Overview of Major Legislative Changes (September 2017 – June 2019)
Policy & Research, October 2019
Bill C-76 An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments
On December 13, 2018, Bill C-76 received Royal Assent. The Act provides discretion for the CEO to bring provisions into force earlier if the necessary preparations to implement those provisions had been made. As a result, various provisions were brought into force on January 19, April 1, and May 11, 2019. All remaining provisions came into force on June 13, 2019. Several key changes are made by the Act:
- With respect to the election period and hours of voting,
- A maximum election period of 50 days is established.
- With respect to advance polls, hours are extended from eight hours to twelve, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., election officers may begin counting votes one hour before the close of voting hours on polling day if the RO has obtained the CEO's prior approval.
- The issuing of a writ for a by-election is also restricted if it would result in a polling day that is less than nine months before the fixed election day for a general election (GE).
- With respect to voting services modernization, allows for flexibility by:
- Removing the assignment of specific responsibilities to specific election officers by creating a generic category of election officer to whom all those responsibilities may be assigned.
- Expanding the definition of polling station to include the entire space where voting takes place, such that electors may vote at any table.
- With respect to the definition and functions of election officers,
- The minimum age of election officers is reduced to 16 years old.
- Several titles are replaced by the classification of "election officer," including revising agents, deputy returning officers, poll clerks, registration officers, information officers, central poll supervisors, etc.
- Only the RO, assistant returning officer, and additional assistant returning officer are subject to a residency requirement that they reside in the ED in which they work or in an adjacent ED.
- ROs may appoint election officers prior to the issue of the writs for the purposes of training and will be authorized to appoint up to half of their required contingent of election officers before the eighth day of the writ period.
- With respect to electoral list management and geography,
- The word "sex" is replaced with the word "gender" throughout the Act; imposes new requirements to make the list of electors and maps available in electronic format.
- A Register of Future Electors is established for 14 to 17 year old citizens.
- The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is authorized to share information with the CEO that relates to "permanent residents" and "foreign nationals", which will allow the CEO to update the National Register of Electors by deleting information about individuals who are not Canadian citizens.
- Enables the centralized distribution of "Statements of electors who voted" ("bingo sheets") to parties and candidates from the agency's headquarters.
Increasing Access to the Vote
- With respect to voter identification rules, the Act repeals the prohibition on the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) authorizing the Voter Information Card as a piece of identification (ID) and allows for vouching in the case of an elector with no ID documents.
- The requirement for premises to have "level access" is replaced by a requirement for them to be "accessible to electors with a disability".
- Creates an obligation on the CEO to "develop, obtain or adapt voting technology for use by electors with a disability."
- Permits any elector who is unable to read or who because of a disability is unable to vote in the manner described, to be assisted by an election officer, their spouse or common-law partner, a friend, a relative, or a relative of the elector's spouse/common-law partner at the polls or in the office of the returning officer (RO).
- Advance poll transfer certificates are introduced. T certificates are made more readily available to electors with a disability.
- Removes requirement that expat voters must have been residing outside Canada for less than five consecutive years, and that they must intend to return to Canada to resume residence.
- Implements the Supreme Court's 2002 Sauvé decision, which declared the provision preventing federal inmates from voting to be of no force and effect.
- Transforms the registration of and voting by Canadian Forces electors, by permitting those electors to choose when and how they vote.
- Restores the education and information mandate of the CEO.
Regulating Political Entities
- Creates a pre-election period, beginning June 30 of a fixed-election date year and ending on the day before the general election is called, with spending limits and reporting requirements for political parties and third parties.
- Creates a new third party regime applicable to the pre-election period, while maintaining a threshold of $500 in expenses before a third party is required to register.
- Extends the regulation of third parties during both the election and pre-election period beyond simply "advertising expenses" to include also "partisan activity expenses" and "election survey expenses".
- Introduces new spending limits for third parties, such that they may not incur over $700,000 in pre-writ expenses ($7,000 maximum per electoral district (ED)), or over $350,000 in election period expenses ($3,000 maximum per ED).
- Candidates are no longer required to deposit $1000; must provide proof of identity when filing their nomination paper.
