Compendium of Election Administration in Canada: A Comparative Overview
G. Election Financing and Advertising
All jurisdictions provide indirect public funding through a tax credit for political contributions to a candidate or a political party. The maximum tax credit varies by province, though the most common limit is $500. Most jurisdictions also provide direct public funding, usually by reimbursing part of the election expenses of political parties or candidates, or both. Nine jurisdictions reimburse part of a candidate's election expenses (all but Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut). Five of them also reimburse part of the election expenses of political parties (Canada, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan). In all cases, the reimbursement is issued on the condition that the political party or candidate has obtained a certain percentage of the popular vote.
Another form of direct public funding is the allowance for a political party. Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Manitoba pay such allowances. One variable in calculating the allowance is the number of valid votes received by the party's candidates in the last general election. In Canada, there has been no direct public funding to political parties since April 2014. In Quebec and Manitoba, the allowance is determined by the Chief Electoral Officer or the Commissioner, who decides on the amounts to be paid to registered parties while considering factors such as number of votes, expenses incurred, and so forth.
Finally, in some jurisdictions there are provisions for ensuring that a political party can broadcast its political message. In New Brunswick and Quebec, network operators may make free time available to political parties on an equitable basis. In Nunavut, community or educational broadcasting services must make equal broadcasting time available to all candidates. Federally, every broadcaster must make 6.5 hours during prime time available to political parties for purchase. Free time must also be made available, and shared among political parties based on their allocation of paid time. All broadcasting time is allocated by the Broadcasting Arbitrator (appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada) according to a formula in the Canada Elections Act.
All jurisdictions restrict in some way the contributions that political entities may receive. Generally, a contribution may be monetary or non-monetary, although volunteer labour is not usually included. Nine jurisdictions limit the amount of money that may be contributed to political entities. This is the case in Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Anonymous contributions are allowed in eight jurisdictions Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Those contributions are allowed up to a specified amount ranging from $20 to $250. For any contributions over those amounts, the identity of the contributor must be disclosed or the contributions remitted to the Chief Electoral Officer or Supervisor of Political Financing.
Seven jurisdictions Canada, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut prohibit foreign contributions or contributions from outside the jurisdiction. Canada, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Alberta also prohibit contributions from a corporation or a trade union, so only contributions from an elector (Quebec) or an individual (Canada, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Alberta) are allowed. In Quebec, since 2011, contributions are made directly to the Chief Electoral Officer, who remits them to the entity concerned after verifying that the contribution is in compliance with the law.
The definition of election expenses varies from one jurisdiction to another; however, they typically include all costs incurred to promote or oppose the election of a candidate or a political party. In most jurisdictions, both direct and indirect expenses are covered, but in Canada, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, only direct expenses are covered. Usually, the personal expenses of a candidate, such as for food and lodging, are not included in the definition of election expenses if they are reasonably incurred, except in Yukon. To ensure a level playing field among participants, most jurisdictions limit the election expenses that may be incurred by a political party or a candidate. Alberta and Yukon are the only two jurisdictions that do not impose limits on the amount political parties or candidates may spend during an election campaign. Limits are usually established according to a formula based on the number of electors for a party, in the electoral districts where it endorses candidates, and for a candidate, in the electoral district where he or she is running. Some jurisdictions, however, have fixed amounts (British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut).
Jurisdictions that register third parties (Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia) also establish a limit on election advertising expenses incurred by them (with the exception of Alberta and Ontario). The limit is a fixed amount specified in the legislation and is not linked to the number of electors in the electoral district.
Canada is the only jurisdiction to regulate nomination campaign expenses. Nomination contestants are allowed 20% of the amount allowed for candidates' election expenses in that electoral district, during the immediately preceding general election, if the boundaries for that electoral district have not changed. In any other case, maximum nomination campaign expenses are as determined by the Chief Electoral Officer. In New Brunswick, expenses of leadership and nomination campaigns are not limited; however, contributions and other forms of financial support to the campaigns are restricted.
