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December 13, 2011 / amanda stratton

It’s an Almost Completely Unnoticed Thing Just to Be Nominated

A while back, I had a conversation on Twitter with Dale Smith, a journalist in the Parliamentary Press Gallery. I really like following journalists and their opinions on political topics. My recent open letter to Janice Kennedy notwithstanding, I think journalists are generally far more knowledgeable about politics than 99% of the population will ever be, and there are some that I trust. (Just, you know, not Janice Kennedy.)

Mr. Smith (who goes to Ottawa, not Washington) replied to my suggestion that general elections generally suck, and in the process, he convinced me that, and I quote directly from his tweet, “Nomination races are the forgotten but arguably most crucial aspect of our system.

This was said in response to my concerns that a lot of the candidates are not very in touch with their ridings and can’t relate party policies to the area they hope to serve (as previously expressed). Mr. Smith suggested that if I/we wanted a better result, I/we should get people involved in the nomination process.

I knew absolutely nothing at all about the nomination process. Anything I may have speculated about it would have come from the first season of Dan for Mayor. But I’m not letting anybody call me stupid for that, not even because it’s the title of this blog. Because, look, how many people know anything about it? Not so many. Journo Dale even said so.

In every riding across the land, there is an electoral district association for each of the various parties who wish to be represented there.* This is commonly called a riding association, and is essentially the local chapter of a political party. The riding association decides who will be nominated for candidacy, and members of the party vote for the person they want to become the candidate in a given election.

*That’s not true. There isn’t one in every riding for every party. But mostly there is.


You have to be a card-carrying member of the party to vote in the nomination process. To become a member, you pretty much just have to pay the membership fee, which is fairly low and would be affordable for almost everybody.

  • The Ontario Liberal party and Canadian Liberal party both have a $10 annual fee for membership, but the Ontario Liberals offer youth and senior memberships for $5/year.
  • Membership in the Conservative party of Canada and PC Party of Ontario both run $10/year.
  • Belonging to the NDP party of Ontario will cost you $25/year if you’re employed, or $5 if you’re a youth or “unwaged” person.  The Canadian NDP party fee ranges from $5 to $25 per year depending on what province you live in, and is $25 in Ontario.

So for less than the price of a pizza (well, it’d be an expensive pizza if you want to join the NDP), you too can help choose the candidate for your riding. PLUS you get to vote for the Leader of the party. AND elect all the officers who make up the council of the party. Fun, huh?

Pretty much, if there’s an incumbent, and that person is eligible to run again and wants to, they’re it. They’ll be the only person on the nomination ballot. An incumbent who is seen to have in some way failed the riding or the party would NOT be considered eligible, so it may sometimes become a matter of opinion, and this may be a time when your voice should be heard. I don’t rightly know, but I think it seems that way.

Otherwise, the exact process is defined in the party’s constitution, so read it yourself if you wanna know. I don’t have time for that.

No, ha, just kidding–I read them all because I’m a politics geek.

Generally, a committee/council will be formed to oversee the nomination of potential candidates. Nominees have to be vetted, to make sure they have no serious black marks on their record, and that they are capable of upholding the values of the party. If you wanted to nominate someone, you would basically suggest them to that committee, and if they meet the necessary requirements, they’ll be put on the ballot.

Then all the party’s members who live in that riding are able to choose from the selection provided by the committee. By voting. I mean that’s how we choose things in a democracy, so I assume that’s understood, but just to be clear–it’s a vote.

There’s plenty of room for conspiracy in the nomination process. There are a few people who have more or less the final word on whether someone can run for candidacy. It leaves even more room when so few of us layfolk get involved with the nomination process. We hold the political machine accountable by being present and participating in it. So when we don’t, it’s at least partly our fault that things may go awry.

Which I suppose was Journo Dale’s point. I have no excuse for complaining about the quality of the candidates when I can’t be bothered to even know how they got nominated, let alone get off my butt and contribute to the process of finding better candidates

If you want to get involved in the political machine, there are lots of opportunities to do so as a member of the party, and without having to be, you know, a politician. Cause nobody wants to be one of those, am I right? (No, I’m wrong–a lot of people want to be, but certainly not e’erbody with a political inclination.)

That’s what you were asking, right? They get to skip to Part B.

By 2:00 PM on the 21st day before an election, all candidates, including those endorsed by a party, must submit their nomination papers to Elections Canada or the provincial counterpart, depending of course on whether it’s a federal or provincial election.

Said nomination papers, for a federal election, include the name and address of either 100 or 50  electors who support the nomination, which really isn’t that many when you think about it. That’s 100 in most ridings, and 50 in a riding that is “large or sparsely populated” according to Elections Canada, but I don’t know which ones qualify for that. I can’t know everything. Not yet.

For an Ontario provincial election, you need only the support of 25 voters to be a nominee. Do you live in another province? You should look that up. Again, I can’t know everything.

For a federal election, your nomination papers must also be accompanied by a $1000 deposit. So maybe ask each of those fifty people for a signature and twenty bucks. That’s not so much to ask.

Some of this may be inaccurate. Figuring all this out was the most confusing thing I’ve done on this blog so far. No wonder people don’t know about how it works. So if some of this is wrong, by all means, please do tell me. I have never claimed to be anything but a stupid girl. Oh, except when I started this post. Well, you know what I mean.


Elections Canada
Elections Ontario
Journo Dale on Twitter

I also read the relevant parts of party constitutions, which in some cases are actually kind of hard to find, so I’ll link them if anyone wants them, but Google will also pull them up for you pretty quickly, and I doubt anyone wants them anyway.


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