- With respect to political financing,
- Defines a new category of "accessibility expenses" as costs used solely to make accessible to persons with a disability materials used or activities during an election period.
- Defines a new category of "personal expenses" to include childcare, expenses related to the provision of care for a person with a mental or physical incapacity and expenses related to the disability of a candidate/contestant.
- Removes "travel and living expenses" as a subcategory of personal expenses and sets it out as a new category of expenses with separate reporting obligations for candidates and leadership and nomination contestants.
- Upon registration, political parties are obligated to provide their policy for the protection of personal information.
Protecting Integrity and Enforcement
- With respect to ad transparency,
- Online platforms that meet a threshold of visits and uses by Internet users in Canada are required to maintain a registry of election and partisan ads.
- The registry must include a copy of the advertising message and the name of the person who authorized the ad.
- With respect to false statements,
- The offence provision regarding false statements about a candidate is amended to only apply to the election period. It also applies to false statements made about party leaders and public figures associated with a political party. The provision encompasses false statements relating to the commission of an offence, citizenship, place of birth, education, professional qualifications or membership in a group or association.
- The offence provision regarding impersonation prohibits the publication or transmission, during an election period, of material that is purported to be (but is not) made or transmitted under the authority of a political party, candidate or prospective candidate, or the Chief Electoral Officer or returning officer with an intent to mislead the public.
- With respect to cyber security,
- A new offence provision addresses the unauthorized use of a computer with the intention of affecting election results.
- Encompassed under this provision are: fraudulent interception of computer functions, interfering with a computer, fraudulently using computer systems to destroy or corrupt data, obstructing lawful use of computer data, and denying rightful access to computer data.
- With respect to foreign interference,
- Prohibits foreign third parties from incurring any partisan activity expenses, partisan or election advertising expenses, or election survey expenses.
- Prohibits third parties from using funds for the purpose of partisan activities, partisan or election advertising, or election surveys, if the source of the fund is a foreign entity.
- The offence provision regarding foreigners inducing electors is broadened to address foreign individuals and foreign entities (such as foreign governments, political parties, and corporations). Further, the concept of "inducing electors" is replaced by "unduly influence." The provision prohibits selling advertising for the purpose of unduly influencing electors.
- With respect to offences in general,
- In a number of provisions, the words "knowingly" or "willfully" are removed from the prohibitions and added instead to the corresponding offence provisions. This legal distinction prevents prosecutors from having to prove that an offender knew about or was wilfully blind to the elements of the offence for which knowledge is required.
- The position of the Commissioner of Canada Elections (CCE) is relocated within the Office of the CEO.
- Grants the CCE with the power to compel and the power to lay charges, as well as an expansion of his existing compliance agreement authority.
- Introduces an Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMPs) regime.
Bill C-50 An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing)
On June 21, 2018, Bill C-50 received Royal Assent and came into force on December 21, 2018. The Act made changes to the political financing regime, especially with regard to regulated fundraising events. Key changes include:
- Political parties are now required to publicly advertise and report on fundraising events attended by ministers, party leaders or leadership candidates where a contribution of more than $200 is required to attend.
- Definitions for "regulated fundraising event," "nomination campaign expense," "nomination contest expense," "leadership campaign expense," and "leadership contest expense."
- Fundraising events held in conjunction with a convention of a registered political party, including a leadership convention or a leadership contestant's debate, are regulated.
Bill 3 Election Amendment Act, 2017
On November 30, 2017, Bill 3 received Royal Assent, and came into force on the same day, with some exceptions. A number of amendments are made to the Election Act, among them:
- As of 2018, the annual limit is set at $1,200 for contributions to a political party, its candidates, its constituency associations, and its nomination contestants; to an independent candidate; or to third-party election advertisers.
- Contributions to a leadership contestant are limited to $1,200 in relation to the contest. The contribution limits do not include up to $350 in fees paid to attend a party convention or leadership contest. The limit and exempted amount are adjusted each year.
