What you need to know before you advertise as a third party during the municipal elections in Ontario
Ontario’s municipal elections will be taking place on Monday, October 24, 2022. If you choose to take part, either as an individual or an organization, there may be rules and restrictions that apply to you under the Municipal Elections Act.
These elections will correspond with a shift in how power is distributed amongst municipal electees and executives brought into force by the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act, 2022 (the “Strong Mayors Act”). The Strong Mayors Act, which received Royal Assent on September 8, 2022 and is scheduled to take effect on November 15, 2022, being the start of the new municipal council term, transfers a wide range of powers from the councils to the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa. These significant changes give corporations and individuals with interests at the municipal level greater incentives to follow and possibly participate in the electoral process. Learn more about this new legislation, here.
This is one of several election law primers intended to convey some important considerations with regard to third party advertising in the upcoming municipal elections. It is intended as general guidance only. If you have any specific questions or concerns, please contact Awanish Sinha or Amanda D. Iarusso of our firm’s Public Sector group, or Daniel Angelucci of our firm’s Municipal Planning group. We would be pleased to assist you.
Corporations, individuals, and trade unions, any of which may become a “registered third party” under the Municipal Elections Act, may want to show their support for certain political candidates by producing campaign-related advertising. They may also want to provide their views on certain municipal policies or legislative initiatives.
Under the Municipal Elections Act, third parties must register with the municipal clerk in order to advertise in an election. No individual, corporation, or trade union is allowed to incur any expenses for a third party advertisement unless they have registered as a third party. The restricted period, during which only registered third parties may incur expenses for third party advertisement, began on May 1, 2022.
In broad terms, there are two distinct features of a third party’s activities that determine whether those activities require registration as a third party: (1) the time period in which that activity takes place; and, (2) the nature of the activity.
Who can become a “third party”?
A third party include “an individual, corporation or trade union that is registered under section 88.6” of the Municipal Elections Act. Third parties must have a connection to Ontario in order to be eligible to register, which include: individuals normally resident in Ontario, corporations that carry on business in Ontario, and trade unions that hold bargaining rights for employees in Ontario. Candidates, federal and provincial political parties, and the federal and provincial Crowns are precluded from registering as third parties.
How do you register as a third party?
In order to register, third parties must complete an application in the process municipality in which they wish to advertise.
For example, in the City of Toronto, third parties have been able register since May 2, 2022, and the deadline to register is October 21, 2022. The period for registration is the same in Ottawa. In both cities, an appointment with the relevant City Clerk is required to register. All registrants must provide a completed Notice of Registration form, and must provide acceptable photo identification, the requirements for which vary based on whether an individual is registering in their own right, and agent is registering on an individual’s behalf, or a representative is registering for a corporation or trade union.
In Toronto, those registering on behalf of corporations or trade unions must provide a board resolution from the corporation or trade union authorizing them to act on behalf of the corporation or trade union. In Ottawa, those registering on behalf of corporations or trade unions must file a completed declaration of qualification signed by a representative of the corporation or trade union. Neither city charges a fee to register as a third party advertiser.
A third party will be registered and allowed to engage in third party advertising from the date on which the relevant City Clerk certifies their Notice of Registration.
What advertisements are captured?
The Municipal Elections Act defines “third party advertisements” as, “an advertisement in any broadcast, print, electronic or other medium that has the purpose of promoting, supporting or opposing, (a) a candidate, or (b) a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to a question” posed to electors.
A range of activities will not fall within this definition including, among other things, discussions or expressions of opinions about a candidate, internal communications in a corporation, and advertisements pertaining to an issue rather than a candidate.
All advertisements during the restricted period must include:
- the name of the registered third party;
- the municipality where the registered third party is registered; and,
- a telephone number, mailing address or email address at which the registered third party may be contacted regarding the advertisement.
Can I donate to third parties?
Even if you are not organizing events or producing advertising, you may still choose to engage in the election by making contributions to third parties to support their regulated activities. Unlike political contributions, individuals, businesses, and other organizations are permitted to make contributions to third parties, and are not subject to any monetary or non-monetary limit on the amount of their contribution.
If you are contributing over $100 to a registered third party, keep in mind that your name and address will be recorded in the registered third party’s financial statement, which is public.
The bottom line
Participating in an election campaign is a crucial form of civic engagement, made more important by the Strong Mayors Act. Still, individuals, private entities, and those who work for them, should be cognizant of the potential limits on their own involvement.
If you or others in your organization will engage in the political process in upcoming municipal elections in Ontario, take the time to ensure that your internal policies and procedures comply with the rules outlined above.
Have questions about working with municipal governments and government agencies? The experts at McCarthy Tétrault LLP can help. Contact Awanish Sinha or Amanda D. Iarusso of our firm’s Public Sector group, or Daniel Angelucci of our firm’s Municipal Planning group if you have any questions or for assistance.
 Municipal Affairs and Housing, News Release, “Ontario Empowering Mayors to Build Housing Faster” (10 August 2022), online: https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/1002235/ontario-empowering-mayors-to-build-housing-faster.
 City of Toronto, Become a Registered Third Party Advertiser, online: https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/elections/candidates-third-party-advertisers/third-party-advertising/become-a-third-party-advertiser/.
 City of Ottawa, Information for third party advertisers, online: https://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/elections/2022-municipal-elections/information-third-party-advertisers#section-91a84056-b230-4339-9a1e-cceb7ed242a9.
Discover more by reading our other articles on the Ontario Municipal Elections 2022: