How to Become a Presidential Candidate in Canada
The following is a concise outline of the steps you must take to become a candidate in a federal election. Prospective candidates are mandated to meet all the criteria spelt in the Canada Elections Act (the Act). Please be sure to read and understand the rules for candidates in Part 6 of the Act.
There is also important information on the nomination process and criteria for candidates in the Political Financing Handbook for Candidates and Official Agents (EC 20155).
The right to run in a federal election is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The basic requirements to become a candidate are the following:
You must be a Canadian citizen.
You must be at least 18 years old on election day.
You must not be deemed ineligible under the criteria listed in section 65 of the Act.
You must submit either a Nomination Paper (EC 20010) (paper copy filed at the returning officer’s office) or an online nomination form (filed on the Political Entities Service Centre portal) along with all required supporting documents. The filing deadline is 21 days before election day at 2:00 p.m. local time.
Note: You may only seek election in a single electoral district at a time, but you do not need to reside in that district.
You must choose whether you will run as an independent candidate or as a member of a political party. Your choice will determine whether the name of your political party, the word “independent” or no wording/affiliation will appear under your name on the ballot.
If you wish to be endorsed by a party and have that party’s name appear below yours on the ballot, the party’s chief agent must supply Elections Canada with your name, the electoral district you will be running in, and the name of the person who has endorsed you as a candidate for that party.
The returning officer in your electoral district will verify this information during the verification process. We recommend that you contact the returning officer to verify that your name is on the most current list of endorsed candidates provided by that party before submitting your nomination.
If your name is not on the list, the returning officer will direct you to contact the party to ensure the information is provided to Elections Canada. If the updated list that includes your name is not provided within 48 hours of filing your nomination package (and before the deadline to submit this list to Elections Canada, which is 24 hours before the close of nominations), you will not be confirmed as an candidate endorsed by the political party.
We suggest you contact the party that you hope will endorse you early on to become familiar with its own nomination contest procedure, which varies, depending on the party.
If you are filing a Nomination Paper (EC 20010), you must provide proof of your identity to the returning officer. If you are filing the online nomination form, or a delegate is filing on your behalf, you must provide signed copies of your identity documents.
You have two options when providing identification:
Provide one piece of identification with your photo and name issued by a Canadian government or agency.
Provide two pieces of identification with your name authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer. See the Candidate List of Authorized ID (EC 20014).
Use of Alternative Name
If you want an alternative name to appear on the ballot, in addition to providing proof of identity, you must provide the returning officer with documents that prove that you are commonly known by that name.
You must do so if you want to use a different given name (even if it is a common abbreviation of the name) or a different last name (e.g. your married name, if it is not your legal last name). You may not use an alternative name that can be easily confused with the name of a political party.
At a minimum, you must provide:
documents from at least two authorized sources as listed in the Candidate List of Authorized ID (EC 20014)
documents that pre-date the call of the election
one document from a third party (i.e. it may not originate from you, the prospective candidate)
See the Candidate List of Authorized ID (EC 20014).
Forming Your Campaign Team
In order to complete the Nomination Paper (EC 20010) or online nomination form, you will need to appoint an official agent and an auditor (the auditor is only mandatory if your campaign meets the criteria listed below). You (the candidate), the official agent, and the auditor must all be different people.
Your official agent is responsible for administering the campaign’s transactions and reporting them to Elections Canada. The official agent must be appointed before the nomination is filed, any expense is made, or any contribution is accepted (whichever comes first). Moreover, the official agent must not be deemed ineligible to act as such under section 477.2 of the Act.
An auditor must be appointed if your campaign accepts contributions or incurs expenses of $10,000 or more or if you receive 10% or more of the total votes cast in the electoral district. Your auditor is responsible for overseeing the campaign’s financial activity and performing certain reporting functions.
They must be accredited under provincial law to perform accounting services (i.e. have a CPA, CA, CGA, or CMA designation) and must not be deemed ineligible to act as an auditor under subsection 477.3(2) of the Act.
You also have the option to appoint a campaign delegate to perform certain tasks on your behalf, such as completing or submitting the nomination package.
Collecting Electors’ Signatures
You must collect the name, address, and signature of at least 100 electors who are qualified to vote in the electoral district where you intend to run and who consent to your candidacy.