- Political contributions must only be from eligible individuals. This means that contributions from any corporation, organization or union are no longer permitted. An eligible individual is someone who is (or was) a resident of BC and a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
- Rules for fundraising functions were updated, including when a ticket price is a political contribution and reporting thereof. Information about specified fundraising functions is required to be disclosed both seven days before and within 60 days after the function occurs.
- Election expense limit for parties and candidates is reduced by about 25%, and election expense limits for parties is changed to $1.16 per registered voter.
- To qualify for annual allowance, parties must receive at least 2% of province-wide vote or at least 5% of total number of votes in districts where they ran candidates.
- Parties must receive at least 5% of province-wide vote and candidates must receive at least 10% of vote in their electoral district to qualify for election expense reimbursement of 50%. In a by-election, parties must receive at least 10%.
- Loans and guarantees can only be provided by savings institutions at a non-preferential interest rate.
- Third-party sponsors must obtain contributor confirmation of eligibility and consent to use funds to sponsor election advertising before using contributions, and open a separate bank account if they accept more than $10,000 in contributions.
- There are new rules for third-party advertisers during a 60-day, pre-campaign period in advance of a scheduled general election.
- New requirement for third party sponsors who conduct more than $10,000 in advertising to file initial and subsequent contribution disclosure reports within fourteen days of receiving contributions.
- New monetary penalties may be imposed by the chief electoral officer for contraventions of election financing and election advertising provisions. New penalties complement existing offences and are intended to ensure consequences for non-compliance even when a prosecution for an offence may not be appropriate.
Bill 5 Constitution Amendment Act, 2017
On November 2, 2017, Bill 5 received Royal Assent and came fully into force. A number of amendments were made to the Constitution Act and the Election Act, among them:
- The fixed election date is changed to the third Saturday in October, four years following the most recent general election.
- Changes advance voting opportunities to six consecutive days commencing eight days before election day (or nine days if election day falls on a Monday).
Bill 6 Electoral Reform Referendum 2018 Act
On November 30, 2017, Bill 6 received Royal Assent. Bill 6 enabled a referendum on electoral reform to be conducted with voting closing no later than November 30, 2018. The Electoral Reform Referendum 2018 Regulation issued on June 22, 2018 established the detailed provisions for administering the referendum.
Bill 53 Recall and Initiative Amendment Act, 2018
On November 8, 2018, Bill 53 received Royal Assent and came fully into force. The Act generally aligns advertising and financing rules for recall campaigns with the Election Act. The sections governing the requirements for initiative petitions remain unchanged. Under the new rules:
- Only one recall petition may be active for a given Member of the Legislative Assembly at one time.
- Recall petitions cannot be submitted within six months of the next fixed-date general election.
- Recall and sponsorship contributions must only be from eligible individuals. This means that contributions from organizations, corporations and unions are prohibited.
- For 2017 and 2018, eligible individuals may only contribute up to $1,200 per year for recall and sponsorship contributions. For following years, this limit is adjusted to account for the consumer price index. An eligible individual is someone who is a resident of B.C. and a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
- Recall advertising sponsors are limited to $5,000 of advertising during a recall petition period. Recall advertising includes canvassing voters by phone or in person on a commercial basis.
- Sponsors that conduct direct recall advertising outside of a recall petition period must register with Elections BC and file disclosure reports for non-petition periods advertising and sponsorship contributions received.
- Loans and guarantees for recall advertising or other expenses can only be provided by savings institutions at a non-preferential interest rate.
- Information about specified fundraising functions is required to be disclosed both seven days before and within fourteen days after the function occurs.
- Monetary penalties can be applied for non-compliance with financing and advertising provisions.
Bill 24 An Act to amend the Elections and Plebiscites Act
On November 1, 2018, Bill 24 received Royal Assent; it came into force on November 30, 2018. It:
- Changes the term of office of the Chief Electoral Officer.
- Gives the Chief Electoral Officer the ability to test procedures and equipment at a by-election.
- Allows the Chief Electoral Officer to engage specialized assistance on matters relating to their work.
- Allows for the removal from office of a returning officer who ceases to be a permanent resident of the Northwest Territories.
- Changes period during which persons must be ordinarily resident to qualify as an elector from 12 months to 6 months before polling day.
