Calling all candidates and Official Agents: what do to if you ran for federal office but your Official Agent failed to do your electoral campaign return on time?

October 19th, 2011 by Paula Boutis

With some regularity, our firm is called upon to assist federal candidates who ran for office, but for one reason or another, their Official Agent failed to file a return, or other required report, on time.  The federal Elections Act has procedures for extending the time to file, but if those are missed too, the only way to file after that is through a court order granting a nunc pro tunc (now for then) order.  That is the order for an act to be done (filing, in this case) after the time has expired.

Official Agents and candidates might ask, so what happens if I don’t file? Unless you get permission from the court relieving you from filing, here are some of the possible consequences.

Candidates who fail to file won’t be able to run again in a future election.  This is OK if the candidate doesn’t plan to run again.  However, it’s an offence under the Act for the Official Agent not to file the required return, and agents can be fined and even imprisoned. Fines can go as high as $5000 and prison terms can be as high as five years.

So, what to do?  Go to court and get the order allowing the late filing.  Usually it does not even require an appearance in court, but can be done “over the counter”.  We have found working with Elections Canada on consent orders to be very efficient and easy, and they routinely co‑operate.  Extensions can be granted due to “absence, death, illness or misconduct of the financial agent or a predecessor,” or because of “inadvertence or an honest mistake of fact”.

Federally registered electoral district associations also must make filings, and if they fail to do so, may be deregistered, and persons may also be prosecuted for offences related to those required filings.

Provincially in Ontario, filings are also required for campaign returns, and a failure to file also means candidates cannot stand for election in future.  There are also offences under the provincial Elections Finances Act for failing to file required documents, by agents and registered associations, but these offences must be committed “knowingly” to attract penalties. Deregistration is also possible for registered associations that file to file financial statements or reports, or for other reasons under the Act.

If you’ve gotten any “non‑compliance” letters, don’t ignore them.  For assistance, contact Paula Boutis.

Filed in: Elections Law