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Political Financing Handbook for Third Parties, Financial Agents and Auditors (EC 20227) – August 2019

2. Definitions and Registration

This chapter provides definitions related to third parties and outlines the registration requirements during the pre-election period and the election period.

It covers the following topics:

What is a third party?

A third party is generally a person or group that wants to participate in or influence elections other than as a political party, electoral district association, nomination contestant or candidate

The term has different legal definitions in the pre-election period and election period, as explained below.

Note: The pre-election period starts on June 30 in the year of a fixed-date general election. It ends on the day before the general election is called. The election period starts on the day the election is called and ends on election day when the polls close.

During a pre-election period During an election period
A third party is a person or group other than a:
  • registered or eligible party
  • registered electoral district association
  • potential candidate
  • nomination contestant
A third party is a person or group other than a:
  • registered party
  • registered electoral district association
  • unregistered electoral district association of a registered party
  • candidate

Note: In defining who is not a third party, a potential candidate means someone who is selected in a nomination contest, is deemed to be a candidate because they have conducted political financing transactions, or has the support of a political party to be a candidate of that party.

What are regulated activities?

Certain third party activities are regulated by the Canada Elections Act. This handbook uses "regulated activities" as an umbrella term for partisan activities, election surveys, partisan advertising, and election advertising.

The following table introduces the regulated activities. For full definitions and examples, see Chapter 4, Pre-election Period of a Fixed-Date Election–Regulated Activities, and Chapter 5, Election Period–Regulated Activities.

List of regulated activities Description
Partisan activities Activities carried out by a third party that promote or oppose a political party, nomination contestant, potential candidate, candidate or party leader, other than by taking a position on an issue with which the party or person is associated.

Note: Activities to fundraise for the third party are excluded from partisan activities.
Election surveys Surveys about voting, or about an issue with which a registered party or candidate is associated, that a third party conducts or causes to be conducted during the pre-election period* or the election period.** The survey results are used in deciding whether or not to organize and carry out regulated activities, or in the organization and carrying out of regulated activities.
Partisan advertising The transmission to the public by any means during the pre-election period* of an advertising message that promotes or opposes a political party, nomination contestant, candidate or party leader, other than by taking a position on an issue with which the party or person is associated.
Election advertising The transmission to the public by any means during the election period** of an advertising message that promotes or opposes a registered party or candidate, including by taking a position on an issue with which the party or person is associated.
*The pre-election period starts on June 30 in the year of a fixed-date general election. It ends on the day before the general election is called.
**The election period starts on the day the election is called and ends on election day when the polls close.

Note: A potential candidate is someone who is selected in a nomination contest, is deemed to be a candidate because they have conducted political financing transactions, is a member of Parliament or an incumbent, or has the support of a political party to be a candidate of that party.

Note: Partisan activities or election surveys conducted by provincially registered political parties are not regulated activities for the purposes of the Canada Elections Act.

Registration requirements and process

Requirements

A person, corporation or group must register with Elections Canada as a third party immediately after incurring expenses:

  • totalling $500 or more for regulated activities that take place during a pre-election period, or
  • totalling $500 or more for regulated activities that take place during an election period

The following are eligible to become registered third parties:

  • an individual who is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident, or lives in Canada
  • a corporation that is incorporated in Canada or carries on business in Canada
  • a group, if the person responsible for the group is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, or lives in Canada

Registration cannot take place before the relevant period starts. For a pre-election period, this is June 30. For an election period, this is the day the general election or by–election is called.

A person, corporation or group can also register as a third party if they intend to incur expenses totalling $500 or more for regulated activities in one of the periods.

Note: Group means an unincorporated trade union, trade association or other group of persons acting together by mutual consent for a common purpose. Two groups with related aims, such as two trade union locals of the same parent union, may both separately register as third parties. However, they are prohibited from colluding with each other to circumvent the limit on regulated expenses.

Note: A third party that registers during the pre-election period and is also required to register during the election period is deemed to be registered for the election period.

How to register

A third party that is required to register with Elections Canada has to:

  • open a separate bank account with a Canadian financial institution or certain authorized foreign banks, as defined by the Bank Act (see Separate bank account for regulated activities in Chapter 3, Financial Administration Overview)
  • appoint a financial agent, who must sign a declaration accepting the appointment
  • appoint an auditor without delay, if it has incurred expenses totalling $10,000 or more for regulated activities
  • submit the General Form—Third Party to Elections Canada

If the third party is a trade union, corporation or other entity with a governing body, the application must include a signed copy of a resolution authorizing it to incur expenses for regulated activities.

For example, the resolution could read: "The board hereby authorizes <name of the third party> to incur expenses regulated by the Canada Elections Act during the <pre-election period, election period or both> for the election held on <election date>. This resolution was approved by the majority of the board members."

Elections Canada's verification of the application

Elections Canada reviews the application for registration to determine whether the third party can be registered. Applications are examined in the order in which they are received.

  • the application does not meet the requirements of the Canada Elections Act, or
  • the name of the third party is likely to be confused with the name of another regulated entity, such as a:
    • registered or eligible political party
    • nomination contestant
    • potential candidate or candidate
    • leadership contestant
    • leader of a registered party, or
    • another registered third party

If a third party cannot be registered for any reason, Elections Canada will inform the person who signed the application for registration, explaining why and what steps must be taken. For example, they may need to submit a new application or simply provide missing information.

If the application is accepted, Elections Canada informs the person who signed the application for registration. Once registered, the person, corporation or group is referred to as a registered third party.

Registry of Third Parties

Elections Canada maintains a Registry of Third Parties that includes all the details provided by registered third parties in their application and subsequent updates.

Note: When third parties become registered, their names and addresses are published on the Elections Canada website.

Prohibition on foreign third parties

The Canada Elections Act prohibits foreign third parties from participating in elections and incurring expenses for regulated activities that take place during a pre-election period or an election period.

Type of third party It is a foreign third party if...
Individual The individual is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and does not live in Canada.
Corporation or entity
  • It was incorporated or organized outside of Canada and it does not carry on business in Canada.
  • It carries on business in Canada, but
    • during the pre-election period, its only activity in Canada, or
    • during the election period, its primary purpose in Canada
    is to influence electors to vote or refrain from voting, either in general or for a particular candidate or registered party.
Group Of the people responsible for the group, none are Canadian citizens, permanent residents or live in Canada.