Election Finances FAQ

Candidate Information

How does someone register as a candidate?

 

Must campaign bank accounts be opened for the election?

 

When can the candidate’s campaign be financially active?

 

Can a campaign take out a loan?

 

Third Party

What is a third party?

What is election advertising?

What are the rules for third parties? 

Campaign Advertising

What is political advertising?

What are the rules around advertising during a black out period?

When can a Candidate start to campaign?

Where can the campaign signs be placed?

 

Who are the eligible contributors in Ontario?

What are their contribution limits?

 

Can tax credit receipts be issued for goods and services?

 

How do you start a new provincial political party in Ontario?

  

Where can I find financial statements and lists of contributors (i.e. donations) filed by registered political parties, candidates, constituency associations, and leadership contestants?

 

 

 

Parties and Associations

 

What is the maximum amount that can be spent?

 

 

What expenses are not subject to a spending limit?

 

 

Who qualifies for a campaign expense subsidy?

Social Media and the Election Finances Act

Are communications via the Internet and social media subject to regulation under the Election Finances Act?

 

Are personal e-mails political advertising if they support or oppose a party or candidate?

 

Are “tweets” political advertising if they support or oppose a party or candidate?

  

Are uploads to YouTube political advertising?

 

Are Facebook pages political advertising?

 

I have a personal blog – what am I allowed to do?

 

I have a personal website – what am I allowed to do?

 

Social Media - Parties and Candidates

I maintain an official website for a party (or candidate or constituency association) – what are we allowed to do?

 

I maintain an official website for a party (or candidate or constituency association) and it has a social media channel (for example a Twitter account, Facebook page, or Youtube account) to do political advertising integrated into its design. Is it subject to the blackout period(s)?

 

If social media channels are not integrated into an official website that we own/operate, what can we post to our social media channels during a blackout period?

 

I maintain an official website for a party (or candidate or constituency association) how do we integrate social media accounts with our website?

 

I maintain an official website for a party (or candidate or constituency association) and we allow and display postings from the public on our website and our integrated social media accounts– are we responsible for what they say?

 

 

Who are the eligible contributors in Ontario?

 

There are three types of eligible contributors:

·            Individuals who are Ontario residents;

·            Corporations carrying on business in Ontario that are not registered  charities; and

·            Labour councils and trade unions with bargaining rights for employees in Ontario.

 

What are their contribution limits?

 

Eligible contributors can contribute up to $9,975 to a central party in any year and an additional $9,975 for each campaign period. In addition, eligible contributors can contribute up to $6,650 annually to riding associations of any one party, but no more than $1,330 annually to a single association. Similarly, $6,650 can be contributed to candidates of any one party, with a limit of no more than $1,330 to a single candidate. 

 

All contributions must be acknowledged with tax credit receipts, no matter how small. Contributions of up to $25 can be accepted in cash. Amounts over $25 must be paid by a cheque, money order or credit card having the name of the contributor legibly printed thereon and drawn on an account in the contributor's name. 

 

 

Can tax credit receipts be issued for goods and services?

 

Each tax credit receipt issued for goods and services must be accompanied by an invoice or receipt to support the expenditure. These receipts must be accounted for both as contribution income and as an expense under the appropriate expense category. Tax credit receipts issued for goods and services count towards a contributor's contribution limit.

 

Services provided by volunteers are not eligible for tax credit receipts.  However, if volunteers provide food, materials, gas etc, then the volunteers may be reimbursed for these out-of-pocket expenses with tax credit receipts.

 

How do you start a new provincial political party in Ontario?

A political party may register with the CEO using one of two registration methods.

Option 1: During a campaign period by having two candidates

A political party intending to register during a general election (or concurrent by-elections) must:

·         if it has not already done so, submit its name reservation request to the CEO no later than two days before the close of nominations to provide sufficient time for the registration process; and

·         nominate and endorse a candidate in two or more electoral districts to represent it.

The political party must apply for registration in writing to the CEO by submitting a Political Party Registration and Change Notice Form (P-1) once two candidates have filed:

1.      a Candidate Registration Form (C-1) accepted by the CEO under the Election Finances Act;

2.      a nomination paper (FO400) accepted by the Local Returning Officer during the seven days immediately before the close of nominations under the Election Act;

And the political party must also file an endorsement form signed by the party leader with the CEO on or before the close of nominations under the Election Act.

Option 2: Outside a campaign period by using the petition process

At any time other than a campaign period, a political party intending to register must submit a petition to the CEO with 1,000 signatures collected from eligible voters using the Petition to Register a Political Party Form (P-4). A petition to register cannot be submitted during a campaign period. The signatures must be collected only within the one-year period that the party name has been reserved, including any campaign period. Beyond the one-year period, the signatures become “stale dated” and cannot be used on an application for registration.

