Political Financing, Spending, and Advertising Safeguards
The federal electoral process has many safeguards, including measures that promote transparency and a level playing field.
Regulating actors in the electoral process
Canada's federal election law, the Canada Elections Act (CEA), regulates many actors in the electoral process, including:
- Registered political parties: organizations that participate in the electoral process by endorsing one or more of their members as candidates
- Electoral district associations: associations of members of a political party in a given electoral district (riding)
- Candidates: the people running for election in a given electoral district; some candidates are endorsed by a political party, while others run as independents
- Third parties: groups or individuals who buy advertising and/or carry out partisan activities to support or oppose a party or candidate or an issue associated with a party or candidate
- Third parties must register if they spend or plan to spend over $500 on partisan activities and advertising in the pre-election and/or election period
Limiting who can make political contributions and how much they can contribute
The CEA has rules on who is allowed to make donations.
For political parties, electoral district associations and candidates:
- Only Canadian citizens or permanent residents are permitted to make donations. Donors must respect contribution limits.
- Companies, unions and organizations cannot make donations.
For third parties:
- Only Canadian citizens, permanent residents and businesses, or other organizations that operate in Canada are permitted to make donations.
Regulating activities and spending in the pre-election period
In the pre-election period:
- The CEA has rules for:
- partisan advertising by political parties, electoral district associations and third parties;
- partisan activities and election surveys by third parties.
- All paid ads by political parties, electoral district associations and third parties must carry a tagline stating who authorized the ads.
- Online platforms which display political ads must create an online ad registry.
- Political parties and third parties must respect pre-election period spending limits.
Regulating activities and spending in the election period
During the election period:
- The CEA has rules for election advertising, including issue advertising, by political parties, candidates, electoral district associations, and third parties.
- All paid ads by political parties, candidates, electoral district associations and third parties must carry a tagline stating who authorized the ads. The blackout period—the ban on transmitting election advertising on election day—must also be respected.
- The costs to produce and place ads are election expenses, which mean spending on them is limited by the overall election expense limit of the party and candidate, electoral district association or third party placing the ads.
- Overall election expense limits are set using a formula described in the CEA.
Reporting on donations and spending
- Political parties, candidates, electoral district associations and third parties must file reports (also called “political financing returns”) on the donations they receive, money they spend, and other aspects of their administration.
- Elections Canada reviews these reports to check for potential errors and compliance with the CEA.
- Elections Canada publishes political financing returns on its website.