To ensure transparency and compliance in election financing, all jurisdictions require candidates and political parties to report to the Chief Electoral Officer all contributions received and expenses incurred. Candidates must submit an election expenses report, but political parties in most jurisdictions are required to submit both an expenses return for any election campaign and an annual report on their finances. Local associations, leadership contestants, nomination contestants and third parties, where required to register, must also submit a financial report. In Canada, nomination contestants (through their financial agents) must submit a nomination campaign return reporting contributions accepted (if they total $1,000 or more) and expenses incurred (if they total $1,000 or more), within four months after the selection date. In New Brunswick, the official representative of a nomination contestant must submit a financial return with 30 days of the nomination convention. The contents of the reports, as well as the deadlines for submitting them, vary from one jurisdiction to another. In most cases, an auditor's report confirming the accuracy of the candidate's or political party's report must also be submitted. Almost all jurisdictions require the name and address of each donor who contributed more than a specified amount. Some jurisdictions also require all receipts and vouchers to be submitted with the financial report.
Advertising and surveys
To ensure fair competition, all jurisdictions regulate election advertising. In all jurisdictions, election advertising must identify the person or party on whose behalf the advertisement was produced. This is also true of leadership and nomination contestant advertising in New Brunswick. It is true of third party advertising in Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Nunavut. In Alberta, election advertising includes advertising via electronic media such as telephone, fax, Internet, e-mail and text messaging. In Nunavut, election advertising includes advertising via social media, including Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
Several jurisdictions also impose a blackout on election advertising broadcasts either on polling day (Canada, Quebec and British Columbia) or on polling day and the previous day (Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Ontario). An additional blackout period is imposed at the beginning of the election period in Ontario, from the day the writ is issued until the 22nd day before polling day, unless it is a fixed date election, and in Quebec, for the seven days following the issuance of the writ. In Manitoba, there is a ban on government advertising for 90 days prior to a fixed-date election, while in Saskatchewan it is for the 27-day period before polling day.
Five jurisdictions Canada, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia regulate the transmission to the public of the results of an election survey or opinion poll. In Canada, Nova Scotia and Alberta, anyone who transmits the results of an election survey to the public within 24 hours of the first transmission is required to provide the name of the sponsor, the name of the organization that conducted the survey and statistical information related to the population sample and the margin of error. Canada, Nova Scotia and Alberta also require survey sponsors to produce a report on the survey upon request. In Canada, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, an individual or organization must not publish, broadcast or transmit to the public, in an electoral district on general voting day before the close of all of the voting stations in the electoral district, the results of an election opinion survey that have not previously been made available to the public.
Table G.1 Public funding and reimbursement
|Jurisdiction||Reimbursement of election expenses to political party||Reimbursement of election expenses to candidate||Reimbursement of auditor fees||Allowances to political parties||Tax credit for political contributions||Reimbursement of candidate's deposit|
|Canada||Receives 50% of expenses incurred, if obtains 2% of valid votes overall or 5% of valid votes in electoral districts where it ran a candidate||
||Yes, to candidate who files required financial documents, including candidate who withdraws before close of nominations|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||||If obtains 15% of popular vote, receives 1/3 of actual expenses, to a maximum of 1/3 of expenses limit||
||Yes, to candidate who files required financial documents, when writ is withdrawn, or candidate is acclaimed|