- Changes the election period to a minimum of 29 days and moves the polling day to the first Tuesday in October every four years.
- Adjusts the register of electors to refer to gender rather than sex, allows an elector to request a change to, or removal of, the designation for their gender on the register, and clarifies that a person is not obligated to disclose gender in order to be registered.
- Adds a provision that the Chief Electoral is to provide each returning officer for an electoral district with a copy of the list of electors at least seven days before polling day.
- Changes the deadline to 2 p.m. on Friday, the 25th day before polling day for candidates' nomination papers and deposits.
- Prescribes the period for mobile polls, between the 14th and 11th day before polling day
- Allows for an extension of 76 days maximum of the deadline for a candidate's financial report upon demonstration of certain justification.
- Introduces monetary penalties for late filing of a candidate's financial repo.
- Introduces a new third-party advertising regime, including:
- Registration requirements for third parties immediately after incurring, or in the anticipation of incurring, expenses of $500 or more for election advertising.
- Third party advertising expenses limits of:
- $57,000 across the electoral districts within the election advertising period, which commences three months before the issuing of the writ and ends on polling day.
- $3,000 per candidate to promote or oppose the election of one or more candidates in a given electoral district.
- $3,000 advertising expense limit for by-elections per electoral district.
- Reporting requirements for election advertising expenses, including disclosure of the amount spent, candidates for whom funds were spent and the amount for each, and details of contributions received. Reports are submitted to the Chief Electoral Officer and published on the Elections Northwest Territories' website.
- Persons ordinarily residing outside the Northwest Territories, or an employee of an organization that is not a Northwest Territories employee organization, may not make an advertising contribution to a registered third party.
Bill 32 An Act to Strengthen and Protect Democracy in Alberta
On December 15, 2017, Bill 32 received Royal Assent; it came into force on the January 1, 2018, with exceptions. A number of amendments are made to the Election Act and the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, among them:
- Third-party spending during the three months before a fixed election is called is limited to $150,000, not more than $3,000 of which targets a candidate in a particular constituency.
- Third-parties are prohibited from spending money on fundraising, selling memberships or collecting voter information that is in support of a candidate, nomination contestant, or political party.
- Government is prohibited from advertising or publishing information on funded programs and activities during elections, with exceptions.
- Mandatory door-to-door provincial enumerations.
- Various measures to increase voter participation.
- Access to Alberta Education data of 16- and 17-year-olds to include into the register of electors on an opt-in basis.
- Some penalties for non-compliance are increased.
- Creation of an Election Commissioner position.
Bill 16 Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Statutes Amendment Act, 2018
On June 11, 2018, Bill 16 received Royal Assent and came into force, with exceptions. The Act was amended with provisions:
- Defining and restricting the activities of associated registered parties.
- Introducing new or increased penalties for circumventing or exceeding election expense limits.
- Expanding quarterly reports to include campaign period contributions.
- Allowing parties to decide and record contributions received in a by-election campaign period as annual or campaign contributions.
Bill 166 The Election Amendment Act, 2018
On December 5, 2018, Bill 166 received Royal Assent and came into force. Its provisions include:
- Allowing the Chief Electoral Officer to modernize advance voting in accordance with his recommendations for legislative reform following the twenty-eighth general election.
- Granting the Chief Electoral Officer legislative authority to conduct pilot projects for alternate procedures, equipment or technology in both by-elections and during general elections.
- Adjusting the definition of "contribution" to no longer include loans "provided by a financial institution unless the loan is forgiven or written off" or financial guarantees that are "provided based on standard commercial terms".
Bill 133 The Legislative Assembly (Election Dates) Amendment Act, 2018
On May 15, 2019, Bill 133 received Royal Assent and came into force. It prescribes that the next Saskatchewan provincial election will take place on Monday, October 26, 2020, followed by fixed-date elections held on the last Monday of October in the fourth calendar year after the last general election (subject to a general election held earlier as a result of the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly).
Bill 27 The Elections Amendment Act
On November 10, 2017, Bill 27 received Royal Assent and came into force. A number of amendments are made to The Elections Act, among them:
- A new register of voters is established, known as the Manitoba Voter Register. The register will include 16 and 17 year olds.
