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Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 37th General Election Held on November 27, 2000


This election saw the second-highest number of candidates ever – 1 808, second only to the 2 155 who ran in 1993 – and continued the general trend of increasing numbers of candidates in general elections. It was also the first general election since political party names were put on the ballots in 1972 in which only one party nominated a candidate in every riding.

Who can be nominated?

The right to be a candidate in a federal election is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Anyone qualified to vote on the date he or she files nomination papers may run for election, except for a small number of people listed in section 65 of the Canada Elections Act (election officers, prisoners and certain judges, among others). A candidate may run in only one riding at a time, but does not have to be a registered elector or even live in that riding.

Nominations opened when returning officers issued their Notices of Election, and closed at 2:00 p.m. local time on November 6. Candidates had until 5:00 p.m. local time the same day to withdraw or make limited changes to their nomination papers. Of the 1 808 persons confirmed as candidates, 375 (21 percent) were women, who totalled 24.4 percent of candidates in 1997. Twenty-nine candidates ran as independents and 57 candidates had no affiliation; among the 10 political parties already registered and the two eligible parties, 11 parties endorsed a confirmed candidate in at least 50 ridings.

Liberal Party of Canada 301
Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance 298
New Democratic Party 298
Progressive Conservative Party of Canada 291
The Green Party of Canada 111
Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada 84
Bloc Québécois 75
Marijuana Party 73
Canadian Action Party 70
Natural Law Party of Canada 69
Communist Party of Canada 52

Of the confirmed candidates, 58 women and 221 men held seats in the previous House of Commons – that is, nearly 93 percent of the previously sitting MPs were running for re-election.

Appointing agents and auditors

The official agent had to be appointed before the candidate received any contribution or incurred any expense for goods or services related to the election. The agent maintains all the candidate's books and records of contributions and expenses.

The auditor examines the candidate's books, records, invoices, bank statements and negotiated cheques, and performs the tests and verification necessary to prepare an audit report for the official agent.

Filing nomination papers

A candidate obtains the nomination papers from the returning officer of the riding in which the candidate intends to run. The nomination papers must be signed by the candidate and a witness, the candidate's official agent, and at least 100 electors from the riding in which the candidate is running (or 50 electors in the large and sparsely populated ridings listed in Schedule 3 of the Act). The candidate's witness then submits the papers to the returning officer, along with a $1 000 deposit, a signed statement by the candidate's auditor and, if the candidate is supported by a registered or eligible political party, a written endorsement signed by the leader of the party or an authorized representative. If the candidate is not endorsed by a party, he or she indicates on the nomination papers whether the term "independent" should appear under the candidate's name on the ballot, or no designation at all.

A new provision in the Act extended to all ridings the opportunity for candidates to submit nomination papers and the required statements and written endorsements by fax. Previously, only candidates in Schedule 3 ridings could fax in their documents. Whether the candidate submitted original or faxed nomination papers, they had to arrive by the 2:00 p.m. deadline on November 6, as did the deposit. The original documents had to arrive within 48 hours after that. The change also allowed the returning officer to maintain a nomination even if the original documents did not arrive on time, so long as the prospective candidate satisfied the returning officer that he or she took all reasonable measures to meet the deadline.

A second change in the Act required the returning officer – within 48 hours of receiving the nomination papers – to confirm that the 100 (or 50) persons who signed the nomination papers were electors entitled to vote in that riding. The most straightforward way to verify this was to confirm that each signatory was on the voters lists. Since some electors did not appear on the lists, because they recently moved, or turned 18 or had not yet registered to vote, the next step was to verify that the signatory's address shown on the nomination form was in the riding. If so, this satisfied the verification requirement. If the signatory's address was outside the riding, the signature could not be accepted. Following the verification, some candidates who may have thought that they had sufficient signatures were told by the returning officer that they did not have 100 signatures of electors from that riding. If the nomination was rejected, the candidate could present new or corrected nomination papers up to the time that nominations closed.

Many candidates faced considerable time pressure to complete their nomination forms by the deadline. The deadline is set in law to allow time to print the ballots. The name of a political party appears on the ballot only if it nominates 50 confirmed candidates.