Elections Ontario requires time to review the petition to check that it is complete and also to contact a random sample of the signatories to verify their endorsements. After this review, the CEO will decide whether or not to register the political party. Therefore, a petition must be submitted at least two months prior to a campaign period to allow enough time for this process. [Act reference 10(2)]

 

Where can I find financial statements and lists of contributors (i.e. donations) filed by registered political parties, candidates, constituency associations, and leadership contestants?

It is a requirement of the Election Finances Act that all registered political parties, constituency associations, candidates, leadership contestants file audited financial statements with the Chief Electoral Officer. Audited financial statements for election campaigns are to be filed with the Chief Electoral Officer within six months of polling day, while annual returns must be filed by registered political parties and constituency associations on or before May 31st of the following year.

These documents are available for the public to view, either:

·     Click here for financial statements and contributions filed by registered political entities in Ontario.

·     In person at the Election Finances Office of Elections Ontario at 51 Rolark Drive, Toronto, Ontario, M1R 3B1, Tel. (416) 325-9401.  The public viewing room contains financial and registration information for all parties, riding associations, candidates and leadership contestants.  Office hours are Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

·     You may order a photocopy of the financial statement for a specific candidate, association, party or leadership contestant at a cost of $1.00 per page. Payment by cheque or money order is required in advance for this service.

 

How does someone register as a candidate?
 
Party candidate registration
 
The first step is for a candidate to be nominated by their riding association. Once a candidate has won the nomination, they must appoint a chief financial officer (CFO) and an auditor, and decide at which bank the campaign account will be opened.
 
To register with Election Finances, a
Candidate Registration and Change Notice Form C-1 must be completed and signed by the candidate, candidate’s CFO and party or association's CFO.

 

Independent candidate registration
 
For an independent candidate, they declare them self to be an independent candidate after the writs for the election. They must appoint a chief financial officer (CFO) and an auditor, and decide at which financial institution to open a campaign account

To register with Election Finances, a Candidate Registration and Change Notice Form, C 1 must be completed and signed by the candidate and candidate’s CFO.

All Candidates must also file nomination papers with the Returning Officer before close of nominations. 

 

Must campaign bank accounts be opened for the election?
 
The candidate’s campaign must open a bank account in the name of the candidate’s campaign. All contributions to the candidate's campaign must be deposited into this account and all campaign expenses must be paid from this account.

It is not acceptable to use the association's bank account to deposit contributions, nor pay expenses incurred by the candidate's campaign. 

 

When can the candidate’s campaign be financially active?

 

The financial campaign begins when a candidate is registered with Elections Ontario - Election Finances (Form C 1) and the writs for the election have been issued. The campaign period ends three months following polling day.

A candidate’s campaign cannot accept contributions nor incur expenses until a writ has been issued and the candidate is registered. However, a riding association can continue to accept funds if contributions are made to the association and not the candidate’s campaign. The association can also incur expenses on behalf of the candidate. These expenses are classified as pre-writ expenses and some portion will be transferred to the candidate and may be subject to the candidate's expense limit.

 

Can a campaign take out a loan?
 
A campaign or riding association may wish to take out a loan to help finance the candidate's campaign. Such a loan can be taken only from the following sources:
• Financial institutions;
• Riding Associations registered in Ontario; and
• Parties registered in Ontario

For further information please see refer to the CFO Handbook

 

What is the maximum amount that can be spent?

  • $0.80 per elector by each party for subject to limit expenses

 

Example: If there are 10 Million electors in Ontario a party can spend $8 Million on subject to limit expenses (e.g. advertising)

 

  • $1.28 per elector by candidate and constituency association combined for  subject to limit expenses

 

Example: If there are 100,000 electors in an electoral district a candidate can spend $128,000 on subject to limit expenses (e.g. advertising)

 

 

An additional amount of $9,310 can be spent by candidates in Algoma-Manitoulin, Kenora-Rainy River, Nickel Belt, Thunder Bay-Atikokan, Thunder Bay-Superior North, Timiskaming-Cochrane, Timmins-James Bay

 

 

What expenses are not subject to a spending limit?

 

  • research and polling
  • travel expenses
  • expenses incurred in seeking nomination
  • expenses that are incurred by a candidate with disabilities and that are directly related to the candidate’s disabilities
  • auditor’s and accounting fees
  • interest on loans
  • expenses incurred in holding a fund-raising activity
  • “victory parties” held and “thank you” advertising published after polling day
  • administration of the political party or constituency association
  • transfers
  • maintaining a credit card facility
  • expenses relating to a recount
  • child care expenses of a candidate

 

Who qualifies for a campaign expense subsidy?

