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Elections - Third Party Advertising

What is a Third Party Advertisement?

The Municipal Elections Act now includes a framework for third party advertising. A third party advertisement is an advertisement in any broadcast, print, electronic or other medium that promotes, supports or opposes a candidate, or a "yes" or "no" answer to a question on the ballot. Advertisement includes traditional ads as well as materials such as brochures or signs. Third party advertising is separate from any candidate's  campaign, and must be done independently from a candidate. The Municipal Elections Act, 1996 sets out a restricted period for third party advertising, for the 2018 election, the restricted period is May 1, 2018 to the close of voting on October 22, 2018.

What is Not a Third Party Advertisement?

Activities that do not involve spending money, such as discussions or expressing an opinion about a candidate (or an answer to a question on the ballot) are not considered to be third party advertising. Examples include:

  • speaking to friends and neighbours
  • posting on social media, such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram
  • sending an email to a group or mailing list

Helpful Guide

2018 Guide for Third Party Advertisers

Who Can be a Third Party Advertiser?

Only those who have registered can spend money on third party advertising. The following are eligible to register as a third party advertiser:

  • any person who is a resident in Ontario
  • a corporation carrying on business in Ontario
  • a trade union that holds bargaining rights for employees in Ontario

If two or more corporations are owned or controlled by the same person or people, or if one corporation controls another, they are considered to be a single corporation. If the same person or people own or control multiple corporations, only one of those corporations may register to be a third party in a municipality.

There is no restriction against family members or campaign staff of candidates registering to be third party advertisers. However, third party advertising must be done independently of the candidate. If a person with close ties to a candidate wishes to register they should consider how these activities may look to the public and how they would be able to demonstrate that they were not working in co-ordination with the candidate.

Who Cannot be a Third Party Advertiser?

A candidate running for any municipal council or school board office cannot register to be a third party advertiser in any municipality.

Groups, associations or businesses that are not corporations are not eligible to register and may not spend money on third party advertising in municipal elections. For example, neighbourhood associations, clubs or professional associations cannot register and cannot make contributions to third party advertisers. Members may register as individual third party advertisers and may contribute individually.

Candidates in the provincial election cannot register. They may register after the provincial election, when they are no longer candidates.

Federal and provincial political parties cannot register to be third party advertisers. Political parties are not permitted to be financially involved in municipal elections.

Registering as a Third Party Advertiser

Notice of Registration (Form 7) 

An individual, corporation or trade union must register with the municipal clerk to be a third party advertiser in a municipality.

Being registered in a municipality allows the third party to advertise to the voters in that municipality. A third party advertiser can support or oppose any candidate or candidates who will be voted on by the people in that municipality. This includes candidates running for local council and school trustee.

Third party advertisers do not need to decide before they register which candidate or candidates they want to support or oppose, and they do not have to tell the clerk what their intentions are.

A third party can only advertise to voters in the municipality where they are registered. There is no limit on the number of municipalities where a third party can register. If a third party wants to advertise to voters in more than one municipality they must register in each municipality where they wish to advertise.

Where to Register

An individual or a representative of a corporation or trade union must file a Notice of Registration (Form 7) with the municipal clerk in person or by an agent. It must have an original signature - the form may not be a copy, and may not be scanned and submitted electronically. There is no registration fee.

The municipal clerk must be satisfied that that the individual, corporation or trade union is eligible in order to certify the registration, and may require that identification or additional documents be provided.

A person who is filing as the representative of a corporation or a trade union should make sure that they can provide proof that they are authorized to act on the corporation or trade union's behalf.

How do Campaign Finance Rules Aapply to Third Party Advertisers?

Most campaign finance and reporting rules that apply to candidates will also apply to third party advertisers. Third party advertisers will have spending limits and there will be contribution limits for those wishing to contribute to a third party advertiser. Corporations and unions will be permitted to make contributions to third party advertisers, but will not be permitted to make contributions to candidates.

Identification on Advertising

A third party advertiser must provide the following information on all of its advertisements, signs and other materials:

  • the legal name of the registered third party (if the third party is a corporation or trade union, the name of the corporation or trade union must appear, not the name of the representative who filed the registration)
  • the municipality where the third party is registered
  • a telephone number, mailing address or email address where the third party can be contacted

A registered individual cannot act on behalf of a group or organization that is not eligible to register as a third party advertiser. For example, if Chris Smith is the president of a business improvement association (BIA), the signs and materials must identify Chris Smith as the person responsible for the advertising, not the BIA.

If ads are going to be broadcast or published (e.g. on a radio station or in a newspaper), the ad must contain the information required above, and the third party advertiser must also provide the broadcaster or publisher with the following:

  • the name of the registered third party
  • the name, business address and telephone number of the individual who deals with the broadcaster or publisher under the direction of the registered third party
  • the municipality where the third party is registered

Sign By-laws

The municipality has rules in place about when signs can be put up, and how signs may be displayed on public property. Third Party Advertisers must adhere to the County  and MTO sign regulations.

The Third Party Advertiser is responsible for removing their signs after voting day and are strongly encouraged to place election signs on private property with the permission of the property owner. The Township has the authority to remove any signs deemed to cause a safety hazard.

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