Rejected candidates

Four prospective candidates were rejected by returning officers, in the ridings of
Regina–Lumsden–Lake Centre, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg North Centre, Manitoba, and Scarborough Centre and Ottawa Centre, both in Ontario. In all cases, the prospective candidates thought that they had 100 valid signatures, but verification showed that too many were from outside the riding and the nominations were filed too late to make the necessary corrections. The new confirmation requirements underlined how important it is for candidates to check their documents and file early. By the time nominations closed on November 6, two thirds of all candidates (1 212) had already received confirmation from their returning officers because they had filed early.

The authority to confirm or reject a candidate's nomination papers rests solely with each of the 301 returning officers. To reduce the possibility of variations in how the returning officers interpreted or applied certain provisions of the Act – such as what constitutes a "reasonable effort" to send in the original papers within the 48-hour period – Elections Canada encouraged returning officers, if in doubt, to err on the side of favouring the constitutional right to be a candidate. In all cases, they were instructed to consult with the Chief Electoral Officer, to ensure all steps were followed before rejecting candidates.

Election expenses and limits

The Canada Elections Act sets limits on the election expenses of candidates and registered political parties – essential in our electoral system, because the limits foster participation. Election expenses are expenses incurred directly to promote or oppose a registered political party or to elect a particular candidate during an election, regardless of when the goods and services were acquired or paid for. Expenses include money paid, liabilities incurred, and the commercial value of goods and services donated or acquired at less than commercial value.

Expenses limits

The limit on election expenses for political parties is determined on the basis of the number of electors on the preliminary voters lists in the ridings where the party endorses a confirmed candidate. For a candidate, the limit is based on the number of electors on the preliminary voters lists for the candidate's riding, adjusted for sparsely populated and geographically large districts. The limit is revised if the number of electors on the revised lists is larger than the number on the preliminary lists. On October 27, the Chief Electoral Officer announced that each of the registered political parties would be limited to a maximum of $12 710 074.11 in election expenses if they had a confirmed candidate in each of the 301 ridings. The individual limit for candidates varied from riding to riding, although all candidates in any given riding were subject to the same limit. The average limit for a candidate in the election was $68 019.37; details of the limits for each riding were published on our Web site.

Seminars for candidates

To brief candidates on election expenses, reporting requirements and other election-related financial matters, Elections Canada held 25 seminars across the country on November 4, 5 and 6, attended by 451 participants (fewer than in the 1997 general election, when 619 took part). We also provided 75 printed copies of the seminar content to one political party, which requested the material for a party meeting. Generally, the sessions were well received.


After a candidate's nomination was confirmed, the official agent could get pre-numbered official receipts for tax purposes from the returning officer. The agent could then issue a receipt for each monetary contribution received, starting with the day on which the candidate was confirmed by the returning officer and continuing for the rest of the election period. The official agent was entirely responsible for proper use of the official receipts for income tax credits under the Income Tax Act, and had to keep a record of all contributions received and all expenses incurred, so they could be reported, as the law requires.

Candidates may not accept contributions from persons who are neither Canadian citizens nor permanent residents of Canada; from corporations or associations not carrying on business in Canada; from unions not entitled to bargain collectively in Canada; nor from foreign political parties, foreign states or their representatives; neither may they accept contributions if the class of donor is unknown.

Tax credits

Only a monetary contribution qualifies for an income tax credit. The Canada Elections Act sets no limits on the amount that can be contributed to a candidate or registered political party, but the Income Tax Act establishes a $500 maximum tax credit for monetary contributions of $1 075 or more to candidates and registered political parties in any one calendar year. Only the official agent of a confirmed candidate or a registered agent of a registered political party may issue an official receipt.


The new Canada Elections Act entitles all candidates to a full refund of their $1 000 nomination deposits, provided they comply with the reporting requirements of the Act and return any unused official receipts.

In addition, a candidate who is elected or receives at least 15 percent of the valid votes cast in his or her riding is entitled to a reimbursement of 50 percent of actual election and personal expenses paid, to a maximum of 50 percent of the expenses limit in that riding. The reimbursements are paid in two instalments.

Registered political parties that obtain at least two percent of the total valid votes cast in the election, or five percent of the valid votes cast in the ridings where they endorse confirmed candidates, have the right to a reimbursement of 22.5 percent of their actual election expenses.

Public disclosure

Public disclosure of candidates' and political parties' election expenses and contributions is an important factor in keeping the Canadian electoral system fair and transparent.