 

  • Candidates get 20% of their subject to limit expenses if they get 15 percent of the popular vote

 

  • Parties get $0.05 per elector for each electoral district where they get 15 per cent of the popular vote

What is political advertising?

 

Political advertising is anything that can be seen, heard or read and must bear authorization. An example of appropriate wording for authorization could be "authorized by the XYZ campaign" or "authorized by the ABC Constituency Association". 

 

What are the rules around advertising during a black out period?

 

No registered political party, constituency association, candidate or third party shall conduct paid commercial political advertising during a blackout period.

 

No broadcaster or publisher may allow a paid commercial political advertisement to appear during a blackout period.

 

A blackout period includes the day before polling day and polling day for all elections.

In by-elections and general elections with a non-fixed election date, there is an additional blackout period that begins when the writ for an election is issued and ends on the 22nd day before polling day.

 

Even in situations where Internet advertising is claimed to be free, the rules around blackout restrictions apply. Internet advertising established before, and not altered during the blackout period, can remain posted. In addition, further electronic distribution of that advertisement during the blackout period is also prohibited.

 

Exceptions to the blackout period

 

The following advertising activities are permitted during the blackout period:

 

genuine news reporting, including interviews, commentaries, or other works prepared for and published by any newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication in any medium without any charge to the registered candidate’s campaign. A broadcaster may similarly broadcast genuine news stories; however, these are subject to the provisions of and regulations and guidelines under the Broadcasting Act (Canada);

 

the publication of political advertising, on polling day or the day before polling day, in a newspaper that is published once a week or less often and whose regular day of publication falls on that day;

 

a political advertisement on the internet or in a similar electronic medium, if posted before and not altered or further distributed during a blackout period;

 

a registered candidate’s official website, including edits and updates to the website;

 

and a political advertisement in the form of a poster or billboard, if posted before and not altered during a blackout period, such as advertisements on public transit buses, bus shelters, and subway stations.

 

Lawn signs displayed and brochures distributed are not considered to be paid commercial political advertising and can appear at any time.

 

Personal emails and similar personal communications on the Internet are generally not considered political advertising and are not subject to the blackout period.

 

The following activities are also permitted during the blackout period:

 

advertising public meetings in constituencies;

 

announcing the location of registered candidates’ and constituency associations’ headquarters;

 

advertising for volunteer campaign workers;

 

announcing services for electors, regarding enumeration and the revision of electors’ lists, that are offered by candidates’ campaigns or constituency associations;

 

announcing services for electors that are offered by registered candidates’ campaigns or constituency associations on polling day (for example, “Babysitting services provided while you go out to vote” or “Rides to the polling station”); and

 

anything involving administrative functions of registered constituency associations.

 

Such advertisements or announcements that are paid commercial political advertising may contain the name of a registered candidate and may include a picture of the candidate. However, mention of the particular exempt service or activity listed above must be the main feature of the advertisement or announcement. Also, the advertisement or announcement must not contain any slogan, motto, or other wording promoting the candidate or opposing another candidate, such as “Join the winning team,” “Our candidate is best qualified,” “Vote for,” etc.

 

 

 

When can a Candidate start to campaign?

 

Election Finances Act does not restrict pre-writ advertising for a fixed election date in a General Election. There are no regulations as to when candidates can start to campaign, which means that there is no official start or end date for campaigning. 

 

However, Candidates are not allowed to pay for advertising that appears before writs are issued because they are not registered until writs are issued and cannot incur expenses before then. All candidates must register to be financially active (i.e. to advertise on TV or newspapers, to put up lawn signs, hand out brochures). This can only occur once the writ has been issued.

 

 

Where can the campaign signs be placed?

 

The Election Finances Act does not address where signs can or cannot be placed. 

 

Where public property is involved, this may fall under the jurisdiction of the local municipality or, when placed near a highway, it may fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transportation.

 

Elections Ontario has no jurisdiction in this area.

 

 

Social Media and the Election Finances Act

 

General Principles

 

Are communications via the Internet and social media subject to regulation under the Election Finances Act?

 

Yes, in some cases they are. As is the case with print and broadcast media, whether or not the production and communication of a message amounts to political advertising is determined on a case-by-case basis by looking at the manner of dissemination, the content, the author, and any associated expenses. We apply the same considerations for communications over the Internet. 

 

Below are the most typical questions we are asked. If you have a particular question that is not answered, please contact us.

 

 

Are personal e-mails political advertising if they support or oppose a party or candidate?

