Update on Amendments to the Municipal Elections Act, 1996

There have been a number of changes made to the conduct of municipal elections. The following highlights some of the changes that will have the biggest impact on the upcoming 2018 Municipal Election to be held on Monday, October 22, 2018.

Nomination Period
The Nomination Period has been reduced from 37 weeks to 13 weeks. A Nomination paper may be submitted commencing Tuesday, May 1, 2018 (as opposed to January 2) during normal business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), and continue up to Nomination Day, July 27, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. On Nomination Day, nominations may only be filed between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Candidates must be present in the Clerk’s Office by 2:00 p.m. in order to register as soon as possible after 2:00 p.m.

Withdrawals of nominations must be made in writing, before 2:00 p.m. on Nomination Day.

Clarity has also been provided in the MEA that municipal candidates may run in any ward regardless of where they reside.

The Nomination Fee at the date of this Report is $200 for the Head of Council (Mayors and Regional Chair) and $100 for all other offices, payable in cash, by certified cheque, money order payable to the municipality, or debit. Certification of Nomination papers occurs following Nomination Day (July 27, 2018) and before 4:00 p.m. on Monday, July 30th, 2018, following which, the official list of candidates for each office will be made available. Any acclamations will also be available after 4:00 p.m.

New Nomination Requirement – 25 Endorsements
The MEA now requires that nominations for Council (not School Board) must be endorsed by at least 25 persons. Certain rules apply to a person endorsing a candidate:
• A person must be eligible to vote as of the date of the endorsement (signature) on the Nomination paper and must sign a Declaration that they are eligible to vote;
• A person may endorse more than one nomination;
• The endorsement will be in a prescribed form (the Nomination/Endorsement form has not yet been prescribed by the Province);
• Should a candidate file for a different office on the same Council (which withdraws the previous nomination), further endorsements are not required.

Direct Election of Regional Chair
For the first time since the establishment of The Regional Municipality of Niagara in 1970, the Regional Chair will be directly elected by the electors in Niagara. Bill 70 amended the Municipal Act, 2001 to provide that for the regular election in 2018, the head of council of a regional municipality, other than the County of Oxford, shall be elected by general vote.

While municipal Clerks will continue to conduct the election in their respective municipalities, the Regional Clerk will assume specific duties and responsibilities relative to the election of the Regional Chair, including:
• Being the point of contact for all inquiries related to the election of the Regional Chair;
• Providing materials and information to Regional Chair candidates;
• Receiving and certifying Nomination papers;
• Providing a list of registered Regional Chair candidates to the area municipalities
• Calculating campaign expense limits
• Receiving and reviewing financial statements;
• Tabulating, declaring and reporting vote results;
• Providing Compliance Audit Committee duties in the event complaint(s) are received.

Third Party Advertising
Contributions to candidates by corporations and trade unions have been banned in the changes to the MEA. Instead, the MEA provides a framework for the new “third party advertising”, which comes into effect on April 1st, 2018, with the acceptance of registrations starting on May 1st, 2018, and the last day to register being October 19, 2018.

Report No. COS-03-2017 provided a comprehensive overview of Third Party Advertising/ Advertisers/ Advertisement (TPA). The following is a brief refresher of the highlights as well as some information which was not available in the Regulations at the time of the report:
• A third party advertisement is an advertisement in any medium that has the purpose of promoting or supporting or opposing a candidate(s) or a “yes” or “no” to a question on the ballot;
• Contributions cannot be made or accepted unless the TPA is registered with the municipality, and they must register with each municipality where they are advertising (this includes TPA’s supporting candidates for Regional Chair);
• A TPA may be an individual, corporation or trade union, and cannot be a candidate;
• TPA does not include an advertisement by and under the direction of a candidate;
• TPA does not include where no expenses are incurred by the person/entity in relation to the advertisement (eg. facebook or twitter posts)
• TPA does not include when given or transmitted by an individual to employees, by a corporation to its shareholders, directors, members or employees or by a trade union to its members or employees;
• Maximum contribution from a single contributor is $1,200;
• Maximum contribution to two or more is $5,000;
• Contribution limits do not apply if made by themselves, and if an individual, by his/her spouse;
• Expenses are subject to an expense limit (to be calculated);
• Advertisement must contain the name of the registered third party, the municipality where registered, telephone number, mailing address or email address;
• Most campaign financing rules that apply to candidates will also apply to TPAs.

The Niagara Area Clerks Elections Task Force will be reviewing the new TPA requirements in more depth in the new year, and staff will be attending further educational workshops on the new legislation. A further report may be provided to Council for information purposes on this subject. It is anticipated that TPA’s will be provided with a package of materials when registering with the Clerk, much the same as candidates receive an information package when filing their Nomination paper.

In addition, a third party advertising guide should be available from the Ministry in April 2018, which will be made available to all TPA registrants.

Campaigning
Campaign provisions in the MEA have been clarified to allow candidates to access apartment buildings, condominiums, non-profit housing co-ops or gated communities from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. in order to campaign. Landlords and condominium corporations will not be allowed to prohibit tenants or owners from displaying campaign signs in their windows. As are third party advertisers, candidates are required to identify themselves on campaign advertisements and signs, so that it is clear who is responsible for each sign and advertisement that appears or is broadcast.

Term of Office
The MEA has been amended to change the 4 year term of office from commencing on December 1st in the regular election year and ending on November 30th in the 4th year, to November 15th in the year of the regular election, which means the term ends on November 14th in the 4th year. The term of office shall begin on December 1, 2018, and end on November 14, 2022

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