Candidates' returns

Candidates, through their official agents, have to submit audited returns to the Chief Electoral Officer within four months of election day. The candidate's return must show all electoral campaign expenses incurred, the amounts and sources of all contributions, and the names and addresses of all those whose contributions exceeded $200. It is an offence under the Act not to submit a return.

Candidates and agents had the option of producing the candidates' returns electronically, using the redesigned electronic version of the Candidate's Electoral Campaign Return.

Following the deadline for submitting the returns (March 27, 2001), the Chief Electoral Officer will publish a summary of each return in appropriate media, including Elections Canada's Web site. Returning officers keep copies of the candidates' returns for six months, so that anyone who wishes to consult them or to obtain extracts may do so. After that initial period, the returns may be examined at Elections Canada in Ottawa. Our Web site also has a searchable database of contributions and expenses reported by candidates. This electronic publication details the contributions received and the election expenses incurred by candidates in the 1997 general election, and will incorporate the amounts for this general election as well.

Registered parties' returns

Following each general election, every registered political party must submit an audited return of its election expenses to the Chief Electoral Officer within six months of election day – in this case, by May 28, 2001. Registered parties must also submit an annual fiscal period return disclosing any by-election expenses, the expenditures of the party during the fiscal period, the amount and source of all contributions, and the names and addresses of those whose contributions exceed $200. This return must be submitted to the Chief Electoral Officer within six months after the end of the fiscal period to which the return relates. If a registered political party has established a trust fund for electoral purposes, its chief agent or one of its registered agents must prepare a report on the trust fund's financial transactions and submit it with the annual fiscal return.

The Chief Electoral Officer publishes the financial returns of registered political parties in the most appropriate form. A searchable database on our Web site will show the election expenses incurred by registered political parties at this election; it currently shows their expenses from the last general election and contributions and expenses by fiscal period from 1994 to 1999.

What's in a name?

If two candidates had the same name, and both chose to be identified as an independent or to have no political affiliation under their names, they had another way to differentiate themselves on the ballot. Each candidate could choose to include under his or her name either an address or an occupation, to distinguish one from the other.

The newly appointed returning officer for St. Albert, Alberta, faced an unusual problem when two of his four confirmed candidates insisted on using only two of their names – the same two names – on the ballot paper. While they both had middle names, they both declined to use them on the ballot. Consequently, the ballot paper would carry their names (John Williams) and party affiliations (Canadian Alliance and N.D.P.) – but in what order?

They could have been printed in the alphabetical order of their political parties, but because it was a precedent-setting situation, that might have caused difficulties in future elections. Parties' names appear in a different alphabetical order in English and French; in Quebec, the French version always comes first, while elsewhere the English version does.

The Chief Electoral Officer instructed the returning officer to conduct a draw, and so he drew a name from a baseball cap offered by one of the candidates' agents. As a result, the name of John Williams (N.D.P.), the winner of the draw, appeared above that of John Williams (Canadian Alliance), the winner on election day.

List of candidates

In the 48 hours after nominations closed on November 6, returning officers confirmed the last of the candidates in their ridings and sent copies of their nomination papers to Elections Canada, where staff prepared a list of all candidates by riding. This list was used by electors who had registered to vote by special ballot, and who had to know the names of their riding's candidates to write in the name of the one they chose.

Copies of the list were immediately sent to all returning officers, to Special Voting Rules liaison officers in hospitals and prisons, to commanding officers of Canadian Forces units, and to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade for overseas distribution. It was also posted on our Web site.


Before the closing date for nominations, Elections Canada sent every returning officer an appropriate quantity of special paper on which the ballots would be printed. Each returning officer had already lined up a printer, who would have to sign an affidavit after the job was done, describing the ballots, noting the number delivered to the local office, and certifying that all ballots were printed and all scrap and unused paper returned to the local office.

As soon as the riding's candidates were confirmed, the returning officer sent the printer the candidate information that was to appear on the ballot. Each ballot showed the printer's name, and had a numbered counterfoil and a stub, separated by perforations. The candidates' names and other required information were printed in the new format specified in Schedule 1 of the revised Act, and the ballots were bound in books, ready for anyone wanting to vote under the Special Voting Rules in the office of a returning officer, for the advance polls, and for election day. At this election, the names of the candidates were centred on the ballot for the first time, so that the candidates' names would be more legible.