Rules for Political Advertising
Political advertising is any advertising that can be seen, heard or read and is promoting or opposing a political party or candidate.
Political advertising also includes advertising with respect to an issue of public policy during an election, for which one or more registered political parties or candidates may also have taken a position.
All scripts and text for political advertising must include information about who authorized the advertising. In other words, an advertisement must include a spoken or written line such as “authorized by the xyz campaign” or “this advertisement was paid for by the xyz political party.”
During a blackout, paid political advertising is restricted (see below).
No political entity may run paid advertising in the blackout period. It is also an offence for a broadcaster or publisher to accept paid political advertisement from a political entity during a blackout period.
The blackout period for a general election or by-election includes the day before Election Day and Election Day.
Here is a list of what you can and cannot do during a blackout period:
- You can conduct any genuine news reporting in any medium where there is no charge.
- You can keep online ads posted as long as they were posted before and not altered during the blackout period. But you cannot distribute those online ads further during a blackout period.
- You can have your candidate’s official website remain live and be updated during the blackout.
- You can publish political advertising in newspapers that publish once a week or less often and whose regular day of publication falls on Election Day or the day before Election Day.
- You can keep political ads on posters or billboards as long as they were posted before and not altered during the blackout period. This includes ads on public transit buses, bus shelters and subway stations.
- You can keep lawn signs displayed and distribute brochures, as they are not considered paid commercial political advertising.
- You can advertise at public meetings in constituencies.
- You can announce the location of registered candidates’ and constituency associations’ headquarters.
- You can advertise for volunteer campaign workers.
- You can announce services for electors that are offered by candidates’ campaigns or constituency associations regarding revisions of the list of electors.
- You can announce services for electors offered by registered candidates’ campaigns or constituency associations on Election Day. For example, “Babysitting services provided while you go out to vote” or “Rides to the voting location”.
- You can announce anything involving administrative functions of registered constituency associations.
- You cannot broadcast or publish a paid commercial political advertisement on radio, television or in print.
Lawn signs displayed and brochures distributed are not considered to be paid commercial political advertising and can appear at any time.
All pre-writ advertising (including lawn signs and literature) must be paid for by the registered political party or a registered constituency association and needs to be authorized by whoever paid for it.
The authorization needs to say who paid for the advertising, e.g. “Authorized by the Ontario XYZ Party”, or something substantially similar.
Candidates are not allowed to incur expenses or pay for advertising before the writs are issued and they are registered. Registration does not become effective until writs are issued.
If you wish to make a complaint about a lawn sign, please note that Elections Ontario has no jurisdiction over sign placement or removal.
If the political party sign is on public property, please contact the local municipality to see what local by-laws allow. For signs located near a highway, please contact the Ministry of Transportation.
You can also contact the party responsible for the sign. Find contact information for Registered Political Parties in Ontario.