This guide covers how to register a political party in British Columbia. It summarizes the Election Act’s requirements, but is not a substitute for the Act. If there is an inconsistency between this guide and the Act, the Act will prevail.
For more information or assistance in registering or deregistering a political party, contact our Electoral Finance team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Election Act defines a political party as an organization that has as a primary purpose the fielding of candidates in provincial elections.
Forming a political party and registering a political party are two different things. There is no legislation regulating the creation of provincial political parties. The Election Act only addresses the registration of political parties.
Under the Election Act, an organization includes both incorporated and unincorporated organizations. Although some political parties choose to register as societies under the Society Act, it is not necessary to do this to register as a political party under the Election Act.
[Election Act, s. 155]
A major political party is a party that is eligible to sit on the Election Advisory Committee. This means that the party must be represented in the Legislative Assembly, or must have run candidates in at least half of the province’s electoral districts in the last general election.
[s. 1, 14]
Registration brings many benefits. Registered political parties may:
Unregistered political parties are prohibited from doing any of these things.
[Election Act, s. 154]
Registered political parties assume certain obligations. Once registered, your organization is required to:
Failure to meet these obligations can result in suspension, deregistration, monetary penalties or prosecution.
[Election Act, s. 159, 168]
The Election Act specifies the information that must be contained in an application for registration. The application must be made on forms provided by Elections BC and be signed by two principal officers of the political party.
To register as a political party, an organization must:
The following information must be included:
[Election Act, s. 155, 156]
For the purposes of the Election Act, a political party is defined as an organization that has as a primary purpose the fielding of candidates for election to the Legislative Assembly.
Since registration provides significant benefits, political parties applying for registration must provide evidence to the Chief Electoral Officer to verify their primary purpose.
In addition to the signed statement that is included as part of the application, the political party must also provide additional information or evidence to the Chief Electoral Officer to verify the organization has a primary purpose of fielding candidates. Acceptable information or evidence could include:
Political party names (including any abbreviations or acronyms) cannot:
[Election Act, s. 156]
Except during an election period, after receiving an application, the Chief Electoral Officer has 30 days to determine if the political party meets the requirements for registration.
If the application for registration is approved, the Chief Electoral Officer will notify the political party of the date of registration and will assign the political party a registration number. This registration number must be included on all income tax receipts issued by the political party. The Chief Electoral Officer will also publish a notice of the political party’s registration in the B.C. Gazette.
If an organization applies for registration during an election, the application cannot be considered until after the election. If an election is called after a political party application for registration is filed with the Chief Electoral Officer, but before registration is complete, the Chief Electoral Officer has until 30 days after the election to determine if the political party meets the requirements for registration.
If an organization does not meet the political party registration requirements, the Chief Electoral Officer will provide the organization with a written explanation of the reasons why the organization could not be registered. The organization has 30 days from receiving this notice to amend its application for registration. If the organization does not meet the requirements for political party registration within this 30-day period, the application ceases to be effective.
[Election Act, s. 158]
If any of the registration information changes, the political party must file a notice of the change within 60 days after the change occurs. A notice to update information must be made in writing and must be signed by two principal officers of the political party.
A principal officer of the political party (i.e., a table officer) is an individual identified as such in the documentation previously filed with the Chief Electoral Officer or identified in a notice to update registration information.
The Chief Electoral Officer may suspend the registration of a political party if the party does not file updated registration information within 60 days of the change occurring. The suspension of the political party continues until all required information has been filed. The Chief Electoral Officer will also publish a notice of the political party’s suspension in the B.C. Gazette.
If a registered political party wishes to change its name or to add other names to those specified in its registration documentation, the party must first seek the Chief Electoral Officer’s approval for the change. The rules surrounding the prohibition for names and the time for the Chief Electoral Officer’s determination of an application also apply to any proposed name changes.
The same forms used for registering a political party can be used to update registration information. If unsure about which forms to submit, contact Elections BC.
[Election Act, s. 159, 160, 161]
A political party’s application for registration is available for public inspection at Elections BC’s head office in Victoria. Financial account numbers are obscured for public inspection purposes.
Personal information is not included in these forms and the forms are not available for viewing online.
[Election Act, s. 162, 275]
A political party may only appoint one financial agent at a time; however, an individual can be a financial agent for more than one individual or organization. This means that the political party’s financial agent may also be the financial agent for the political party’s constituency associations and/or its candidates.
The financial agent may appoint one or more deputy financial agents to assist in receiving political contributions and the issuing of income tax receipts. If the financial agent is absent or incapable of filing reports, a deputy financial agent may file the required financing reports. The form to appoint deputy financial agents is optional, and available in the Registration forms and other resources section of this guide.
[Election Act, s. 155, 175, 176, 178]
To act as a financial agent, an individual must be capable of entering into contracts. While the Election Act does not specify any other qualifications, the selection of the financial agent requires careful consideration. The statutory obligations of the financial agent are significant and require certain skills. The individual must be capable of managing the party’s finances in accordance with the Election Act.
The following individuals are disqualified from acting as financial agents:
[Election Act, s. 176]
The financial agent is the person responsible for ensuring compliance with Part 10 of the Election Act.
The financial agent’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
Financial agents are encouraged to review the Guide for Financial Agents Appointed Under the Election Act to ensure they understand the responsibilities of their role prior to their appointment.
[Election Act, s. 177]
The appointment of a financial agent must:
If the appointment of a financial agent ends for any reason, the political party must appoint a new financial agent and file a new appointment form with Elections BC within 60 days.
If the financial agent resigns, they must notify Election BC in writing. The outgoing financial agent is responsible for the reporting of the financial affairs that occurred during their term as financial agent.
