Third-party advertising refers to advertisements or other materials that support, promote or oppose a candidate, or support, promote or oppose a "yes" or "no" answer to a question on the ballot. The meaning of "third-party" in this context means a person or entity who is not a candidate.
Third-party advertising is separate from any candidate's campaign and must be done independently from a candidate. Any advertisements or materials that are made and distributed by a candidate, or under a candidate's direction, are part of the candidate's campaign. It's a way for residents outside of the candidate's campaign to express support of or opposition to candidates (or a "yes" or "no" answer to a question on the ballot) and to try to persuade voters to vote a certain way.
A third-party advertisement is an advertisement in any broadcast, print, electronic or other medium that promotes, supports or opposes a candidate, or a "yes" or "no" answer to a question on the ballot. These advertisements include traditional ads as well as materials such as brochures or signs.
What is not considered third-party advertising?
Activities that do not involve spending money, such as discussions or expressing an opinion about a candidate are
not considered to be third-party advertising. Examples include:
- speaking to friends and neighbours
- posting on social media, such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram
- sending an email to a group or mailing list
Internal communications from an employer to their employees, a corporation to its shareholders, directors, members or employees or by a trade union to its members or employees are
not considered third-party advertising.
The Municipal Elections Act, 1996 sets a restricted period for third-party advertising. This restricted period runs from May 1 in the year of the election to the close of voting on voting day. For the 2022 election, the restricted period is May 1, 2022, to the close of voting on October 24, 2022.
Who can be a third-party advertiser?
Only those who have registered can spend money on third-party advertising. The following are eligible to register as a third-party advertisers:
- any person who is a resident in Ontario
- a corporation carrying on business in Ontario
- a trade union that holds bargaining rights for employees in Ontario
If two or more corporations are owned or controlled by the same person or people, or if one corporation controls another, they are considered to be a single corporation. If the same person or people own or control multiple corporations, only one of those corporations may register to be a third-party advertiser in a municipality.
There is no restriction against family members or campaign staff of candidates registering to be third-party advertisers. However, third-party advertising must be done independently of the candidate. If a person with close ties to a candidate wants to register, they should consider how these activities may look to the public and how they would be able to demonstrate that they were not working in coordination with the candidate.
Who can't be a third-party advertiser?
A candidate running for any municipal council or school board office can't register to be a third-party advertiser in any municipality.
Groups, associations or businesses that are not corporations are not eligible to register and may not spend money on third-party advertising in a municipal election. For example, neighbourhood associations, clubs or professional associations can't register and can't make contributions to third-party advertisers. Members may register as individual third-party advertisers and may contribute individually.
Candidates in the provincial election can't register. They may register after the provincial election when they are no longer candidates.
Federal and provincial political parties can't register to be third-party advertisers. Political parties are not permitted to be financially involved in municipal elections.
An individual, corporation or trade union must register with the municipal clerk to be a third-party advertiser in a municipality. Third-party advertisers can register in any lower-tier or single-tier municipality (city, town, township, etc.). Third-party advertisers can't register in an upper-tier municipality (a region or county).
Being registered in a municipality allows the third-party advertiser to advertise to the voters in that municipality. A third-party advertiser can support or oppose any candidate or candidates who will be voted on by the people in that municipality. This includes candidates running for local council, school trustee and candidates running for offices on an upper tier council.
Third party advertisers do not need to decide before they register which candidate or candidates they want to support or oppose, and they do not have to tell the clerk what their intentions are.
A third-party advertiser can only advertise to voters in the municipality where they are registered. There is no limit on the number of municipalities where a third-party advertiser can register. If a third-party advertiser wants to advertise to voters in more than one municipality they must register in each municipality where they want to advertise.
For example, if a third-party advertiser wanted to advertise for or against a candidate running for an office that is voted on by people in more than one municipality, such as a school trustee or regional chair, they would need to register in each municipality.
Deadline to Register
An individual, corporation or trade union can register to be a third-party advertiser beginning on May 1, 2022 and can file a registration until the close of business on Friday, October 21, 2022.
Where to Register
An individual or a representative of a corporation or trade union must file a Notice of Registration (Form 7) with the municipal clerk in person by appointment by contacting email@example.com. It must have an original signature – the form may not be a copy and may not be scanned and submitted electronically. There is no registration fee.
The municipal clerk must be satisfied that that the individual, corporation or trade union is eligible in order to certify the registration and may require that identification or additional documents be provided.
A person who is filing as the representative of a corporation or a trade union should make sure that they can provide proof that they are authorized to act on the corporation or trade union's behalf.
The clerk must certify your registration in order for you to begin your campaign as a registered third-party advertiser.
Withdraw Your Registration
If you want to end your advertising campaign before voting day, you can withdraw your registration by notifying the clerk in writing. The deadline to withdraw your registration is:
- the Friday before voting day for a regular election
- the last day the clerk's office is open prior to voting day for a by-election
Become a Candidate
If you are a registered third-party advertiser and decide to become a candidate instead, your third-party advertising campaign automatically ends when the clerk receives your nomination to become a candidate.
You must keep your advertising campaign separate from your candidate campaign. This means:
- you cannot transfer any contributions or expenses from your advertising campaign to your candidate's campaign
- you must file a financial statement for your advertising campaign
- you must file a separate financial statement for your candidate campaign.
For more information on Third-Party Advertisers, see the 2022 Third-Party Advertisers' Guide.