In the News May 31
Ontario Election 2022
“Third Party” Regulations in Ontario
Elections Ontario describes “third parties” as “any person or entity that is not a registered political party, registered candidate or registered constituency association, and that engages in political advertising. Third parties include corporations, partnerships, unincorporated businesses and associations, and many other groups.”
It defines “political advertising” as “advertising or communications in any broadcast, print, electronic, or other medium with the purpose of promoting or opposing any registered political party or its leader or the election of a registered candidate. [It] includes advertisements in newspapers, journals, and magazines; promotion on TV and radio; and advertisements placed on lawn signs, billboards, bus shelters, and the Internet (including websites, blogs, and social networking sites), etc.” Support or opposition is included whether it is deemed to be “expressly or impliedly.”
Political advertising also includes “election-related advertising that takes a position on an issue of public policy that is closely associated [with them] in relation to an upcoming election (sometimes called ‘issue advertising’).”
The provisions regarding “issue advertising” are vague and rife with subjective definitions which facilitate the targeting and harassment of individuals and organizations by the cartel of parties, both against organizations they accuse of being proxy organizations for parties and any organization that they view as harmful to their vote-securing efforts. There are also provisions against organizations colluding to circumvent the spending limits which are equally vague and enable the launching of inquisitions where the coordination of activities related to common concerns by two organizations can be criminalized as “collusion.”
In terms of spending limits, Ontario’s regulations are among the most restrictive in the country. During the 12-month period before polling day (June 2, 2022) any “third party” that spends more than $500 on political advertising must register with Elections Ontario. There is a spending limit of $600,000 during this period and no more than $24,000 can be spent in any electoral district. During the election campaign period (from the issue of the writ until polling day) the spending limit is $109,100 province-wide and $4,364 in any riding.
To put this in perspective, the average size of an electoral district in Ontario is 125,000 electors and in a typical riding such as Etobicoke-Lakeshore there are roughly 65,000 households, so the $24,000 limit would not even cover the cost of doing a mass mailing to all of them, since the limit per household would be 37 cents. Conducting a cross-riding campaign during the official election campaign with a limit of $4,364 would be all but impossible.
The spending limits include not only the cost of producing materials, such as lawn signs or flyers; they also include any work by paid staff to conduct research and write material, as well as any funds spent in relation to its distribution to the public.
Ontario Political Forum, posted May 31, 2022.