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.”