Media Rules During an Election
These guidelines explain the laws that affect media coverage and the use of social media during Ontario provincial elections. Below, you will find information on the advertising blackout period and the rules that the media must observe in voting locations.
This page also includes our guidelines for how to use online communications responsibly during an Ontario election. The rules set out in the Election Finances Act for print and broadcast media apply to websites, email and social media (for example, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs).
If you have a specific question, please contact us.
Please note: It is an offence under the Election Finances Act to publish, broadcast or transmit election survey results on Election Day if those results have not previously been made available to the public. This rule also applies to websites, email and social media.
Here is an overview of what media, publishers and broadcasters can and cannot do during a blackout period.
The legal guidelines from the Election Finances Act for advertising are as follows:
- All political printed advertising, handbills, placards, posters and broadcast or telecast advertisements must show the name of the registered constituency association, registered candidate, registered political party or third party that caused it to appear and sponsored or paid for it.
- During the election campaign, it is an infraction under the Election Finances Act to charge a political party, constituency association, candidate or third party a rate for the broadcasting, printing or distribution of political advertising that exceeds the lowest rate charged for the same amount of equivalent advertising space or time during that period.
- A broadcaster may provide time without charge to registered political parties and candidates in accordance with the policies of the CRTC and the provisions of the Broadcasting Act (Canada). The provision of such free time to political parties or candidates is not considered a contribution or an election expense for the purposes of the Election Finances Act.
The legal guidelines from the Election Finances Act for the blackout period are as follows:
- A blackout period in any election is defined as the day before polling day and polling day.
- Media, publishers and broadcasters should not publish, broadcast or transmit political advertising during the blackout period. To do so is an infraction of the Election Finances Act.
- Political advertising is advertising in any broadcast, print, electronic or other medium with the purpose of promoting or opposing any registered party or the election of a registered candidate.
- The blackout period does not apply to the official websites of registered parties, candidates or constituency associations. The blackout period also does not apply to:
- genuine news reporting
- the publication of political advertising, on Election Day or the day before Election 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 during a blackout period
- a political advertisement in the form of a poster or billboard, if posted before and not altered during a blackout period
- advertising of public meetings in constituencies, including fundraising events
- announcing candidate or constituency association headquarters' locations
- advertising for volunteer campaign workers
- announcing services for electors by candidates or constituency associations respecting enumeration and revision of lists of electors
- announcing services for electors on Election Day
- any other matter respecting administrative functions of constituency associations
- It is an offence under the Election Finances Act to publish, broadcast or transmit to the public on Election Day, before 9:00 p.m. (Eastern Time), the results of an election survey that have not previously been made available to the public. This applies to any opinion survey of how electors voted or will vote or respecting an issue with which a political party or candidate is associated.
Here are the rules for reporting from voting locations, returning offices and satellite offices.
- To ensure the secrecy of the vote, cameras are not allowed in voting locations.
- Electronic communications devices, including cell phones, are not allowed inside a voting location during voting hours without prior permission of the returning officer, as detailed below.
- Media are allowed, with PRIOR permission, to have access to the following:
- Voting locations while candidates are casting their ballots. Please contact the returning officer in the electoral district where you will be reporting so they can arrange space for cameras. The supervising deputy returning officer and deputy returning officer will not admit media to the voting location without proof of permission.
- Please note that members of the public and anyone who is not the candidate may not vote while the media is present.
- Returning offices and satellite offices at the close of Election Day. Please contact the returning officer in the electoral district where you will be reporting so they can arrange space for cameras. Please note that you must pre-arrange and provide your own Internet access and telephone lines.
- Media can also request the following information from returning officers:
- Numbers of polling locations reporting
- Number of votes cast for each candidate
- Cumulative totals
If you are an accredited member of the media who has received permission to access a voting location, you may not transmit information via social media while in the voting location.
Please remember that results tallied the night of Election Day are unofficial. The official tabulation is held in the returning office as soon as possible after Election Day.