- By February 15 of each year beginning in 2019, registered political parties will receive a voters list pulled from the register.
- Voters are required to present proof of identity and address when they vote. On election day, vouching is permitted.
- Absentee voters are permitted to cast a ballot for a registered political party or for a candidate, thus allowing absentee voters to vote before nominations close.
- Voting area size increases to 500 eligible voters in urban areas and 350 eligible voters in rural areas.
- Advance voting will occur Thursday to Thursday.
- On election day, certificate envelopes (not ballots) from non-resident advance voting can be opened at 6:00pm.
- Schools are required to have an in-service day on the day of a fixed date general election.
- The Chief Electoral Officer is permitted to make modifications to the usual voting process to improve the voting process for voters and to achieve administrative efficiencies. Modifications can be made only in consultation with the all-party advisory committee established under the Act and require prior approval of the Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs.
- Permanent residents and youth can be election officials.
Bill 8 The Referendum Act
On June 3, 2019, Bill 8 received Royal Assent; it comes into force on a day to be fixed by proclamation. It establishes a framework for conducting referendums in Manitoba:
- A referendum is required if significant changes are to be made to Manitoba's voting system or to the Constitution of Canada.
- The outcome of a referendum is advisory only unless another Act specifically provides otherwise.
- The rules for calling and conducting a referendum are set out, including rules for the referendum questions, directions to the Chief Electoral Officer, minimum and maximum referendum period, and participants, such as official committees who campaign for a particular outcome and political parties.
Bill 16 The Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act, 2019
On June 3, 2019, Bill 16 received Royal Assent, and the relevant sections came into force. Some amendments are made to The Election Financing Act:
- Rules surrounding the reimbursement of election expenses for candidates and political parties are adjusted, such that the percentage of votes required to receive reimbursement is lowered (to 5%)
- The maximum amount of reimbursement payable is also reduced from 50% to 25% of election expenses
- Restrictions similar to those found in The Election Financing Act apply to government advertising during a referendum.
- Limits on expenses and advertising are set out for political parties, candidates, constituency associations, and third parties are set out.
Bill 240 The Elections Amendment Act
On June 3, 2019, Bill 240 received Royal Assent and came into force. It amends The Elections Act to require candidates to file a statement disclosing any offence that they have pleaded guilty to or been found guilty of under:
The Criminal Code;
The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act; or
The Income Tax Act (Manitoba) or the Income Tax Act (Canada) or any other law related to financial dishonesty that the Lieutenant Governor in Council has, by regulation, designated for the purpose of this section.
- A prospective candidate is not required to disclose an offence under the Youth Criminal Justice Act or the Young Offenders Act, or an offence for which they were granted a pardon, as provided for in section 748 of the Criminal Code.
- The chief electoral officer must publish the disclosure statements on the Elections Manitoba website.
Bill 57 Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act
On December 6, 2018, Bill 57 received Royal Assent and came into force. The Act affects the Ontario Election Act and Election Finances Act:
- Rules regarding the Chief Electoral Officer are amended, including appointment by the Assembly, their powers and duties to administer the Election Act, their removal or suspension, and their salary and benefits
- Maximum contributions to registered parties, constituency associations, nomination contestants, candidates, or leadership contestants are limited to $1,600 per year (plus $25 for each year starting January 1, 2020)
- The Act adjusts calculations for the eventual phase out of the quarterly allowance for both registered parties and constituency associations on January 1, 2022
- A registered party's quarterly allowance in the 2021 calendar year is calculated by multiplying by $0.452 the number of valid votes cast for the party's candidates
- A registered constituency associations' quarterly allowance for each electoral district is calculated:
- By multiplying by $6,250 the indexation factor determined for a calendar year ending on or before December 31, 2020
- As two thirds of the amount determined for the calendar year 2020, if the calendar year is 2021
Bill 152 Representation Status Law Amendment Act
On October 25, 2017, Bill 152 received Royal Assent and came into force. The Act affects the Election Act, Election Finances Act, and Representation Act:
- Changes the Ontario electoral boundaries from 122 to 124 by establishing two additional northern electoral districts: Kiiwetinoong and Mushkegowuk-James Bay
