If you are looking to find out what a Riding Association is you might want to check out Elections Canada where they are not referred to as Riding Associations.  For the purposes of the Canada Elections Act, they are Electoral District Associations

An electoral district association is defined as “an association of members of a political party in an electoral district. – Elections Canada S. 2(1) “electoral district association”, Canada Elections Act.

On the other hand, if you want to know how they really work in contemporary Canada, read on.  Appearances deceive. Whether you call them Riding Associations or Electoral District Associations, we are talking about National Political Party Machines.

Elections Canada provides reams of information about regulatory requirements related to the governance and accountability of electoral/riding associations. It is hard to find anything in those regulations that does not pertain to the money trail and the exchange of goods and services.  The parties, their associations, and their unregistered affiliates are self-governing except in matters related to monetary contributions and expenses – direct or indirect. It seems that Elections Canada, at least, believes if the flow of money is  overseen and controlled there can be no impediments to the democratic process.

If you aren’t a member of a particular association you are not easily going to learn anything about how that national party association operates at the grassroots riding level or at the national level.

Self governing might sound like the individual associations are autonomous apart from strict accounting rules and reporting, but that is not how it works. The National Party associations pick up where Elections Canada leaves off and have their own set of rules and regulations that associations must adhere to.  What the National Party wants, is for their political machines to deliver the vote.  The Party will do whatever it takes to make that happen.  For example, a grassroots association can follow all the rules, nominate candidates and then duly elect a candidate only to have the process overturned.

There is no statutory obligation on a registered party to accept the winner of a nomination contest.

Elections Canada Online | Information Sheet

In the 2008 Federal Election,  Steven Harper did just that. He was determined to field more women candidates and duly elected Conservative Candidate Brent Barr was removed and Gloria Kovach was acclaimed. Make no mistake, Harper’s determined push to field women candidates had nothing to do with wanting women as Conservative MPs around him — polls were simply indicating that women nominees had a better chance of getting elected in certain parts of the country. Getting elected is THE name of the game.

Conservative candidate Gloria Kovach is a high profile candidate who has served well on city council for 17 years. However, local Conservatives are still angry about the national party’s ouster of Brent Barr.

The Fountain Pen, Guelph

I have included the above example only to demonstrate that things don’t always go the way the National Party ‘experts’ plan.  Stephen Harper alienated quite a few traditional Conservative voters by bypassing the duly elected choice of local association members,  a conservative candidate who was well known and respected left politics, and Gloria lost the election by a narrow margin (less than 2,000 votes). 

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