Political Financing Handbook for Candidates and Official Agents (EC 20155) – July 2021
20. By-elections Superseded by a General Election
This chapter describes the differences in administering a campaign when one or more by-elections are superseded by a general election. It covers the following topics:
- How a by-election is superseded and when it is deemed to have taken place
- Appointing an official agent and opening a bank account
- Limits on contributions, loans and loan guarantees for by-elections
- Limit on election expenses
- Reimbursement of expenses and reporting
- Transfers to the campaign for the general election
Note: The political financing rules in this chapter apply only to a candidate whose nomination was confirmed by the returning officer for a by-election that has been or will be superseded by a general election.
How a by-election becomes superseded
When a vacancy occurs in the House of Commons, a by-election must be called within six months, unless the vacancy occurs less than 9 months before a fixed-date general election. The election period must be between 37 and 51 days.
If a by-election is underway when a general election is called, the by-election writ is withdrawn and is superseded by the writ for the general election. In such a case, Elections Canada publishes a notice of withdrawal of the by-election writ.
By-election deemed to have taken place
In the case of a superseded by-election, the by-election is deemed to have taken place on the day that the general election is called.
Appoint an official agent and open a bank account
Candidates in a by-election must appoint an official agent before incurring expenses or accepting contributions, loans or transfers. They must open a separate bank account to be used exclusively for the by-election campaign.
Candidates who also decide to run in the general election will need to appoint an official agent—who could be the same person as for the by-election—and open a separate bank account to be used exclusively for the general election campaign.
Note: The financial transactions of a by-election campaign and a general election campaign must be managed separately.
Limits on contributions, loans and loan guarantees for by-elections
The table below displays the limit on contributions, loans and loan guarantees as it applies to a superseded by-election.
|Political entity||2021 annual limit||Limit per election called between Jan. 1 and
Dec. 31, 2021
|Candidates endorsed by a registered party||$1,650*||n/a|
- 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.
- Independent candidates may accept contributions, loans and loan guarantees up to the contribution limit from eligible contributors for the by-election. In addition, they may accept contributions, loans and loan guarantees up to the contribution limit from the same contributors for the general election. This is because, in the case of independent candidates, the contribution limit applies not per year, but per election.
- Once confirmed, candidates can issue tax receipts for the contributions they receive.
- All contributions received by confirmed candidates in the by-election can later be transferred and used for the general election.
There is an exception to the limits on contributions:
- Candidates, whether they are independent or endorsed by a registered party, can make contributions, loans and loan guarantees of up to $5,000 in total to their campaign in the by-election, as well as another $5,000 in total to their campaign in the general election. A candidate is also permitted to give an additional $1,650* 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.)
*The limits increase by $25 on January 1 in each subsequent year.
For a complete reference guide on contribution limits, see the Limits on contributions, loans and loan guarantees table in Chapter 1, Reference Tables and Timelines.
Limit on election expenses
Candidates in the by-election are subject to the applicable election expenses limit. When a by-election is superseded, the limit is not affected by the fact that the length of the election period has been reduced.
Note: The election expenses limit for the general election may be slightly different. Candidates and their official agents must ensure that they respect the election expenses limits for both elections. Limits are published on the Elections Canada website.
Reimbursement of expenses and reporting
All confirmed candidates in a superseded by-election are deemed to have received 10% of the valid votes and are entitled to receive an initial reimbursement equal to 15% of the election expenses limit.
Candidates must file their return within four months after the day that the general election is called. Because they are deemed to have received 10% of the votes, they must file an auditor's report with their return. As is the case for all elections, they will be eligible for a total reimbursement equal to 60% of their paid election expenses and 60% or 90% of certain other expenses.
Candidates whose final reimbursement amount is less than the initial reimbursement paid to their campaign will need to return the overpayment (for details, see Chapter 17, Reimbursements and Subsidies).
Note: Expenses are eligible for reimbursement only once, either in relation to the by-election or the general election.
Transfers to the campaign for the general election
The Canada Elections Act allows for the transfer of any money from the by-election account (including the initial reimbursement) to the general election account of the candidate.
The Canada Elections Act also allows for the transfer of property or services acquired for the by-election to the campaign for the general election (even if the candidate is not in the same electoral district, for example as a result of redistribution). The ability to transfer property and services is important as it allows the campaign for the general election to account for such things as signs and office facilities that continue to be used from one election to the other.
The same property or services may be used during both elections. In that case, expenses for property or services transferred to the campaign for the general election are subject to the election expenses limit for both elections, if they meet the definition of an election expense.
A by-election is superseded by the call of a general election. A candidate's campaign has purchased signs for the by-election and now transfers them to the candidate's general election campaign. The expenses are election expenses for both campaigns.