- Establishes a new definition of nomination contest period
- Creates transitional rules for nomination contests that ended prior to the date the new provisions take effect and provides the rules that govern the dissolution of constituency associations
- Requires parties to promptly notify Elections Ontario of all persons appointed or nominated by the party to be a candidate
- Changes to the fundraising requirements include:
- A new prohibition that nomination contestants are added to the list of persons who are restricted from attending some events
- Persons who are restricted from attending some events where contributions are included in the price of admission are now permitted to attend party or association meetings (e.g. Annual General Meetings) even where there is a contribution embedded in the admission
- Persons who are subject to attendance restrictions at fundraising events may only attend cost recovery events if all advertising in connection with the event explicitly states that they are cost recovery events
- Increases the total campaign expenses for candidates in certain northern electoral districts from $0.80 to $1.28 (indexed annually), multiplied by the number of electors in the candidate's electoral district
Bill 177 Stronger, Fairer Ontario Act
On December 14, 2017, Bill 177 received Royal Assent and came into force. Amendments to the Election Finances Act include:
- Changes the monetary limits on the incurrence of nomination contest expenses in order to effect two changes:
- The period during which the limits apply is changed from the nomination contest period to the period beginning on the date of the official call of the nomination contest and ending when the candidate for the electoral district is selected.
- The limits on the incurrence of nomination contest expenses do not apply three months after the candidate for the electoral district is selected.
Bill 11 Transparency in Elections Commitments Act
On March 16, 2018, Bill 11 received Royal Assent; it came into force on May 16 of the same year. Major changes include:
- Requires parties to file public declarations with estimates of what their election commitments (both party and leader commitments) would cost taxpayers, or how much revenue they would bring in.
- Creates a system where the Supervisor of Political Financing will review declarations received from parties for compliance. Other parties may also file complaints alleging non-compliance.
- Elections New Brunswick will give a party 24 hours' notice of non-compliance. A party that fails to follow directions in notice will be subject to administrative penalties and will be banned from advertising during the rest of the elections campaign.
- Parties declared by a judge to have violated or failed to comply with the filing of disclosure statements will be disqualified for four years from receiving the annual political financing allowance.
Prince Edward Island
Bill 37 An Act to Amend the Election Expenses Act
On June 12, 2018, Bill 37 received Royal Assent and came into force. A number of amendments are made to the Election Expenses Act, among them:
- Definitions of "contribution," "potential candidate," and "ordinarily resident" are updated.
- Revises a provision respecting guidelines that may be issued by the CEO to refer to potential candidates.
- Permitted contributors are limited to individuals who are ordinarily resident in the province.
- Anonymous contributions are prohibited.
- Contributions by anyone not permitted to contribute are prohibited.
- Any contribution to an association/organization of a political party is a contribution to the political party.
- Transfers of money, other property and services among political parties and their associations and candidates who are affiliated with the same party must be properly recorded and reported as election expenses if required by the Act, but are not considered to be contributions.
- A limit of $3,000 is established for the amount of contributions that may be made in a calendar year by an individual to each registered party and to each independent candidate.
- An adjustment is authorized for the limit on the amount of contributions, annually, after the next general election, and for the publication of the amount of the limit.
- Advertising under $100 is no longer exempt from the section of the Act that provides that advertising on behalf of a registered party/candidate is a contribution. A reference to Internet advertising is also included.
- The amount of reimbursement funding for election expenses is increased from 75 cents per elector to one dollar per elector.
- The minimum reimbursement payment is increased from $1,500 to $2,000 and the maximum reimbursement payment from $3,000 to $4,000.
Newfoundland & Labrador
Bill 14 An Act to Amend the Elections Act, 1991
This Act received Royal Assent on October 20, 2017 and came into force on the same day. In response to a court decision rendering the previous process unconstitutional, the amendment modifies the special ballot voting process to:
- Prohibit special ballot voting before parties confirm candidates
- Limit the nomination period to eight days after an election is called
- Mandate that election campaigns be a minimum of 28 days and a maximum of 35 days