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Meeting Summary – Annual General Meeting of June 13–14, 2013

Political Finance: Use of Existing Resources During Electoral Campaigns

This session was led by Sylvain Dubois (Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Political Financing) and François Leblanc (Director, Political Financing and Audit). They were assisted by Jeff Merrett, (Assistant Director, Political Financing and Audit). Mr. Leblanc provided an overview of the requirements of the Canada Elections Act in relation to the use of existing resources. A presentation was provided.

Discussion

Several comments and questions were raised about determining the value of existing party, campaign and candidate websites. Some members challenged the requirement to report design costs, given that websites can be built by volunteers at no cost. Some members pointed out that this creates a burden on smaller parties that do not have a lot of resources compared to the larger parties. Others sought guidance from Elections Canada on how to value their sites; in particular, Mr. Leblanc responded that there is a difference between building the website as a hobby or as a business – if it is a person's job, it needs to be reported as an expense (and a contribution if it is not paid), but if the work is done by a volunteer, it is neither an expense nor a contribution. As for the costs of registering and maintaining a website domain, the candidate would count the cost of the domain for the duration of the electoral period (36 days). Elections Canada's policy refers to the Act, which emphasizes spending and contribution limits. Elections Canada recognizes the regulatory burden on small parties. Mr. Leblanc invited members to contact Elections Canada for information and guidance on their particular situations.

With respect to an existing website, Mr. Leblanc noted that the main considerations are: who incurred the expense, and who does the website promote – the candidate or the party.

In response to questions about how to distinguish between party and candidate webpages on a single website, Elections Canada would need to assess it. The assessment would depend on whether there is a promotional element, on who incurred the expense and on whether the promotion is about the party or candidate(s). Mr. Leblanc suggested parties contact Elections Canada to discuss and obtain an assessment of their particular situations.

Clarification was sought on reporting requirements for candidates that contribute editorials to an online party newspaper. Mr. Leblanc indicated that the newsletter editorial is seen as political activity rather than promotion for the candidate. However, if the writing on the political subject is promoting a candidate, then it could be considered an election expense. If more information or clarification is required on specific situations, parties are asked to call Elections Canada.

In response to a question about the use of Facebook pages, Mr. Leblanc responded that if something normally has a financial cost, it has to be reported; however, if it is normally free, it does not have to be reported. In the case of any questions, parties are advised to contact Elections Canada.

Several questions were raised about valuing used campaign signs in campaign expenses. Some members commented that they felt this was a form of double-billing. Mr. Leblanc noted that in many cases, used signs are owned by the association or the party and are transferred to the campaigns. Such transfers count as election expenses subject to the spending limit but are not reimbursed, as they are not paid expenses. Candidates are required to report second-hand goods at full value for the purpose of expense management and contribution limits. Mr. Leblanc also noted that if the value is less than $200, it does not have to be reported.