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FAQs on Leadership Contests

Elections Canada is updating the Political Financing Handbook for Leadership Contestants and Financial Agents. A draft version with proposed changes was posted under Opinions, Guidelines and Interpretations on January 13, 2020. As part of the consultation process, political parties have until January 30 to submit their comments. The updated handbook will be posted once it is finalized.

The following FAQs provide some useful general information about leadership contests.

Questions and Answers

Does Elections Canada oversee leadership races?

Regarding leadership contests for registered federal parties, Elections Canada’s role is to ensure that contestants, contributors, and other political entities understand and comply with the political financing limits and regulations laid out in the Canada Elections Act. We are not otherwise involved in the process to select party leaders.

Parties set the contest period and their own rules for leadership contests. In some cases, they provide additional restrictions on the contest’s political financing aspects—for example, participation fees or refundable deposits for leadership contestants—which they administer themselves. This does not pose a problem, as long as there is no conflict with the Canada Elections Act.

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Who can donate to a contestant’s campaign and how much?

Only individuals who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents can contribute, up to the maximum allowed limits. Currently, contributors can give $1,625 per year in total to all contestants in a particular leadership contest. This amount is in addition to the maximum of $1,625 they can give annually to other political entities, including the party. For example, a contributor could give $1,625 to the party, $800 to one leadership contestant, and $825 to another. Contributors can be under the age of 18; there are no age restrictions.

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Can a contestant donate to their own campaign?

A contestant can give up to $25,000 per contest to their own campaign. In addition, they can give up to $1,625 in total (per year) to the other contestants.

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What are the reporting requirements for leadership contestants?

Leadership contestants must submit several reports to Elections Canada. These are due both before and after contest day, including two interim campaign returns due before contest day and a complete campaign return due six months after. Contestants have 36 months after contest day to pay all outstanding claims and loans, unless they get authorization from Elections Canada or a judge to pay later.

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If contestants are required to pay a participation fee and/or a refundable deposit to the party, how is this money reported?

Contest entry fees fall under the category of the contestant's "other campaign expenses". If the party requires a refundable compliance deposit, this must be recorded as a transfer to the registered party rather than as an expense. If the deposit is refunded to the contestant, it is recorded as "other cash inflow" rather than as a transfer back to the contestant.

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In the regulated fundraising event reporting rules introduced last year, leadership contestants are one of the categories of prominent attendees whose presence is required for an event to be regulated. For how long after a leadership contest is someone considered a contestant?

After the contest period, leadership contestants continue to be contestants, and therefore prominent attendees, until they have fulfilled all their reporting obligations (for example, paying their claims and loans, disposing of surplus, and closing the bank account).

Leadership contestants should wait for Elections Canada to confirm they are no longer prominent attendees, following our review of their financial returns. A regularly updated list of contestants from past races who continue to be prominent attendees is available on our website.

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