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CASUAL LEGAL: Third Party Advertising in Municipal Elections

October 5, 2021

Third Party Advertising in Municipal Elections

By Michael E. Swanberg

Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP

AMSC Casual Legal Service Provider

 

Part 8 of the Local Authorities Election Act regulates “election advertising” during municipal elections, which is defined as “the transmission to the public by any means during an election advertising period of an advertising message that promotes or opposes the election of a candidate.”

The Act then sets out a number of exceptions to this broad definition, which include:

  • Editorials, debates, speeches, interviews, columns, letters, commentary or news;
  • The distribution of a book, or promotion of the sale of a book, for no less than its commercial value, if the book was planned to be made available to the public regardless of whether there was to be an election;
  • Transmission of documents or communications directly by a corporation or group to its own members, employees or shareholders;
  • The transmission by any individual, corporation or group on a non-commercial basis on the Internet, their political views;
  • Making of telephone calls to encourage people to vote;
  • Advertising by the municipality in any form, or
  • the transmission to the public in a local jurisdiction that is not a local jurisdiction for which the advertising message was intended and in which there is no candidate and no vote on a question or bylaw to which the transmission relates.

If a person or entity intends to engage in third-party advertising as defined in the legislation, they must register as a third-party advertiser with the local jurisdiction once they have incurred or plan to incur more than $1,000 in election advertising expenses. Third parties are subject to a number of rules, including (but not limited to):

  • Advertisements must clearly state the advertiser’s name and contact information;
  • Cannot accept contributions from any single person or entity exceeding $30,000;
  • Cannot accept contributions from individuals resident outside Alberta, prohibited corporations, trade unions that are not an Alberta trade union, or registered charities;
  • Must account for all advertising expenses and donations, and submit paperwork documenting these expenses and donations to the local authority after the election.

Anyone wishing to engage in third-party election advertising should review the legislation in advance, as there are many other conditions third-party advertisers must abide by in municipal elections (and stiff penalties for non-compliance).


To access AMSC’s Casual Legal Helpline, AUMA members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or email casuallegal@amsc.ca and reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please contact riskcontrol@auma.ca, or call 310-AUMA (2862) to speak to AUMA’s Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of the AUMA can access the Casual Legal Service.

DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.