division
Saskatchewan 2,500 voters, 1,000 of whom must reside in at least 10 different constituencies (minimum of 100 electors in each) 2 4 electors in constituency $100
Alberta 0.3% of number of persons eligible to vote at last general election and still eligible to vote In 50% of divisions
  • Local associations: Must provide Chief Electoral Officer with statement of assets and liabilities and must identify their financial institutions
  • Leadership contestants: Must identify their financial institutions
Must register with Chief Electoral Officer after spending or accepting contributions of at least $1,000 on election advertising 25 electors in electoral division $500
British Columbia 2 Local associations: Must provide Chief Electoral Officer with statement of assets and liabilities and must identify their financial institutions Must register with Chief Electoral Officer to advertise 75 electors in electoral district $250
YukonFootnote 1 100 electors who are party membersFootnote 1 2 25 electors in electoral district $200
Northwest Territories No political parties No political parties 15 electors in electoral district $200
Nunavut No political parties No political parties $200

Footnote 1 Where a political party submits a valid application for registration and the Chief Electoral Officer determines under section 46 that its proposed name is acceptable, the Chief Electoral Officer shall register the political party within the 30 days after receiving the application (frivolous or offensive party names are prohibited).

Table F.4 Appointment of official agents

Jurisdiction Appointments made by political parties Appointments made by local association Appointments made by candidates Appointments made by leadership contestants Appointments made by third parties
Canada
  • Chief agent, in the application for registration
  • Registered agent, at any time; must be filed with the Chief Electoral Officer within 30 days of the appointment
  • Financial agent, in the application for registration
  • Electoral district agent, at any time; must be filed with the Chief Electoral Officer within 30 days of the appointment
Official agent, in the application for nomination, before accepting a contribution or incurring an electoral campaign expense Financial agent, in the application for registration Financial agent, in the registration form, which must be submitted immediately after incurred expenses over $500
Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Chief financial officer, in the application for registration
  • Official agent (no specific information)
Chief financial officer, in the application for nomination
Prince Edward Island Official agent, before filing the application for registration Official agent, before filing the application for registration
Nova Scotia
  • Official agent, in the application for registration
  • Up to three official agents
  • Shall designate one official agent as the primary contact for the Chief Electoral Officer
Official agent, in the application for registration Official agent, in the application for registration Financial agent, in the registration form, which must be submitted within 7 days after incurred expenses over $500
New Brunswick
  • Chief agent, within 10 days of registration
  • Official representative, within 10 days of registration
  • Electoral district agents (who become official agents of candidates), at any time, by the chief agent of a registered political party on the written authorization of the leader of the party
Official representative, within 20 days of registration
  • Candidate of a party: The electoral district agent of the party shall be the official agent of the official candidate of that party in that district; any candidate who does not have an official agent on the date of his or her nomination paper shall appoint one within 3 days of that date. A candidate may dismiss his official agent and appoint another by a writing filed with the Chief Electoral Officer
  • Independent candidate: An official representative AND an official agent shall be appointed within
    20 days of the registration, although they may be the same person
Official representative, in the application for registration Chief financial officer, in the registration form, which must be submitted immediately after incurring expenses over $500
Quebec
  • The official agent is the official representative of the authorized party unless another person is appointed in writing by the leader of the party
  • Official representative, in writing by the leader of the party in the application for authorization
  • Delegate, at any time for each electoral division on the written authorization of the leader of the party
Official representative, in writing by the leader of the party in the application for authorization
  • Candidate shall have an official agent appointed in his or her nomination papers
  • Independent candidate: the official agent is the same person as the person who acts as the official representative
Financial representative, in writing by the leadership contestant
Ontario Chief financial officer, in the application for registration Chief financial officer, in the application for registration Chief financial officer, in the application for registration Chief financial officer, in the application for registration Chief financial officer, in the registration form, which must be submitted immediately after incurred expenses over $500
ManitobaFootnote 1 Financial officer, without delay
  • Financial officer, within 30 days of Chief Electoral Officer request
  • One official agent per local association; named by the registered party
Official agent, 15 days after becoming a candidate Official agent, without delay Financial agent, without delay, if expenses over $500
Saskatchewan Chief official agent, in the application for registration
  • Business manager, in the application for registration
  • May act on behalf of more than one candidate
Alberta Chief financial officer, in the application for registration Chief financial officer, in the application for registration
  • Chief financial officer, in the application for registration
  • Official agent, in the application for registration; may be the chief financial officer
Chief financial officer, in the application for registration Chief financial officer, in the registration form, which must be submitted immediately after incurred expenses over $1,000
British Columbia Financial agent, in the application for registration Financial agent, in the application for registration
  • Financial agent, in the application for registration
  • The candidate is his or her own financial agent if he or she does not appoint one; financial agent may be the official agent
  • Official agent, at any time, by filing appointment with the CEO
Financial agent; the leadership contestant can be his or her own financial agent if he or she does not appoint one; financial agent may be the official agent
Yukon Official agent, in the application for nomination
Northwest Territories Official agent, in the application for nomination
Nunavut Financial agent, in the declaration of candidacy

Footnote 1 Appointments by returning officer: when an election is called for an electoral division, he or she may appoint persons to perform administrative duties at returning office and an interpreter to interpret any information required to be provided under the Elections Amendment Act.