What you need to know before you contribute or attend fundraisers during the Ontario municipal elections
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.
This is one of several election law primers intended to convey some important considerations with regard to contributions and fundraisers 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.
Donating in the upcoming municipal elections
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.
Who can contribute?
Contributions to municipal election candidates may only be made by:
- individuals normally resident in Ontario;
- the candidate and their spouse, even if not normally resident in Ontario, but in such circumstances contributions may only be made to the candidate’s election campaign; or,
- a deceased person’s estate, where the deceased person’s will directs that a contribution be made to a named candidate.
This means that corporations, trade unions, registered charities, federal and provincial political parties, and any source outside Ontario (except for a candidate and their spouse) are not permitted to make contributions to candidates.
Unlike in the federal and provincial contexts, contributions can only be made to and accepted by a person acting as a candidate or an individual acting under that person’s direction. Eligible contributors may make monetary or non-monetary contributions, as long as the contribution is of their own funds and within the contribution limits.
How much can you contribute?
Cash contributions, as well as anonymous contributions at fundraising events, are limited to $25; all contributions greater than that limit must be given in a manner that identifies the contributor. This means that if you contribute over $25 to a candidate, your name and address will be recorded in the candidate’s financial statement, which is public. If an anonymous contribution above $25 is made and the contributor cannot be identified, those funds cannot be used, and must be turned over to the municipal clerk.
Eligible individuals can contribute a maximum of $1,200 to any one candidate during the candidate’s election campaign period. An exception is made for contributions to the candidate for the Mayor of Toronto, to whom individuals can contribute up to $2,500. Where an eligible individual wishes to contribute to two or more candidates, they may do so to a maximum of $5,000 in total.
Individuals cannot provide loans to candidates in the form of monetary or non-monetary contributions. Any unpaid but guaranteed balance in respect of a loan will count as a campaign contribution.
What are the contribution rebates?
The Municipal Elections Act provides that municipalities in Ontario may create their own rebate by-laws for individuals who make contributions to candidates for municipal council. These rebate programs help address the fact that contributions to municipal election campaigns are not eligible for federal or provincial political contribution tax credits.
For example, the City of Toronto’s rebate regime is detailed in Chapter 53-3, “Elections”, and at the City of Ottawa, By-law No. 2022-76 (the “Contribution Rebate Program By-law”) details the extant rebate regime.
What about donated goods and services?
Eligible individuals are also allowed to make non-monetary contributions, such as providing property or services without charge or for less than their commercial value. For contributors in the business of supplying particular goods and services, the value of the donated goods and services is based on the lowest amount charged by the donor to the general public at or about the same time. For contributors not in the business of supplying particular goods and services, the value is based on the lowest amount a business providing similar goods or services charges the general public at or about the same time.
The value of donated goods or services will generally count towards an individual’s annual contribution limit, subject to some excepts, including goods or services are produced by voluntary labour.
What if I attend a fundraising event?
You and your employees may consider getting involved in the upcoming elections by attending candidates’ fundraising events. If you do, the cost of your attendance may count towards your overall contribution limits under the Municipal Elections Act.
Contributions include but are not limited to: (i) the amount charged for admission, (ii) any difference between the amount paid and the market value of goods or sold at the event above market value, and (iii) direct monetary contributions over $25 made during the event. Monetary donations or donations of goods or services valued at $25 or less will not be counted as contributions.
The bottom line
Participating in an election campaign is a crucial form of civic engagement. 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.
 Ontario, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, 2022 Candidates’ Guide – Ontario municipal council and school board elections (2022), online: https://www.ontario.ca/document/2022-candidates-guide-ontario-municipal-council-and-school-board-elections/campaign.
Discover more by reading our other articles on the Ontario Municipal Elections 2022: