Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Canadian Federal Election Laws and the Registration of Parties

In 2007 Marc Mayrand was appointed Chief Electoral Officer by the House of Commons. He serves until retirement at age 65 or his resignation. Mayrand is the sixth Chief Electoral Office in Canadian history. Only registered parties with a seat(s) in the Parliament have a say on the appointment of the Chief Electoral Officer. In addition, the only formal job requirement for the Chief Electoral Officer position is that that the person speaks and understands clearly English and French. 
For most Canadians, registering a federal party likely has minimal barriers to entry. A political group only needs 250 members, a leader, three officers, auditor, chief party officer, logo, and party name (Elections Act, 2000, Articles 366, 368; Registration Forms for Political Parties, 2013). However, the process of registering a party has subtle barriers to entry:
  1. None of the party registration materials including name and logo are protected until the party is registered.
  2. The Chief Electoral Officer makes the final decision as to whether or not a party is registered. If the political group's application is rejected for any reason, the political group must start the registration process over again, and Elections Canada keeps all the materials submitted.
  3. The political group's name (in both French and English, and in abbreviation) and logo cannot be confused with any existing political party. The Chief Electoral Officer makes the final decision, with no disclosure of how this Officer makes the decision (Elections Canada Responses to FDA Questions, 2013). 
  4. Every three years, political parties must re-submit at least 250 signed member forms or lose their registration status (Elections Act, 2000, Article 366).
So in the end, registering a Canadian federal political party is not as easy as it may seem.


Do you think it is reasonable that political groups must start an application over if for any reason their registration applications are rejected?

Should the Chief Electoral Officer have final say on party registration and with minimal accountability, barring a private law suit against Elections Canada?

Who appoints the Chief Electoral Officer? The Chief Electoral Officer is appointed based on a resolution of the House of Commons. The resolution may be agreed upon by all parties represented in the Parliament, or determined by the majority Government in power, like Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Biggar from 1920 to 1927 (House of Commons and Its Members, 2013).

The only formal job requirement on the Chief Electoral Officer is that he or she speaks English and French? (Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, 2013). Do you think this is reasonable criteria for selecting this Officer?

Should all registered parties, whether with a seat in Parliament or not, be consulted on the appointment of the Chief Electoral Officer and have substantive say on the appointment? Wouldn't this make the appointment fairer and more inclusive? Why favour the large, established parties?


Appointment of the Chief Electoral Officer. (2013). Elections Canada. Retrieved from

Chief Electoral Officers Since 1920. (2013). Elections Canada. Retrieved from

Elections Act. (2000, May 31). Elections Canada. Retrieved from http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=loi/fel/cea&document=part00&lang=e

Elections Canada Responses to FDA Questions. (2013). Elections Canada Responses to FDA Questions via Email on September 26, 2013. Responses by Huguette Belisle, Chief, Registration Unit and Financial Officer for Elections Canada.

FDA Electoral Fairness Report on Canada. (2013). Foundation for Democratic Advancement. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/FDAdvancement/2013-can-fed-audit

House of Commons and Its Members. (2013). Parliament of Canada. Retrieved from

Office of the Chief Electoral Officer. (2013). Government of Canada. Retrieved from http://www.appointments-nominations.gc.ca/prflOrg.asp?OrgID=CEO&lang=eng

Registration Forms for Political Parties. (2013). Elections Canada. Retrieved from http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=pol&dir=pol/formsreg&document=index&lang=e

Stephen Garvey, Executive Director Foundation for Democratic Advancement

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