 

Ordinary personal e-mails are generally not political advertising whether they are sent by ordinary citizens, leaders, candidates or party supporters. If there is an orchestrated/coordinated e-mail campaign being conducted by volunteers or paid writers, disseminating a “spam” message or content/attachments professionally produced by another person or entity, the e-mails may be treated as political advertising. If so, the blackout rules and rules concerning public opinion surveys, authorizations, campaign expenses, spending and contribution limits may apply. You may also need to apply to be a registered third party advertiser.

 

 

Are social media (for example Facebook) and content sharing websites (for example YouTube) exempt from blackout restrictions and other requirements of the Election Finances Act?

 

Like all commercial websites, our view is that the blackout restrictions do apply to advertising promoting or opposing parties/candidates in the banner advertising sold by social media and content sharing websites. Also, the individual postings of individuals and entities may be subject to the requirements of the Election Finances Act.

 

 

Are “tweets” political advertising if they support or oppose a party or candidate?

 

Like an e-mail, “tweets” are generally not political advertising when they are made in a personal capacity. If there is an orchestrated/coordinated Twitter campaign being conducted by volunteers or paid writers, disseminating a “spam” message or content/attachments professionally produced by another person or entity, the e-mails may be treated as political advertising. If so, the blackout rules and rules concerning public opinion surveys, authorizations, campaign expenses, spending and contribution limits may apply. You may also need to apply to be a registered third party advertiser.

 

 

Are uploads to YouTube political advertising?

 

The following considerations apply to uploads:

 

–    An upload may be treated as “genuine news reporting” - even if it supports or opposes a party or candidate - if made by an independent commentator.

 

–    If a member of a particular cause advocates for a position on a matter of public policy during an election, for which one or more registered parties or candidates may also have taken a position, the upload may not constitute political advertising so long as it does not explicitly connect itself with a party or candidate.

 

–    If a supporter of a candidate or party uploads professionally produced content, the upload may be treated as political advertising. If so, the blackout rules and rules concerning authorizations, campaign expenses, spending and contribution limits may apply. You may also need to apply to be a registered third party advertiser.

 

–    It is also very important to remember that no one can publish, broadcast, or transmit to the public, on polling day, the results of an election survey that have not previously been made available to the public.

 

Are Facebook pages political advertising?

 

Facebook pages (and their updates) are generally not political advertising when they are maintained in a personal capacity. If there is an orchestrated/coordinated Facebook campaign being conducted by volunteers or paid writers, disseminating a “spam” message or professionally produced content/attachments, the Facebook pages (and their updates) may be treated as political advertising. If so, the blackout rules and rules concerning authorizations, campaign expenses, spending and contribution limits may apply. You may also need to apply to be a registered third party advertiser.

 

It is also very important to remember that no one can publish, broadcast, or transmit to the public, on polling day, the results of an election survey that have not previously been made available to the public.

 

 

I have a personal blog – what am I allowed to do?

 

If you have a blog the following considerations apply:

 

–    Your blog content may be treated as “genuine news reporting” - even if it supports or opposes a party or candidate - if you are an independent commentator.

 

–    If you are a member of a particular cause and you advocate for a position on a matter of public policy during an election, for which one or more registered parties or candidates may also have taken a position, your blog content may not constitute political advertising so long as it does not explicitly connect itself with a party or candidate. 

 

–    If you are the supporter of a candidate or party and you are part of an orchestrated/coordinated blog campaign being conducted by volunteers or paid writers, and you are disseminating a “spam” message or professionally produced content, your blog entries may be treated as political advertising. If so, the blackout rules and rules concerning authorizations, campaign expenses, spending and contribution limits may apply. You may also need to apply to be a registered third party advertiser.

 

–    It is also very important to remember that no one can publish, broadcast, or transmit to the public, on the day before polling day and polling day, the results of an election survey that have not previously been made available to the public.

 

 

I have a personal website – what am I allowed to do?

 

If you have a personal website the following considerations apply:

 

–    Your website content may be treated as “genuine news reporting” - even if it supports or opposes a party or candidate - if you are an independent commentator.

 

–    If you are a member of a particular cause and you advocate for a position on a matter of public policy during an election, for which one or more registered parties or candidates may also have taken a position, your website content may not constitute political advertising so long as it does not explicitly connect itself with a party or candidate. 

 

–    If you are the supporter of a candidate or party and you are part of an orchestrated/coordinated internet campaign being conducted by volunteers or paid writers, and you are disseminating a “spam” message or professionally produced content, your website pages supporting or opposing a party or candidate may be treated as political advertising. If so, the blackout rules and rules concerning authorizations, campaign expenses, spending and contribution limits may apply. You may also need to apply to be a registered third party advertiser.

