Municipal candidates are supposed to take down their signs after an election. Why not their YouTube videos?
Candidates for the upcoming election are not supposed to start advertising until May 1. But in Mayor Jim Watson’s case and no doubt in others, many old YouTube videos from the last municipal election continue to be played on the Internet and been on repeat throughout this term of council.
That gives Watson and others a step up in the name-recognition game over their little-known opponents.
So your agent went to the Association of Municipalities Ontario last week to discover the rules on running old municipal election advertising.
A spokesman for AMO said his association didn’t know and your agent would need a lawyer to discover the correct answer.
It’s difficult to imagine that AMO didn’t know if continuing to run advertising after an election is illegal. That’s a pretty basic question.
AMO sent your errand boy off to the provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs to get the correct answer.
The ministry would not allow this reporter to conduct an interview but would send an answer by email. A spokesman said it would answer some followup questions which I plan to do this week.
The question was the above: Is it illegal to continue to run election ads after the last municipal vote and to run them now before the advertising deadline of May 1 is upon us?
Here is the ministry’s answer by email:
Generally speaking, the Municipal Elections Act addresses the financial aspects of campaigning and does not regulate campaign speech or how members of the public comment on issues of relevance in their communities. Candidates cannot accept contributions or incur campaign expenses before they have filed their nomination.
Enforcement of these provisions is done through the courts. A person may wish to take steps to commence a prosecution with respect to an alleged contravention of an election campaign finance provision. A prosecution relating to the 2018 election must be commenced by November 15, 2022.
An individual who has been found guilty by the courts to have contravened the Municipal Elections Act may be subject to the following penalties for their offence:
- a fine of up to $25,000
- for certain offences, the ineligibility to run until after the next one or two regular general elections
- for certain offences, forfeiture of their elected office, if any
- and for certain offences or for other offences committed knowingly, up to 6 months in prison
Municipalities are responsible for enforcement of the Municipal Elections Act. Anyone with concerns about potential campaign activities prior to a candidate filing nomination papers should contact the clerk of their municipality. The nomination period commences on May 1.
Every municipality must establish a compliance audit committee to review elector applications regarding candidates’ compliance with the campaign finance rules. Within certain timelines after the election is complete, any eligible elector can apply for a compliance audit of a candidate’s election campaign finances.
Prior to the compliance audit application period, if an individual believes that a candidate has incurred expenses outside of the campaign period, they may wish to consider commencing legal action through the courts.
Individuals with questions about the compliance audit process or local policies may wish to contact their municipality. The ministry cannot provide legal advice or speak to specific situations. Those with questions concerning whether a candidate’s actions are in contravention of the Act may wish to contact a lawyer.
The ministry publishes guides for candidates and voters to provide information about the municipal and school board elections. The guides outline rules as described in the Municipal Elections Act and other legislation and regulations.
This year, for the first time, we are publishing a guide for third party advertisers with information about who can register to be a third party advertiser and what registration allows them to do.
The three guides for candidates, voters and third party advertisers, respectively, will be available online (http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page219.aspx) in early April. The Ministry’s Regional Municipal Services Office are available to provide in-person candidate training as requested by municipalities or groups of municipalities.
If you have any further questions, please send us an email.
Media Relations / Spokesperson
Ministry of Municipal Affairs
Surely there were costs associated with putting together videos from the last election and they did come outside the current election period. Furthermore, aren’t candidates required to take down their signs after an election?
Of course the snag in all this is that an individual must to pursue this in the courts. One would hope the city clerk’s office should be enforcing election regulations, but it doesn’t. That’s something the ministry should examine before 2022.
If nothing else, running old election videos on YouTube before the expense deadline of May 1 is unfair.
Voters can decide just how unfair this is.
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