Compliance and enforcement
Enforcement of the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 is done through the courts. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing does not have a role in investigating elections or in determining penalties.
There are three contraventions of the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 where penalties apply automatically:
- if you fail to file a financial statement by the end of the 30-day grace period or fail to apply to the court before March 31, 2023 for an extension by the filing deadline
- if your financial statement shows that you exceeded your spending limit
- if you fail to turn over your surplus to the clerk when you file your financial statement
The penalty is that you forfeit your office (if you won the election) and you become ineligible to run or be appointed to fill a vacancy until after the 2026 election.
Each municipality and school board must appoint a compliance audit committee.
If an eligible elector believes that you have contravened the election finance rules, they may apply for a compliance audit of your campaign finances. The application must be in writing and must set out the reasons why they believe you contravened the rules.
An application for a compliance audit must be submitted to the municipal clerk who conducted the election within 90 days of the deadline to file the campaign financial statement.
The compliance audit committee will consider the application and decide whether to grant or reject the application. You may appeal the committee’s decision to the Superior Court of Justice within 15 days after the decision is made.
If the committee grants the application, it will appoint an auditor to conduct a compliance audit of your campaign finances. The auditor is entitled to have access to all of the financial records related to your campaign. The auditor will produce a report, which you are entitled to receive.
The compliance audit committee will meet to consider the auditor’s report. If the report concludes that there is an apparent contravention of the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 the committee will decide whether to commence legal action.
The compliance audit committee does not have any authority to set penalties. Only the court can decide if you contravened the Act and, if so, which penalties should apply.
A person who does not want to or who is not able to apply for a compliance audit may decide to commence legal action on their own. A prosecution related to the 2022 election must be commenced before November 15, 2026.
If you are convicted of an offence, you may be subject to the following penalties:
- a fine of up to $25,000
- ineligibility to vote or run in the next general election
- up to six months in prison
- forfeiture of your elected office, if the judge finds that you committed the offence knowingly
If you are convicted of exceeding the spending limit, you may also be fined the amount by which you exceeded the limit.