The signatures must be witnessed, although the witness is not required to be a qualified elector. All signatures on any one page must be witnessed by the same person.
The Section F – Single Elector Consenting to Candidacy form has been created to help candidates collect elector signatures by email or other electronic methods. You can access the form in the Tools for Candidates section of the Elections Canada website.
The conventional form with space for 10 elector signatures remains valid and may also be used. When collecting signatures, you may send and receive the form electronically, but the returned form must be a digital copy of the original with wet-ink signatures. Electronic signatures will not be accepted.
You should anticipate difficulties during the returning officer’s verification of elector names and addresses; some names may be rejected because the information provided is invalid (e.g. the address is outside the electoral district), omitted, or illegible. Moreover, you will not be able to provide additional signatures once the nomination period comes to a close. Thus, we suggest that you collect and submit at least 150 signatures to ensure that you meet this requirement.
Note: In the case of the larger or remote electoral districts listed in Schedule 3 of the Act, the required minimum number of signatures is 50.
The Political Entities Service Centre and the Online Nomination Form
The Political Entities Service Centre (PESC) is Elections Canada’s secure online portal designed for candidates and political entities to readily access a variety of services and digital documents. You will be able to:
complete and submit an online nomination form (the Web-based equivalent of the Nomination Paper (EC 20010));
access electoral materials; and submit candidate financial returns.
To access the online nomination form, prospective candidates must first create an account on PESC portal. Only the prospective candidate may initiate the online nomination process (i.e. create a “Candidate Nomination”); however, the following completion and submission stages may be delegated to an authorized campaign delegate.
Keep in mind however that certain portions of the nomination form require signatures (from the prospective candidate, the official agent, the auditor and the campaign delegate). These pages must be printed, signed and uploaded to the portal.
Submitting the Nomination Package
Either the Nomination Paper (EC 20010) or online nomination form along with all supporting documents (attached to the paper copy filed or uploaded to the electronic package) must be submitted between the time the returning officer publishes the Notice of Election and the time nominations close, which is at 2:00 p.m. local time on the 21st day before election day. No nomination package will be accepted thereafter.
Thus, we suggest that you file as early as possible to allow yourself or your campaign delegate enough time to make the necessary corrections if the returning officer finds that your nomination package is incomplete. Moreover, if you are completing a physical Nomination Paper (EC 20010), we suggest you make an appointment with the returning officer when you are ready to file.
Confirming Your Candidacy
After receiving your nomination package, the returning officer will have 48 hours to review it and confirm that it is complete, which will include confirming that the electors consenting to your candidacy reside in the electoral district.
As soon as the verification is completed, the returning officer will provide you with a copy of either a Notice of Confirmation of Nomination and Name to Appear on the Ballot (EC 20012) or a Notice of Refusal of Nomination (EC 20013).
A Nomination Paper (EC 20010) or online nomination form that a returning officer has refused may be replaced by another or corrected if the new or corrected Nomination Paper (EC 20010) or online nomination form is filed with the returning officer by the close of nominations.
Note: Once you have been confirmed, changes to your name, address, and occupation can still be made but must be submitted in writing to the returning officer before 5:00 p.m. on the closing day for nominations (21 days before election day).
Main Steps to Become a Confirmed Candidate
Verify that you meet the criteria to become a candidate.
Contact your political party, if you wish to be endorsed by them.
Find suitable persons to appoint as an official agent and as an auditor (if applicable).
Collect at least 100 (or 50, as applicable) eligible signatures from electors residing in your electoral district and consenting to your candidacy.
Complete the Nomination Paper (EC 20010) or the online nomination form and attach (or upload) all supporting documents.
File the Nomination Paper (EC 20010) with the returning officer or submit the online nomination form before the deadline (21 days before election day at 2:00 p.m. local time).
Withdrawing as a Confirmed Candidate
A confirmed candidate who wishes to withdraw their nomination may do so at any time before 5:00 p.m. local time on the closing day of nominations.
They must personally file a written statement of withdrawal with the returning officer, sign it and have it witnessed by two electors who are qualified to vote in the electoral district in which the nomination was confirmed.