|Prince Edward Island||||If obtains 15% of popular vote, receives the lesser of total election expenses reported, or $0.75 per elector on official list; minimum payment of $1,500, maximum payment of $3,000||||
||Yes, to candidate who files the required financial documents within the legislated time frame, or candidate who dies before close of the polls|
|Nova Scotia||||If obtains 10% of valid votes, receives amount of election expenses not exceeding $1.43 per elector on final list||If candidate's actual election expenses are greater than $150, reimbursement of audit expenses are actual audit cost to a maximum $459.50, or 2% of candidate's actual election expenses to a maximum $766.50||$1.53 for each vote received by candidates representing a political party in the most recent general election, to be paid in two equal instalments in April and October, adjusted for inflation at the beginning of each year||
||Yes, if candidate declares in prescribed manner that he or she has destroyed all lists of elector information and complies with expenses provisions, including meeting filing deadline, or when by-election is superseded by general election or candidate diesFootnote 2|
|New Brunswick||||If obtains 15% of valid votes overall, receives lesser of actual expenses incurred or $0.35 per elector on the preliminary list of electors for the electoral district + cost of mailing 1 oz. first-class letter to each elector||Political parties: $2,000||For each fiscal year, an annual allowance will be paid in quarterly instalments to each party in Legislature or a party that ran at least 10 candidates in last general election
Calculation: (A-B) x (C/D)
A = amount of appropriation authorized
B = amount to be paid for audit fee reimbursements to all parties during fiscal year
C = total number of valid votes cast for all candidates of that political party in preceding general election
D = total number of votes cast for all official candidates of all qualifying political parties in preceding general election
||Yes, to candidate once candidate's official agent submits statement of election expenses to the Supervisor of Political Financing|
|Quebec||If obtains 1% of valid votes, receives 50% of incurred expenses, to a maximum of $0.71 (indexed) per elector for all electoral divisions in which it ran candidates||If obtains 15% of valid votes, receives 50% of incurred expenses, to a maximum of $1.23 (indexed) per elector in electoral division||
||No deposit required|
|Ontario||Receives $0.05 per elector in any electoral district where it received 15% of popular vote||If obtains 15% of popular vote, receives lesser of 20% of incurred expenses or 20% of expenses limit||
||||75% of the first $399 of total contributions; 50% of the amount between $399 and $1,330; and 33 1/3% of the amount between $1,330 and $3,026||No deposit required|
|Manitoba||If obtains 10% of valid votes, receives a maximum of 50% of its expenses that are within the expenses limit minus the over-expenditure||
||Determined by an allowance commissioner||
||No deposit required|
|Saskatchewan||If obtains 15% of valid votes, receives 50% of incurred expenses||If obtains 15% of valid votes, receives 60% of incurred expenses||
||Yes, to candidate after final count by returning officer, candidate where election is found void, and candidate whose nomination is refused by returning officer. An expense return and auditor's report must be filed|
||Yes, one half of deposit to elected candidate, candidate who receives at least half the number of votes received by elected candidate, and candidate who withdraws within 48 hours of filing his or her nomination paper; and one half of deposit to candidate who files required financial statement|
||Yes, to candidate who receives at least 15% of total votes counted, and when candidate's electoral district is disestablished before election|
|Northwest Territories||No political parties||||||||
||Yes, to candidate who files required financial documents before deadline, and when writ is withdrawn|
|Nunavut||No political parties||||||||
||Yes, to candidate who files required financial documents, when writ is withdrawn, or when candidate dies before close of polls|
Return to source of Footnote 1 Allowance has not been paid to political parties since 1993.
Return to source of Footnote 2 Comes into force on proclamation or on January 1, 2016, if not proclaimed in force before that day. Until that time, reimbursements are issued in the following cases: to elected candidates and candidates who receive at least 10% of valid votes if they comply with expenses provisions; when a by-election is superseded by a general election; or when the candidate dies.
