Third Party Advertising

The Municipal Elections Act now includes a framework for third party advertising. The framework will come into effect on April 1, 2018, so that the rules will be in place for the 2018 municipal election.

What is a third party advertisement?

A third party advertisement is a message in any medium (billboard, newspaper, radio, etc.) that supports or opposes a candidate or a “yes” or “no” vote on a question on the ballot. Third party advertising does not include issues-based advertising so groups that do public outreach can continue their issues-based advocacy work throughout the municipal election period.

Advertising that does not cost money to post or broadcast, such as comments made on social media, will not be considered third party advertising.

Who can register as a third party advertiser?

Individuals, corporations and unions can register as third party advertisers and can contribute to third party advertisers. Third party advertisers will need to register with the municipality where they want to advertise. If they want to advertise in more than one municipality, they have to register in each municipality.

Registration allows a third party advertiser to promote or oppose any candidate that the electors in the municipality can vote for (local council, school board trustee positions and regional or county council offices). 

Third party advertising must be done independently of candidates, who are not able to direct a third party advertiser. Candidates are not able to register as third party advertisers. 

How do campaign finance rules apply to third party advertisers?

Most campaign finance rules that apply to candidates will also apply to third party advertisers. Third party advertisers will have spending limits and there will be contribution limits for those wishing to contribute to a third party advertiser. Corporations and unions will be permitted to contribute to third party advertisers, but will not be permitted to contribute to candidates.

Rules for determining whether two corporations should be considered as a single corporation are simplified, so that it should be easier for corporations and candidates to determine whether the contributions from two corporations should count towards the same contribution limit to third party advertisers.