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Apr 13, 2018

Important Changes to the Municipal Elections Act, 1996

By Jody E. Johnson

All across Ontario, municipal elections are just over six months away. On April 1, the most recent amendments that will impact the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 came into force.

There are a lot of changes to the rules for this election, but below are some of the most important ones to note.

Important Dates

Nominations open May 1, 2018 and are open until July 27, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. Twenty-five signatures are required with nominations (signatures are not required for those running in municipalities with less than 4,000 electors or for those running for school board trustee). Election Day is October 22, 2018.

Contribution Rules

This is one of the most important changes to note! Only individuals who are normally resident in Ontario can contribute to a candidate, as can the candidate and the candidate’s spouse. Absolutely no corporate or union donations can be made to a candidate.

Registered Third Party and Advertising

There is a new provision for a “Registered Third Party” which can register to advertise in support or opposition to a candidate or a question that will be on the ballot. An individual normally resident in Ontario, a corporation that normally carries on business in Ontario and a trade union that holds bargaining rights for employees in Ontario can make such registration. And only those persons/entities and the spouse of an individual third party registrant can contribute to a registered third party. Cottagers' associations and taxpayers' associations CANNOT register to be registered third parties, but their individual members can (if they are normally resident in Ontario).

There are also strict rules about the advertising and broadcasting that can take place through registered third parties. These registered third parties will have to file financial statements and are subject to requests for compliance audits, just like candidates. Municipal clerks will also have to review financial statements (once they are filed after the election) to determine if individual contributors (to candidates and registered third parties) appear to have violated the contribution rules. Municipal clerks will also have to submit reports of those apparent violations to the compliance audit committee and the committee will decide whether or not to commence legal proceedings against the candidate.

Role of Compliance Audit Committees

There are significant changes as well to the role of compliance audit committees and how they will do their work (i.e. they will be able to deliberate in private and they will have to give brief written reasons for their decisions). Many municipalities are currently in the process of recruiting members for the committees for the next term.

Make Sure You Are Compliant!

If you would like clarification on any of the new rules surrounding municipal elections, please don’t hesitate to contact Aird & Berlis LLP. 

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