Table G.2 Contributions limits; allowable sources
|Jurisdiction||Limit on contributions||Contributors outside jurisdiction||Individuals||Corporations||Trade unions||Anonymous contributors||Testamentary contributions|
||No||Yes||No||No||Yes (up to $20)||One time contribution of $1,500|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes (up to $100)|||
|Prince Edward Island||||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|||
|Nova Scotia||$5,000 total per year from an individual to each registered party and all electoral district associations and candidates of that party, as well as to independent candidates and registered third parties||No, unless resident outside of province temporarily||Yes||No||No||No||Up to $5,000 per year. Principle cannot be used as collateral for a loan|
|New Brunswick||$6,000 per year from an individual, corporation or trade union to each registered political party or its district associations and to one independent candidate||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|||
||No||Yes (only electors)||No||No||No|||
|Ontario||From a person, corporation or trade union:
||No (must normally reside or conduct business in Ontario)||Yes||Yes (except registered charities)||Yes||No|||
|Manitoba||$3,000 total in a calendar year from an individual to candidates, constituency associations or registered political parties or any combination of them; and $3,000 total in leadership contest period to one or more contestants||No (must normally reside in Manitoba)||Yes||No||No||Yes (up to $10)|||
|Saskatchewan||||Yes (must be from a Canadian citizen)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes (up to $250)|||
|Alberta||From individuals ordinarily resident in Alberta:
In a year
|No (must normally reside in Alberta)||Yes||No||No||Yes (up to $50)|||
||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes at fundraising functions only (up to $50)|||
|Yukon||A candidate or registered political party shall not accept a contribution of more than $50 from an unincorporated group unless it is accompanied by a statement disclosing the necessary information||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|||
||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes (up to $100)|||
|Nunavut||From an individual, corporation, association or organization to a candidate during a campaign: $2,500Footnote 1||No||Yes||Yes||Yes (unincorporated organizations or associations if statement is included)||Yes (up to $100)|||
Return to source of Footnote 1 Political parties are not recognized in the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.
Table G.3 Limits on expensesFootnote 1
|Jurisdiction||Political parties election expenses||Candidates election expenses||Third parties advertising expenses|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||
|Prince Edward Island||
||1.3% of election expenses limit of registered parties; only 10% of this amount may be spent on election advertising that relates to a single electoral district.|
||Up to $300 per authorized private intervenor|
||Electoral divisions with
||Up to $5,000 during an election period|
|Alberta||||||Election advertising contributions made by any person, corporation, trade union, employee organization registered as a third party cannot exceed, in aggregate:
||Per sponsor, no more than $3,000 in relation to a single electoral district and $150,000 overall|
|Northwest Territories||No political parties||$30,000 cumulative limit for the pre-election and campaign periods|||
|Nunavut||No political parties||$30,000 plus travel and living expenses, childcare expenses, and expenses approved in advance by the Chief Electoral Officer and related to a disability suffered by the candidate|||
Return to source of Footnote 1 All jurisdictions except Alberta, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut adjust spending limits according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
Return to source of Footnote 2 Election expenses include advertising.
Return to source of Footnote 3 1 square mile = 2.59 km2.
Table G.4 Deadline for reporting contributions and expenses
|Jurisdiction||Candidates||Political parties annual fiscal return||Political parties election expenses return||Local associations||Other|
|CanadaFootnote 1||4 months after polling day||6 months after end of fiscal year||8 months after polling day||5 months after end of fiscal period||
|Newfoundland and Labrador||4 months after polling day||On or before April 1||4 months after polling day|||||
|Prince Edward Island||120 days after return of writ||On or before May 31||120 days after return of writ|||||
|Nova Scotia||80 days after return of writ||120 days after end of fiscal year||120 days after return of writ||Annual; on or before March 31||Third parties: 4 months after election day|
|New Brunswick||60 days after return of writ||Semi-annual; on or before October 1 and April 1||120 days after return of writ||Annual; on or before April 1||
|Quebec||90 days after polling day||On or before April 30||120 days after polling day||Annual; on or before April 1||
|Ontario||6 months after polling day||On or before May 31||6 months after polling day||
|Manitoba||4 months after election day||On or before March 31||4 months after election day||On or before January 31||
|Saskatchewan||3 months after polling day||4 months after end of fiscal year||6 months after polling day|||||
|Alberta||4 months after polling day (unless annual revenue and expenses do not each exceed $1,000)||On or before March 31 (unless annual revenue and expenses do not each exceed $1,000)||6 months after polling day||Annual; on or before March 31||
|British Columbia||90 days after polling day||On or before March 31||90 days after polling day||
|Yukon||90 days after return of writ||On or before March 31||90 days after return of writ||||Official agent of a candidate: shall issue to each of the candidates contributors a receipt no later than the last day of the campaign period|
|Northwest Territories||60 days after polling day||No political parties||No political parties|||||
|Nunavut||60 days after polling day||No political parties||No political parties|||||
Return to source of Footnote 1 A registered party that received at least 2% of valid votes or at least 5% of valid votes in electoral districts where it endorsed candidates in the last general election must provide the Chief Electoral Officer with a return within 30 days after the end of each quarter of the fiscal period.
