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.
Under the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 a penalty applies automatically if:
- a third party advertiser fails to file a financial statement by the end of the 30-day grace period or fails to apply to the court for an extension by the filing deadline
- the financial statement shows that the third party advertiser has exceeded a spending limit
- a third party advertiser fails to turn over their surplus to the clerk when they file their financial statement
The penalty is that the individual, corporation or trade union will not be eligible to register as a third party advertiser in the municipality until after the 2026 election.
Each municipality and school board must appoint a compliance audit committee.
If an eligible elector believes that a third party advertiser has not followed the election finance rules, the elector may apply for a compliance audit of the third party’s advertising campaign finances. The application must be in writing, and must set out the reasons why they believe the third party advertiser did not follow the rules.
An application for a compliance audit must be submitted to the clerk of the municipality where the third party advertiser is registered within 90 days of the deadline to file the advertising campaign financial statement.
The compliance audit committee will consider the application and decide whether to grant or reject the application. The committee’s decision may be appealed 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 the third party’s advertising campaign finances. The auditor is entitled to have access to all of the financial records related to the advertising campaign. The auditor will produce a report, which the third party advertiser is 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 a third party advertiser 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 a person is convicted of committing an offence, they may be subject to the following penalties:
- a fine of up to $25,000
- up to six months in prison
- ineligibility to register to be a third party advertiser until after the next regular election
- ineligibility to vote or run in the next regular election (in the case of conviction for bribery or other corrupt practices)
If a corporation or trade union is convicted of committing an offence, they may be subject to a fine of up to $50,000, and ineligibility to register to be a third party advertiser until after the next regular election.
If any third party advertiser is convicted of exceeding a spending limit, they may also be fined the amount by which they exceeded the limit.