[Election Act, s. 175, 176]
The political party must also appoint an auditor. An auditing firm, rather than an individual, may be appointed as the auditor.
An auditor can be appointed as the auditor for more than one organization or individual. For example, a political party could retain one firm to act as auditor for the party, as well as for all the political party’s constituency associations and candidates.
[Election Act, s. 155, 157, 179]
An auditor must be authorized to be the auditor of a company under sections 205 and 206 of the Business Corporations Act. Generally this means the auditor is a Chartered Professional Accountant (C.P.A.), or is a qualified auditing firm.
The following persons are disqualified from acting as an auditor:
[Election Act, s. 179]
The auditor is required to conduct an audit, in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards, of the political party’s annual or election financing reports if either total political contributions or total election expenses are $10,000 or more.
An auditor’s report may also be required for certain deregistration financial reports which must be filed if the political party is deregistered.
The auditor must also file reports as requested by the Chief Electoral Officer. The Chief Electoral Officer has the authority to request an audit of any report filed by the political party.
The auditor must also make any additional reports they consider necessary if they have not received all the information and explanations required or if proper accounting records have not been kept by the financial agent.
Auditors are encouraged to confirm their licencing requirements and to review the Guide for Auditors to ensure they understand the responsibilities of their role prior to their appointment.
[Election Act, s. 170, 213, 214]
The appointment of an auditor must:
If the appointment of the auditor ends for any reason, the political party must appoint a new auditor and file a new appointment form with Elections BC within 60 days.
[Election Act, s. 179]
A political party can be deregistered either voluntarily or involuntarily. When a political party is deregistered, the Chief Electoral Officer must give notice of the deregistration, including the effective date and reasons for deregistration, to the political party. Notice is also published in the B.C. Gazette.
A political party may only voluntarily request to deregister if:
Applications for voluntary deregistration must be made in writing and must be signed by two principal officers of the political party.
Voluntary deregistration of a political party results in the automatic deregistration of all the political party’s registered constituency associations.
[s. 164, 166]
Political parties can be deregistered by the Chief Electoral Officer, if:
Involuntary deregistration of a political party results in the automatic deregistration of all the party’s registered constituency associations.
The Chief Electoral Officer gives advance warning of any contraventions to the Election Act that may result in deregistration. For example, in the case of failing to file financing reports or where party candidates fail to file financing reports, the Chief Electoral Officer’s notice of non-compliance provides the party with sufficient time to file the required reports or to seek court relief from the filing obligations before deregistration occurs.
[Election Act, s. 168, 223, 224, 227]
A deregistered political party must file a financial report for the period from the date of the political party’s last annual financial report up to and including the last day the political party was registered. The report must be received by Elections BC within six months of deregistration.
The financial report must be audited unless the political party received $5,000 or less in political contributions and incurred $5,000 or less in expenses during the period from the date of the last annual financial report up to and including the last day the party was registered.
Deregistered political parties must transfer to the Chief Electoral Officer all funds not required to pay outstanding debts. Any such funds must be transferred within six months of deregistration.
If there are no remaining funds after the payment of debts, the political party must inform Elections BC in writing.
The deregistered political party is also required to file an audited financial report for the period from the date of deregistration to the date on which any remaining funds are transferred to the Chief Electoral Officer or on which the political party reports that there are no funds to be transferred.
Funds transferred to the Chief Electoral Officer are held in trust for three years from the date of deregistration. If the political party reregisters within this time period, the funds, including accumulated interest, will be paid to the political party. If the political party does not register within three years, the funds are paid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
[Election Act, s. 170, 171, 172]
A political party that voluntarily deregisters may apply for reregistration at any time.
If the political party is deregistered because of a conviction for filing a false or misleading report, the political party cannot apply to reregister until two years following the date on which the deregistration reports were filed and if applicable, any funds transferred.
In the case of involuntary deregistration for any other reason, the political party may apply for reregistration one year from the date on which the deregistration reports were filed and if applicable, any funds transferred.
To reregister, a political party must:
Additionally, the Chief Electoral Officer may request a report on the political party’s financial activities during the period of deregistration.
If your political party has been deregistered and you would like to reregister, please contact us for assistance.
[Election Act, s. 174]
The registration of a political party can be suspended if:
During the period of suspension, an organization is prohibited from incurring election expenses, issuing income tax receipts or making political contributions including transferring money, goods or services to a candidate, constituency association, leadership contestant or nomination contestant. After the suspension ends, the organization must not issue any tax receipts for political contributions received by the organization while it was suspended.
If a political party is on suspension during an election, the party name will not be printed on any ballots.
Notice of suspension is given to the political party, its constituency associations and published in the B.C. Gazette.
[Election Act, s. 154, 159, 167, 169, 218]
Prior to submitting a registration application, political parties must be able to meet the following self-screening checklist:
In order to be considered, all new political party registration applications submitted to Elections BC must include the following forms:
Submit completed forms to:
Toll-free fax: 1-866-466-0665
Mail: PO Box 9275, Stn Prov Govt, Victoria, BC, V8W 9J6
Once registered, political parties are required to ensure their registration information is kept current with Elections BC. Failure to maintain current registration may result in suspension of the party.
All registration updates must be made in writing, and be authorized by two principal officers using the Authorization form (488). Elections BC recommends political parties use the same registration forms to identify where changes have occurred when updating registration information, and only submit the following forms where the information needs to be updated:
The Statement of Assets and Liabilities (486) and the Political Party Declaration of Primary Purpose (476) do not need to be resubmitted when updating registration information.
Submit completed forms to:
Toll-free fax: 1-866-466-0665
Mail: PO Box 9275, Stn Prov Govt, Victoria, BC, V8W 9J6