Table G.5 Entities required to report
|Jurisdiction||Candidates||Political parties||Local associations||Third parties||Leadership contestants||Nomination contestants|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||Yes||Yes|||||||||
|Prince Edward Island||Yes||Yes|||||||||
|Northwest Territories||Yes||Footnote 1|||||||||
Return to source of Footnote 1 Political parties are not recognized in the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.
Table G.6 Requirements of financial reports
|Jurisdiction||Auditor's report||Personal expenses (candidates only)||Donations by class||Amount of contribution that requires detailed disclosure||Name and address of donor||Receipts and vouchers|
|Canada||Candidates, political parties, leadership contestants (if required), nomination contestants (if required), registered association (if required)Footnote 1, third parties (if incurred $5,000 in expenses)||Yes||Third parties||Over $200||All||Candidates, nomination contestants and leadership contestants include receipts and vouchers with auditor's report; third parties (if requested by CEO)|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||All||Yes||||Over $100||All|||
|Prince Edward Island||All||||||Over $250||Annual returns of political parties||All|
|Nova Scotia||Candidates, political parties, electoral district associations (if incurred $10,000 in expenses)Footnote 2||||||$200 or more||All||Candidates, political parties|
||||Leadership contestants, nomination contestants and third parties||Over $100||All||All|
|Quebec||Political parties (only for the annual financial report)||||||All contributions||All||All|
|Ontario||Candidates, political parties, constituency associations, leadership contestants, third parties||||||Over $100||All||Tax receipt information from candidates, parties and constituency associations|
|Manitoba||Candidates, political parties, leadership contestants, constituency associations||Yes||||$250 or more||Candidate must submit statement listing each contributor's name and total amount he or she contributed||Leadership contestants|
|Saskatchewan||All||Yes||All||Over $250||Name only for all reports||All|
|Alberta||Political parties, third partiesFootnote 3||||||Over $250||All||Third parties: if requested by CEO (over $50)|
|British Columbia||Candidates, political parties, constituency associationsFootnote 4||Yes||All||Over $250||All||Candidates, political parties, registered constituency associations|
|YukonFootnote 5||||||||Over $250||All||All|
|Northwest Territories||||||||Over $100||Candidates||Candidates|
|Nunavut||Candidates (independent auditor working for Elections Nunavut)||||||Over $100||Candidates||Candidates|
Return to source of Footnote 1 An auditor's report is required from nomination contestants whose expenses or contributions exceed $10,000; and from leadership contestants and registered electoral district associations that accept contributions or incur expenses of $5,000 or more in a fiscal period.
Return to source of Footnote 2 Comes into force on proclamation or on January 1, 2016, if not proclaimed in force before that day. Until that time, a report is necessary if $5,000 in expenses is incurred.
Return to source of Footnote 3 Third parties in Alberta are required to provide an audited financial statement within 6 months after polling day if their election expenses are over $100,000.
Return to source of Footnote 4 Only if the value of contributions, election expenses or contestant expenses is $10,000 or more.
Return to source of Footnote 5 Donations made at a meeting or rally held for political purposes are deemed not to be anonymous contributions but shall be reported in either or both of the annual revenue return under section 383 of the Elections Act and the election revenue return under section 386 of the Elections Act.
