Canada: Be Careful What You Advertise: New Canada Elections Act Requirements

Canadian businesses, organizations and individuals who engage in advertising need to be aware of the recently enacted Elections Modernization Act, which amends the Canada Elections Act (Act).

What you need to know

  • The amendments came into force on June 13 and are intended to enhance the transparency of third-party participation in the electoral process.
  • The amendments include increased regulation of activities such as partisan and election advertising, partisan activities and election surveys conducted during the pre-election or election period.
  • Third parties that incur $500 or more in expenses associated with regulated activities must register with the Chief Electoral Office.
  • Expenses incurred conducting regulated activities must be capped at $700,000 during the pre-election period and at $350,000 during the election period.
  • Failure to comply with the Act may result in significant fines and jail.

Who is affected and what activities are regulated?

A third party is defined broadly to include any person or group that is not a candidate, a potential candidate, a registered party, or an electoral district association of a registered party1. A third party will be required to register with Elections Canada if it incurs expenses of $500 or more for conducting regulated activities.

Regulated activities include partisan and election advertising, election surveys (which are conducted to assist in the transmission of election or partisan advertising) and partisan activities such as calling electors and organizing rallies. The implications resulting from partisan and election advertising depend on the stage in the electoral process during which the advertising takes place.

Partisan advertising

Partisan advertising, which takes place during the pre-election period, means the public transmission of an advertised message that promotes or opposes a party, a candidate or potential candidate and includes naming them, showing their likeness, identifying them or providing a link to an internet page. The Act defines the pre-election period as beginning on June 30 and ending, at the earliest, on September 2 (the beginning of the election period).2

Election advertising

Election advertising is very similar to partisan advertising with two notable differences. First, election advertising takes place during the election period which starts when the Governor in Council issues a proclamation that a general election be held3. Second, election advertising in addition to including the public transmission of an advertised message that promotes or opposes a party, a candidate or a potential candidate also includes, a message that takes position on an issue with which a party or candidate is associated. Any issue mentioned by the party or candidate in a platform, debate, or social media campaign could be viewed as being as associated with a party or candidate.

The concept of "issue advertising" has been much contested over the years, as many have complained that its definition is overly broad. The Supreme Court of Canada in Harper v Canada (Attorney General) held that the scope of what constitutes issue advertising, while broad, is not unconstitutionally vague4. As such, advertising messages transmitted during the election period may engage the advertising rules even if the issue being addressed seems apolitical.

Third parties that therefore wish to advertise during an election period will need to consider whether their advertising could be perceived as taking a position on an issue that is associated with a party or a candidate. However, the Act does provide certain exceptions such as sharing one's views via vehicles such as editorials, speeches, interviews, or transmitting documents directly to employees or shareholders.5

Obligations in conducting regulated activities

The first obligation on a third party who engages in a regulated activity (whether in the pre-election or election period) and reaches the expense threshold of $500 is to register with Elections Canada.

Once registered, the third party becomes subject to several requirements—the most important being a cap on expenses incurred for regulated activities. Expenses caught under this cap include the market value of goods, labour or services.

The maximum for pre-election period expenses is capped at $700,000,6 whereas the maximum for election period expenses is capped at $350,000.7 The Act provides for this amount to be adjusted for inflation.8 Registered third parties are also subject to other obligations such as mandatory name placement;9 the appointment of an auditor should expenses exceed $10,000;10 and the filing of third-party expenses returns.11

Consequences of breaching the Act

There are many offences under the Act relating to election advertising and, depending on the offence, may result in fines and or imprisonment. Of particular concern for compliance purposes are the offenses related to "collusion." The Act provides that a third party who collaborates (or, as referred to in the Act, "colludes") with another third party to circumvent the regulated activities expense limit may be liable for fines of up to $100,000 and/or to imprisonment for up to five years.

For this reason, any third party who collaborates or discusses election advertising with another party while conducting its own advertising campaign should be particularly sensitive to the legislative requirements.


With a fast-approaching federal election, organizations should review their advertising campaigns and strategies to ensure full compliance with the Act's requirements.


1 See section 349.

2 Pre-election period is a defined term under section 2(1).

3 For the 2019 federal election, this may occur as early as September 2.

4 [2004] 1 S.C.R. 827 at para 90.

5 See section 2 of the Act for the full list of the exceptions.

6 See section 349.1 of the Act.

7 See section 350 of the Act.

8 This year's maximum amounts adjusted for inflation are as follows: the maximum limit for the pre-election period is $1,023,400 and the maximum amount for the election period is $511,700.

9 This is specific to any partisan advertising message during the pre-election period (s 349.5), and to any election advertising message during the election period (section 352).

10 This is specific to activities during the pre-election period (section 349.8).

11 For the pre-election period, see generally 349.91(1). For the election period, see s 357.01(1).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions