Third party advertising
Third party advertising refers to advertisements or other materials that support, promote or oppose a candidate, or support, promote or oppose a “yes” or “no” answer to a question on the ballot. The meaning of “third party” in this context means a person or entity who is not a candidate.
Third party advertising is separate from any candidate’s campaign, and must be done independently from a candidate. Any advertisements or materials that are made and distributed by a candidate, or under a candidate’s direction, are part of the candidate’s campaign.
Third party advertising is a way for those outside of the candidate’s campaign to express support of or opposition to candidates (or a “yes” or “no” answer to a question on the ballot) and to try to persuade voters to vote a certain way.
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 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
Internal communications from an employer to their employees, a corporation to its shareholders, directors, members or employees or by a trade union to its members or employees are not considered to be third party advertising.
Advertising about an issue, rather than a candidate or a “yes” or “no” answer to a question on the ballot is not considered third party advertising. For example, signs saying “Support local businesses” or “Keep the waterfront green” would not be third party advertising, even if a candidate has made those issues part of their campaign.
The Municipal Elections Act, 1996 sets out a restricted period for third party advertising. This restricted period runs from May 1 in the year of the election to the close of voting on voting day. For the 2022 election, the restricted period is May 1, 2022 to the close of voting on October 24, 2022.
Candidates can begin filing their nominations on May 1. If any individual or group wanted to spend money before May 1 on signs or advertisements supporting someone who intended to become a candidate, or someone who they hoped would become a candidate, the third party advertising rules would not apply. However, once the restricted period begins on May 1, any signs or other advertisements would have to be taken down or discontinued.
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 advertiser 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 wants 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.