Opinions, Guidelines and Interpretations - Overview
Section 16.1 of the Canada Elections Act requires Elections Canada to issue guidelines and interpretation notes on the application of the Act to registered parties, registered associations, nomination contestants, candidates and leadership contestants. Elections Canada issues guidelines and interpretation notes at its discretion or on application by the chief agent of a registered party.
Section 16.2 of the Act requires Elections Canada to issue written opinions on the application of any provision of the Act to an activity or practice that a registered party, registered association, nomination contestant, candidate or leadership contestant of a registered party proposes to engage in. Elections Canada issues these opinions on application by the chief agent of a registered party.
Requests must be submitted by the chief agent of the registered party using the online form.
The request must include the following information:
- chief agent's name and contact information
- name of the registered party
- complete description of the question and all facts relevant to the application
Elections Canada would reject an application if:
- it was not submitted by the chief agent of a registered party
- it was not related to the application of the Canada Elections Act
- it was not related to an activity that the registered party or one of its affiliated political entities proposed to engage in
When Elections Canada receives a request, it will assess it to determine whether or not it includes enough information for a written opinion, guideline or interpretation note to be provided. If clarification or more information is needed, Elections Canada will contact the applicant within five business days. Once the application is complete, it will be assigned an application number and made public on Elections Canada's website.
Once a request has been made public on Elections Canada's website, it cannot be withdrawn.
Elections Canada may also initiate guidelines and interpretation notes. The process for issuing them is essentially the same as for those requested by a registered party.
Elections Canada will provide proposed written opinions, guidelines and interpretation notes to members of the Advisory Committee of Political Parties for comment. After the notice is sent, comments must be submitted within 30 days for a written opinion or within 45 days for a guideline or interpretation note. All comments will be made public on Elections Canada's website. Before finalizing a written opinion, guideline or interpretation note, the agency will take into consideration any comments received.
The Canada Elections Act requires that written opinions requested by a registered party be made public on Elections Canada's website within 90 days after the request date. However, if this 90-day period overlaps with the election period for a general election (from the day an election is called until election day), the written opinion must be published within 90 days after election day. Guidelines and interpretation notes are published as soon as possible after they are prepared.
Written opinions take effect 30 days from their publication date, while guidelines and interpretation notes take effect upon publication.
Written opinions provide a certain protection to political entities since they are binding on Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections. They remain binding as long as the material facts on which the opinion was based have not changed; the activity or practice is carried out substantially as proposed; and a contrary interpretation has not been subsequently issued by way of a guideline, interpretation note or written opinion.
Guidelines and interpretation notes are for information purposes only. They are not binding on political entities.