Official party status

From Academic Kids

Official party status refers to the Canadian practice of recognizing political parties.

There are two forms of recognition.

Recognition by Elections Canada allows parties (even if they have no parliamentary seats) to participate in federal elections and to benefit from electoral financing laws.

Recognition in the Parliament of Canada allows parties certain parliamentary privileges. Generally official party status is dependent on winning a minimum number of seats (that is, the number of MPs or MLAs elected).

The federal parliament has two houses with different requirements. In the House of Commons, a party must have at least 12 seats to be recognized as an official party. Recognition means that the party will get time to ask questions during question period (proportional to the number of seats) and money for research and staff (also proportional to the number of seats).

In the Senate, a party must have five seats and must be registered with Elections Canada. Once the party has been recognized in the Senate, it retains its status even if it becomes deregistered with Elections Canada, so long as it keeps at least five seats. This rule means that the PC Party caucus in the senate does not qualify for official status in the senate.

The provincial governments also award official party status:

  • In British Columbia, a party must have at least four seats. In 2001 Premier Gordon Campbell was criticized for his decision not to grant the B.C. NDP official party status; it was the only opposition party in the legislature, but it had won only two seats in the last election.
  • In Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, a party must win at least two seats.
  • In Ontario, a party must win eight seats. In 1999 Ontario's then-premier, Mike Harris, lowered the number of seats required from 12 to 8 after reducing the number of seats in the legislature from 130 to 103. In 2003, the NDP won only seven seats, but Andrea Horwath's by-election win in May 2004 regained official party status for the NDP.
  • In Quebec, a party must have twelve seats or have captured 20 per cent of the popular vote in the preceding general election.
  • In Manitoba, Alberta, and Newfoundland and Labrador,a party must have four seats.
  • In New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, only a single seat is required.
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