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Official party status refers to the Canadianmarker practice of recognizing political parties in the Parliament of Canadamarker.

Recognition in Parliament allows parties certain parliamentary privileges. Generally official party status is dependent on winning a minimum number of seats (that is, the number of Members of Parliament or Members of the Legislative Assembly 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 by Elections Canada. Once the party has been recognized in the Senate, it retains its status even if it becomes deregistered, so long as it keeps at least five seats. This rule means that the Progressive Conservative Party caucus in the Senate does not qualify for official status in the senate.

The provincial governments also award official party status:
  • In British Columbiamarker, a party must have at least four seats. In 2001 Premier Gordon Campbell was criticized for his decision not to grant the British Columbia New Democratic Party official party status; it was the only opposition party in the legislature, but it had won only two seats in the last election.
  • In Saskatchewanmarker and Nova Scotiamarker, a party must win at least two seats.
  • In Ontariomarker, 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 Ontario New Democratic Party won only seven seats. Premier Dalton McGuinty offered a compromise where the NDP would receive additional funding in return for accepting their status as independents, but NDP leader Howard Hampton refused and disrupted the throne speech in protest. MPP Marilyn Churley threatened to legally change her surname to "Churley-NDP" so that the Speaker would be forced to say NDP when recognizing her in the House, as a non-official party loses the right to have its members addressed in the Legislature as members of the party. The PC's Bill Murdoch also considered joining the NDP caucus to help them make official status. Andrea Horwath's by-election win in May 2004 regained official party status for the NDP. After Churley resigned to run in the 2006 federal election, bringing the party to only seven members again, the government decided to allow the NDP to retain official status pending the results of the by-election to replace her, which the NDP won.
  • In Quebecmarker, a party must have twelve seats or have captured 20 per cent of the popular vote in the preceding general election.
  • In Manitobamarker, Albertamarker, and Newfoundland and Labradormarker, a party must have four seats.
  • In New Brunswickmarker, five seats or 20 per cent of the popular vote in the preceding election is required, though parties with one or more seats have been allowed time in Question Period with consent of other parties.
  • In Prince Edward Islandmarker, there is no official law, but precedent with the Island New Democrats shows that only a single seat is required.

Registered political party

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


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