Contemporary Canadian Government & Politics:
A Practical Research Guide

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4. Finding and Evaluating Substantive Information
Finding Information Evaluating Information

Finding Information: Political Party Information

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According to the Canada Elections Act, a political party is "an organization one of whose fundamental purposes is to participate in public affairs by endorsing one or more of its members as candidates and supporting their election."

Political parties play a major role in Canada's political system, federally and provincially. Parties nominate candidates for public office, draft policy platforms and attempt to get their candidates elected to form government. While voters vote for an individual person to represent their constituency in Parliament, most candidates belong to a political party, and members of the dominant parties are usually elected.

To see who your MP (Member of Parliament) is and the other candidates in your electoral district in the last federal election, you can enter your postal code at the Elections Canada web site, or search the database by candidate name, electoral district, keyword, etc. For more sources of information on elections, the standing of the political parties involved, voting statistics, etc. see Part 2: General Facts about Canadian Politics & Government.

Since 1974, serious political parties register with the Chief Electoral Officer. This is not required, but only parties that register can issue tax receipts for donations, get reimbursed for a portion of their election expenses, have candidates identified as party members on ballots, and receive air time on radio and television. In return, political parties must disclose their expenditures and political contributions received. The Elections Canada web site lists all Registered Political Parties with contact information (web site address and mailing address), the leader, chief agent, auditor, and in some cases, a link to the provincial divisions. (Select "Political Parties, Candidates and Others", then "Information for the Public".

The "Political Parties' Financial Reports" are also available at this site. You can search the database to see the contributions and expenses reported by candidates in an election, by leadership and nomination contestants, registered electoral district associations and political parties. The Elections Canada site provides much additional information, backgrounders, FAQs, and guides on Canada's electoral system, related legislation, etc. as well as links to the websites of Elections Canada's provincial/territorial counterparts: Scroll down to "Contact information for Provincial & Territorial Election Officials".

Information created by political parties includes mainly policy documents explaining their positions to voters (e.g. election platforms, plans, policies, resolutions, blueprints, policy consultations, news releases, etc.) and internal documents such as the party bylaws, rules of order, minutes of general meetings, task force and caucus reports, etc. that show how the party is organized and functions. These are all considered primary source material. The most current of these may be available on the parties' web sites (search for the keywords above or look for a "Publications" heading), or obtained directly from the political party on request. For examples of some of these kinds of documents, and tips on finding them when not on the web, see Part 5: Selected Primary Sources & their Finding Aids: What was Written -- Political Party Publications.

For tips on finding speeches, quotes and interviews by leaders and political candidates, see Part 5: Selected Primary Sources & their Finding Aids: What was Said.

The personal memoirs (autobiographies and other personal papers, published or unpublished) may reveal a lot about the party to which the politician belongs. To find these, see Part 5: Selected Primary Sources & their Finding Aids: Personal Papers.

For televised election coverage, political party debates and conventions, paid political announcements, etc. see Part 5: Selected Primary Sources & their Finding Aids: Recorded Images.

To see what is going on now in political parties (upcoming conventions, federal riding association events, and during an election the campaign schedules of leaders, etc., see Part 5: Selected Primary Sources & their Finding Aids: What is Happening Now -- Political Parties.

To find books ABOUT or BY political parties, search:

Library Catalogues:
For books ABOUT a political party enter the party name as the Subject (e.g. Liberal Party of Canada).
Another useful subject heading: political parties--Canada
For information BY political parties, search for the party name as the Author. For subject headings to find material produced by political parties see Part 5: Selected Primary Sources & their Finding Aids: What was Written -- Political Party Publications.
Web Sites:
Political parties may have policy papers, discussion papers, platform statements, speeches, etc. available on their web sites. If the information you seek is not there, and you have searched the sources described in Part 5, you can try to contact the party directly to request publications. To find the official party web sites or other contact information, use one of the sources listed below:
Directories:
Two very common directories that provide the mailing address, phone number, URL for the web site, and key people in the party, for federal and provincial/territorial political parties (just about every public and academic library in Canada will have one or both of these): Associations Canada (also has the parties' annual operating budget) and Canadian Almanac & Directory.

Links to Canadian Political Party Web Sites:
Registered Political Parties and Parties Accepted for Registration. By Elections Canada. http://www.elections.ca/gen_info/parties/parties_e.html.
Provides name, address, link to web site, name of party leader and others, date the party was registered and some links to provincial divisions, for officially registered federal parties.
Canadian Political Parties. By Alex Ng. http://home.ican.net/~alexng/can.html
A long and well maintained list of links to the web sites of Canadian federal and provincial/territorial political parties, with information on elections, municipal politics and related information.
Political Parties in Canada. By Thomson Nelson. http://polisci.nelson.com/parties.html
Part of the Thomson Learning Inc. Canadian Government & Politics site, with links to provincial and federal political party web sites.
NOTE: Political party information on web sites is very unstable and incomplete. For party sites that no longer exist, try searching the Internet Archive: Way Back Machine. E.g. for the Reform Party of Canada web site, enter the URL: www.reform.ca and see the pages archived from 1996 on. See also the libraries, archives, digital and other and special collections indicated in Part 5: Primary Sources.
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Finding Information Evaluating Information
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Last Updated: July 26, 2007
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