Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Governor General, Julie Payette, the morning of Wednesday, September 11th, 2019 to have the writs issued for the federal election, thus beginning the election period. This came in the window between the deadline on Sunday, September 14 and Manitoba’s early Election Day on September 10th. Now that the writs have been issued, it is useful to reconsider what this means for not-for-profits who engage in advocacy.
As we have previously discussed in this newsletter, certain activities conducted by as charities and non-profit organizations may be regulated under the Canada Elections Act during this 41 day period. Unlike during the pre-election period, non-partisan activities can be caught by the Canada Elections Act (“CEA”) under the heading “election advertising”. The sphere of non-partisan behaviour that qualifies as “election advertising” is known colloquially as “issue advertising”. Issue advertising means:
the transmission to the public by any means during an election period of an advertising message that promotes or opposes a registered party or the election of a candidate … by taking a position on an issue with which a registered party or candidate is associated.
If your organization engages in issue advertising, here are a few things to keep in mind during the 41 day election period:
- The requirement to register as a third-party kicks in immediately after incurring an aggregate of $500 in certain expenses, including election advertising expenses. CEA, ss.353(1)
- The total expense limit for a registered third-party in this election period is $511,700. The expense limit by electoral district is $4,386.
- Third parties with a governing body (e.g. a trade union, corporation or other entity), must pass a resolution of its governing body authorizing it to incur election advertising expenses. A copy will need to be included in the organization’s application for registration. CEA, ss.354(5)
- Third parties will also appoint an eligible financial agent who may be a person who is authorized to sign an application for registration. CEA, ss.354(1). This financial agent plays an ongoing role. He or she accepts contributions towards elections advertising and authorizes every election advertising expense. CEA, ss.357(1)
- A third party that incurs election advertising expenses in an aggregate amount of $5,000 or more must appoint an auditor without delay. CEA, ss.355(1)
- Polling day is October 21st, 2019. Make sure your marketing and communications people know that that the Canada Elections Act prohibits election advertising, including issue advertising, “in an electoral district on polling day before the close of all of the polling stations in the electoral district”. CEA, ss.323 (1)
Author: Lex Klombies
Lex Klombies is an associate at Drache Aptowitzer LLP. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 The “election period” is typically the period beginning with the issue of the writ and ending on polling day, which will be October 21, 2019.
 From the definition of “election advertising” in the Canada Elections Act.