Recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs Respecting Specific Issues of Political Financing
4. Minimum Age for Making Political Contributions
Summary of Section
- explains that age is not currently a factor affecting the eligibility of contributions under the Canada Elections Act;
- sets out the existing controls in the Act that ensure that minors cannot be exploited as a means to avoid the eligibility, caps and disclosure rules of the Act; and
- discusses the value of permitting youth to participate in the electoral process prior to reaching voting age through such means as the making of contributions.
- that additional eligibility criteria based on age are not desirable at this time as they would serve no purpose not already addressed under the Act.
There is currently no minimum age requirement for an individual to be eligible to make contributions under the Canada Elections Act. (Nor is there a maximum age.) Age is not a factor that affects the application of the contribution rules of the Act. Contributions made by a person to registered parties, registered associations, candidates, nomination contestants and leadership contestants are subject to the same requirements respecting eligibility, caps and reporting, regardless of the age of the contributor. This is also true respecting contributions to third parties, which do not depend for their eligibility on the age of the contributor.
There is no evidence at this time of any widespread practice of using minors to avoid the contribution rules of the Act. The provisions of the Act that operate ensure that individuals or entities do not use others as tools to avoid the application of the contribution requirements of the Act apply equally to the use of younger people as they do to the use of any person or entity.
Section 405.3 provides that no person or entity shall make a contribution to a registered party, a registered association, a candidate, a nomination or a leadership contestant that comes from money, property or the services of any person or entity that was provided to that person or entity for that purpose. This section precludes one person or entity giving a minor resources for the minor to make political contributions as it does with respect to gifts given to an adult for that purpose. One cannot avoid one's contribution caps, or one's own ineligibility, or the reporting of one's contributions, by attempting to make those contributions through the medium of another, whether that person is a minor or not.
The prohibitions in section 405.2, which preclude any person or entity from circumventing or attempting to circumvent the contribution eligibility, caps or disclosure rules of the Act, apply to schemes involving minors for such circumventions as they do to schemes that do not involve minors.Footnote 18
Thus, there does not at this time appear to be a hole in the contribution eligibility, caps or disclosure requirements of the Act that can be exploited through the use of minors.
The ability to make contributions is an important aspect of inclusion to assist in ensuring that those who reach voting age have a reasonable opportunity to come to it with familiarity and not as strangers.
Furthermore, the political process itself benefits from the participation of new generations of young people, who bring to it not only the additional energy of youth but appreciation of evolving times.
Elections Canada currently encourages youth participation in the electoral process through a number of administrative initiatives listed on the Young Voters section of the Elections Canada Web site (e.g. Student Vote, The Democracy Project and Go Vote). These administrative initiatives complement the current provisions of the Canada Elections Act to promote participation by youth in the electoral process without waiting to reach voting age. Young people, like all persons, are free to provide volunteer services, as such volunteer services do not constitute contributions (except where a self-employed person provides a type of service for which that person normally charges).Footnote 19 They are also free to make monetary contributions, according to the rules of the Act as they feel appropriate, which will be reported and count toward their individual caps.Footnote 20 Through such means, young people may feel more included in the electoral process and have a stake in the outcome of political judgments.
Nor are additional administrative measures respecting the reporting of youth contributions recommended at this time – such as the inclusion of the ages of contributors under some specified age. Such additional reporting requirements would single out youth participation and might discourage it. Moreover, insofar as any person could be used to improperly channel secret contributions, the very young are the least likely to be chosen for that purpose because significant contributions made through them raise suspicions.
For these reasons, additional restrictions on the ability to make contributions based on age criteria are not recommended at this time. If such restrictions were to be considered, much effort would have to be expended on determining which types of contributions were to be included under the new restrictions and the appropriate age upon which such restrictions would be predicated.
Return to source of Footnote 18 405.2(1) No person or entity shall
(a) circumvent, or attempt to circumvent, the prohibition under subsection 404(1) or a limit set out in subsection 405(1) or section 405.31; or
(b) act in collusion with another person or entity for that purpose.
(2) No person or entity shall
(a) conceal, or attempt to conceal, the identity of the source of a contribution governed by this Act; or
(b) act in collusion with another person or entity for that purpose.
(3) No person who is permitted to accept contributions under this Act shall knowingly accept a contribution that exceeds a limit under this Act.
Return to source of Footnote 19 The following definitions are found in section 2 of the Act:
"non-monetary contribution" means the commercial value of a service, other than volunteer labour, or of property or of the use of property or money to the extent that they are provided without charge or at less than their commercial value.
"volunteer labour" means any service provided free of charge by a person outside of their working hours, but does not include such a service provided by a person who is self-employed if the service is one that is normally charged for by that person.
Return to source of Footnote 20 While the Canada Elections Act requires that an individual must be at least 18 years of age on election day to be appointed an election officer, the Act also provides, among other things, for the appointment of citizens as young as 16 who reside in the relevant district where a returning officer is unable to identify a person who meets the age requirement (subsection 22(5)).