 

–    It is also very important to remember that no one can publish, broadcast, or transmit to the public, on polling day, the results of an election survey that have not previously been made available to the public.

 

Social Media - Parties and Candidates

I maintain an official website for a party (or candidate or constituency association) – what are we allowed to do?

 

First, when the party (or candidate or constituency association) for which you work registers (or confirms a registration with Elections Ontario) we ask you to give us the address for your official website. Your website can change or be updated at any time, the blackout rules do not apply to such websites. Rules concerning authorizations, campaign expenses and spending limits still apply.

 

It is also very important to remember that no one - even parties, constituency associations, or their candidates - can publish, broadcast, or transmit to the public, on polling day, the results of an election survey that have not previously been made available to the public.

 

 

I maintain an official website for a party (or candidate or constituency association) and it has a social media channel (for example a Twitter account, Facebook page, or Youtube account) to do political advertising integrated into its design. Is it subject to the blackout period(s)?

 

If your party has it own social media channels (for example a Twitter account, Facebook page, or Youtube account) integrated into its official website, your social media channels can change or be updated at any time; the blackout rules do not apply. For example, this means that your leader can use a Twitter account that is integrated into a party website to disseminate political advertising during a blackout period.

 

It is important to remember that no one - even parties, constituency associations, or their candidates - can publish, broadcast or transmit to the public, on polling day, the results of an election survey that have not previously been made available to the public. 

 

 

We don’t have an official website for our party (or candidate or constituency association) but we do have a social media account (for example a Twitter account, Facebook page, or Youtube account) to do political advertising. Is it subject to the blackout rules?

 

If social media accounts are not integrated into an official website that you own/operate, the political advertising content on such accounts may be subject to the blackout rules. The Election Finances Act only exempts “official websites” for parties, candidates, and constituency associations from the blackout rules.

  

 

If social media channels are not integrated into an official website that we own/operate, what can we post to our social media channels during a blackout period?

 

The blackout period does not apply to content you post regarding:

 

1.         Advertising public meetings in constituencies

 

2.         Announcing the location of candidates’ and constituency associations’ headquarters

 

3.         Advertising for volunteer campaign workers

 

4.         Announcing services for electors respecting the revision of electors’ lists, that are offered by candidates or constituency associations

 

5.         Announcing services for electors that are offered by candidates or constituency associations on polling day

 

6.         Anything respecting administrative functions of constituency associations.

 

Remember, no one can publish, broadcast, or transmit to the public, on polling day, the results of an election survey that have not previously been made available to the public.

 

 

I maintain an official website for a party (or candidate or constituency association) how do we integrate social media accounts with our website?

 

Your party can register and obtain a social media account with the provider of the service and then provide a link for your social media account (for example your party’s Twitter account, Facebook page, or Youtube account) on your party’s website.

 

I maintain an official website for a party (or candidate or constituency association) and we allow and display postings from the public on our website and our integrated social media accounts– are we responsible for what they say?

 

This is how the Election Finances Act applies to this question:

 

·     The postings you allow on your official website and its integrated social media accounts are not subject to blackout rules. 

 

·     If on your website you are providing members of the public with a forum to publicly promote your party or its candidates to others, and the cost of the advertisements is over $100 in value, it may constitute both a contribution and an expense if the advertising is created with the knowledge and consent of your party.  

 

·     No one can publish, broadcast, or transmit to the public, on polling day, the results of an election survey that have not previously been made available to the public.

 

Third Party

What is a third party?

A third party is a person or entity, other than a candidate, constituency association or party registered under the Election Finances Act that engages in election advertising. A third party entity may encompass every type of group such as, but not limited to, a corporation, an unincorporated association, or a partnership.     

What is election advertising?

Election advertising is advertising in any medium during an election period from the writ to polling day with the purpose of promoting or opposing, directly or indirectly, a registered political party or the election of a registered candidate to the Ontario Legislature. This includes but is not limited to advertisements appearing in print, broadcast, or online.

What are the rules for third parties?

Once the writ for an election has been issued, third parties must register immediately with the Chief Electoral Officer if they have already spent $500 or more on election advertising activities. Third parties that subsequently engage in election advertising during the writ period must also register immediately once they have spent $500 or more. 

A statement of authorization is required on all third party election advertising. Authorization means you must identify who has caused the advertisement to appear

If you register as a third party advertiser, you must file a financial report after the event on all election advertising expenses and contributions for the period beginning two months prior to the issue of the writ. This report is due six months after polling day. These reports must be audited if the election advertising expenses are $5,000 or more.