Table G.7 Specific provisions governing advertising and opinion polls
|Jurisdiction||Limit on advertising spending||Blackout period||Government advertising||Authorization||Restrictions on
|Canada||Third party: (adjusted) $3,000 per electoral district, to a maximum of $150,000 nationally per election period||Polling day until close of all polls in electoral district||No transmission through government means||Any advertising must indicate that it was authorized by candidate's official agent or registered agent of political party||
|Newfoundland and Labrador||||Polling day and day before polling day||||Authorizing person, union, corporation, candidate or political party, as well as sponsor of the advertising, must be identified in writing to publisher|||
|Prince Edward Island||||||||Authorizing person, union, corporation or political party, as well as sponsor of the advertising, must be identified in writing to publisher or broadcaster, and all election advertising must make reference to this information|||
|Nova ScotiaFootnote 1||Third party: $2,000 to promote or oppose a candidate in a given electoral district, to a maximum of $10,000 provincially in an election period||||Every advertisement must indicate that it was authorized by the official agent of the candidate or registered party||
|New Brunswick||Outside election period:
||Polling day and day before polling day||||Every printed advertisement must bear the name and address of the printer and the name of the political party, leadership contestant, nomination contestant or candidate on whose behalf it was ordered. Where not ordered by a chief or official agent, it must also bear the name of the person who ordered its publication. Third parties must identify themselves and provide the name, telephone number and address of the person responsible for the books and records|||
|Quebec||Authorized private intervenor: $300||The 7 days following election order; polling day||||All election advertising must mention name and title of the official agent or deputy who has it disseminated, along with name of printer or manufacturer, if applicable|||
|Ontario||||From issue of writ until 22nd day before polling day, polling day and day before polling day; does not apply:
||||||On election day, no person, corporation, trade union, third party, constituency association or political party is authorized to publish, broadcast or transmit to the public the results of an election survey that has not previously been released to the public before all the polls close in an electoral district|
|Manitoba||Political party: (adjusted)
||||No government department or Crown agency may publish or advertise any information about its programs or activities in the last 90 days before polling day, and on polling day, in the case of a fixed date election, or during the election period for any other general election or by-election. This does not apply to government advertising that is required by law, or that relates to public safety or ongoing programs||No advertising may be printed, published or distributed without written authorization of official agent or chief financial officer of political party, candidate or constituency association, which must be displayed with advertisement|||
|Saskatchewan||Political party: (adjusted) $195,407 per year for a registered political party, including its associations, candidates, and members of Legislative Assembly who are members of registered political party and using funds provided by registered political party||||
||No person may distribute advertising that does not indicate that it was authorized by candidate's or party's business manager or official agent to be produced, published or distributed|||
|Alberta||Third party: Election advertising contributions made by any person, corporation, trade union, employee organization registered as a third party cannot exceed, in aggregate:
|British Columbia||Third party: $3,000 per electoral district, to a maximum of $150,000 provincially, per election period||Polling day, until the close of all of the voting stations in the electoral district||||All election advertising must identify name of sponsor or financial agent, indicate that it was authorized by that person, and give telephone number or mailing address of that person||An individual or organization must not publish, broadcast or transmit to the public, in an electoral district on general voting day before the close of all of the voting stations in the electoral district, the results of an election opinion survey that have not previously been made available to the public|
|Yukon||||||||All advertising must bear the name and address of person who sponsored it. No person may post or display in, or on the exterior surface of, a polling place any campaign literature or other material that could be taken as an indication of support for or opposition to a political party or the election of a candidate|||
|Northwest Territories||||||||Any advertisement must bear the name and telephone number of sponsor or official agent|||
|Nunavut||||||||All campaign material must identify the candidate and the campaign manager, sponsor or financial agent in accordance with Chief Electoral Officer's guidelines|||
Return to source of Footnote 1 The prohibition expands on campaign advertising to include advertising within 60 metres of the entrance to a polling station.
Return to source of Footnote 2 Advertising is included in expenses limits for political parties and candidates. Excludes expenses for a leadership contest.