Monthly Archives: June 2009

Seek your Official Agent now!

It is clear that the next election will be coming sooner rather than later. The Elections Act requires you  to have (in addition to the signatures of 100 people) an Official Agent. This is neither a small thing nor an afterthought. The Official Agent is the most important person in your campaign. The folllowing article sheds on the light on the importance of finding one and the difficulty of being one.

“If I had known what I was getting myself into, I would never have accepted” the job.

Elections Canada administers the Canada Elections Act. Elections Canada’s interpretation of the Elections Act as it pertains to “Official Agents” may be found here. It is important to note  that Elections Canada is required to follow the provisions of the Elections Act. The role of and obligations of Official Agents is defined by the Elections Act and NOT by Elections Canada.

The obligations of the Official Agent are laid out starting with S. 436 of the Elections Act:

Powers, Duties and Functions of Official Agent
Duty of official agent

436. The official agent of a candidate is responsible for administering the candidate’s financial transactions for his or her electoral campaign and for reporting on those transactions in accordance with the provisions of this Act.


“Complex laws, onerous tasks scaring off election volunteers


OTTAWA The Canadian Press Last updated on Tuesday, Jun. 30, 2009 11:16AM EDT

Canada’s political-financing laws have become so complex that candidates are having trouble finding volunteers to manage their financial affairs during election campaigns, Elections Canada says.

The electoral watchdog is itself having difficulty finding people to work at polling stations because of increasingly complicated rules and inadequate pay.

A survey conducted for Elections Canada after last fall’s election found 22 per cent of candidates had trouble finding “someone willing, available and qualified to become their official agent.”

And focus groups conducted with official agents heard a common refrain: “If I had known what I was getting myself into, I would never have accepted” the job.

“Agents struggle with the complex rules and requirements set out in the [Canada Elections] Act,” said an Elections Canada report on last October’s federal election.

“Most stated that agents almost need to be financial experts to fulfill their role while more than one professional accountant found the role of agent to be difficult.”

Official agents are crucial to the electoral process.

“You can’t have a campaign without an agent,” notes Elections Canada spokesman John Enright.

“All monies coming in and all the monies [going] out have to go through the official agent. There’s nobody else in the campaign that’s entrusted with that responsibility. So it is a big burden.”

Moreover, official agents are responsible for ensuring all financial transactions are legal, and could face fines or jail for violations, although Elections Canada is lenient with those who make “honest mistakes.”

The job has always been onerous but has become progressively more so since political-financing reforms went into effect in 2004, severely restricting donations and beefing up reporting requirements for contributions and expenses. The donation restrictions were tightened again in 2007.

Administrative measures can be used to ease the regulatory burden, but the Elections Canada report concludes that “the legislation itself drives most of the complexity that makes the current regime daunting.” To that end, chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand will make recommendations to Parliament in the fall on legislative changes to reduce red tape.

The report says it is becoming difficult to find deputy returning officers and poll clerks to staff each polling station. Poll workers are dealing with more voters as the population increases and new regulations, such as those requiring voter identification, that require more intense training.

“We hear increasing reports of workers quitting after the training,” the report says.

The report says Elections Canada is increasingly concerned about the inability of returning officers to recruit the poll workers they need. Just days before last October’s election, 12 electoral districts faced “severe understaffing issues” that were resolved only by last-ditch initiatives, such as hiring 16- and 17-year-olds and regional swapping of resources.”

Winning the war of ideas

What follows is a link to a fantastic article by Gerry Nicholls that provides the justification for independent candidates.

This is a brilliant article – note the following paragraph in particular:

“What we need to remember is that a political movement and a political party are two completely different creatures, with different aims and goals. Political parties focus on winning elections and holding onto power. A political movement, on the other hand, needs to focus on winning the war of ideas.”


“Winning the war of ideas

Gerry Nicholls, Special to the National Post Published: Friday, June 26, 2009

A friend of mine once told me his favourite saying was, “It’s not who’s right, but what’s right.” If I had god-like powers I would make that expression the official motto of Canada’s conservative movement. I say that because “Is it right?” is such a key question.

That’s the question small “c” conservatives, those of us who believe in smaller government and freer markets and individual freedoms, should ask ourselves whenever deciding whether or not to support a government policy. If a policy isn’t right, then we conservatives must oppose it no matter who is behind it, Liberal or Conservative. But if a policy is right then we must likewise support it no matter who is behind it, Liberal or Conservative.

In other words, when it comes to ideas, we conservatives should be non-partisan, judging issues strictly on their merit regardless of the party label attached to them.

Not everyone agrees with me on this. In fact, some conservatives are putting forward a different view. They say a) we conservatives must dilute our principles and values for the sake of popularity and b) our main goal should be to help keep the Conservative party in power and the Liberals out. While I understand where these people are coming from, I think they are absolutely, 100% wrong.

The minute the conservative movement gives up its principles, the minute it becomes nothing but a cheerleader for the Conservative party, is the minute the conservative movement will die. I, for one, don’t want the conservative movement to die. We have too much to do!

Somebody, for instance, has to speak out against the Conservative government’s massive ill-advised deficits which are adding to the debt burden our children will be forced to endure. If we conservatives simply adopt Tory talking points and refuse to criticize all the spending and borrowing, how will we be able to criticize a future Liberal government if it amasses huge deficits? In politics, credibility matters.

What we need to remember is that a political movement and a political party are two completely different creatures, with different aims and goals. Political parties focus on winning elections and holding onto power. A political movement, on the other hand, needs to focus on winning the war of ideas.

For conservatives winning the war of ideas means convincing Canadians that big government is not the answer to all our problems and that only freer markets will ensure future growth and prosperity. Unfortunately, right now there is a void in Canadian politics: there’s no truly non-partisan, independent conservative organization slugging it out in the political trenches to help win the war of ideas. In short, no one is forcefully speaking out for free markets and less government.

Yes we have the Fraser Institute and other think tanks which do a great job of coming up with excellent ideas — but ideas are not enough. You need somebody skilled in the arts of political communication to take those ideas and package them, market them and sell them to the Canadian public. That’s how you win the war of ideas.

Certainly we have all the ingredients to create such a new organization. For instance, the emergence of the Internet as a communication tool means you can now reach many people quickly, efficiently and at very little cost. Politicians certainly have made good use of the Internet — think Barack Obama and Ron Paul — and so can the conservative movement.

Plus there are lots of people in Canada who would be willing to support a truly conservative advocacy group. Many of them are disillusioned Tory supporters, unhappy with the Conservative party’s failure to promote a conservative agenda. Right now no one is speaking for them; to put it in entrepreneurial terms, it’s a market waiting to be served.

It’s time for somebody to emerge and serve it.

– Gerry Nicholls is a writer and former vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition. This article is adapted from remarks delivered at a recent Fraser Institutesponsored policy briefing.