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FAQs on Leadership Contests

The following FAQs address the most common questions that Elections Canada receives about leadership contests.

If you are active as a leadership contestant or as the financial agent of a leadership contestant and would like more information, see the Political Financing Handbook for Leadership Contestants and Financial Agents.

Questions and Answers

What is Elections Canada's role with regard to party leadership contests?

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 of selecting party leaders.

Parties set the contest period and their own rules for leadership contests. In some cases, they place 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 leadership 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 $1,675 per year in total to all contestants in a particular leadership contest. This amount is in addition to the maximum of $1,675 they can give annually to other political entities, including the party. For example, a contributor could give $1,675 to the party, $800 to one leadership contestant, and $875 to another. Contributors may be under the age of 18; there are no age restrictions.

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Can a leadership contestant donate to their own campaign?

A contestant can contribute up to $25,000 per contest to their own campaign. In addition, they can give up to $1,675 in total (per year) to the other contestants in the same contest.

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What are the reporting requirements for leadership contestants?

Leadership contestants must submit financial reports to Elections Canada. These include two conditional interim campaign returns due before contest day and a complete campaign return due six months after contest day. 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 leadership 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 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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How long does a leadership contestant remain a prominent attendee for the purposes of a regulated activity?

After the contest period ends, 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 any surplus, and closing the campaign 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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