Election Finances

All candidates are responsible for acting in accordance with the financial provisions set out in the Municipal Elections Act, 1996. Candidates should become familiar with these provisions.

When can I accept contributions and spend funds?

The campaign period defines when a candidate can accept contributions or expend dollars in support of the campaign. The Campaign Period begins on the day when the candidate files a nomination for office, and ends on December 31, 2014. Contributions cannot be made to or accepted by a candidate nor an expense incurred outside of his or her campaign period, and candidates cannot accept campaign contributions before they are nominated. At the end of the campaign period, all candidates are required to file a financial statement with the municipal clerk and should ensure that an accounting system that meets the requirements of the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 is used.

What are the limits that apply to campaign contributions?

The limit on contributions donated in money, goods or services from any individual, corporation or trade union is $750 to any one candidate, regardless of the number of offices the candidate was nominated for during the election period. The limitation applies whether the contribution consists of one large donation or is the total of a number of smaller contributions of money, goods or services from the same contributor or from related companies. The maximum total amount a contributor may contribute to candidates in the same jurisdiction is $5,000. Each municipal council and each school board is a separate jurisdiction. Only a contribution that is $25 or less can be made in cash. Contributions greater than $25 (including tickets to a fundraising event) must be made by cheque, money order or other method that clearly shows where the funds came from

Can I contribute to my own campaign?

A candidate may contribute to his or her own campaign regardless of whether the candidate normally resides in Ontario. There is no limit on contributions from a candidate or his or her spouse to the candidate’s campaign, but they are considered to be a contribution and must be reported as such and a receipt must be issued. Contributions to a candidate’s (or spouse’s) own campaign do not count toward the $5,000 limit.

If a campaign ends in a surplus, a candidate may withdraw from the campaign surplus the value of the candidate’s (and spouse’s) contribution(s).

Financial reports must be filed by March 27, 2015.

What rules apply to fundraising events?

Fundraising functions are events or activities held by or on behalf of a candidate for the primary purpose of raising money for the candidate’s campaign. Such activities include dinners, dances, barbeques, etc., for which there is an admission charge, as well as auctions, button sales, etc., for which there may not be an admission charge. A campaign event at which incidental fundraising takes place does not qualify as a fundraising function.

Fundraising functions can only be held for a candidate and only during that candidate’s campaign period. The gross income (both admission revenue and other revenue) and expenses from each function must be recorded and reported on the candidate’s financial disclosure form. The price of admission to a fundraising function is a campaign contribution and a receipt must be issued for the full amount.

What are the limits that apply to campaign spending?

There are limits on the amount a candidate may spend on expenses during the candidate’s campaign period. Campaign expense limits are based on a formula that corresponds to the number of electors in the jurisdiction or ward in which the candidate is seeking office. There are different expense limits for heads of municipal council and for members of municipal councils and school boards.

The clerk must provide each candidate with an estimated spending limit upon filing of nomination papers. The estimate will be calculated based on the number of electors in the previous election. Within ten days after the close of nominations, the clerk must provide each candidate with a final spending limit. The final campaign spending limit will be calculated based on the number of electors on the voters’ list for the current election. If the final limit is lower than the estimate, the higher amount becomes the candidate’s official spending limit.

Formula to calculate the candidate’s limit:

Member of municipal council or school board: $5,000 plus $0.85 per eligible elector.

Penalties

An individual who is convicted of an offence under the Municipal Elections Act, 1996, including contravention of the contribution rules, may be subject to the following penalties:

  • a fine of up to $25,000
  • ineligibility to vote or run in the next general election
  • up to six months in prison
  • forfeiture of the elected office, if the offence was committed knowingly, and ineligibility to run until after the next regular election has taken place.

Candidates who are convicted of exceeding the spending limit, may also be fined the amount by which they exceeded the limit.