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Understanding political financing

What you need to know about political financing

Summary

Political financing is governed by many rules that ensure fairness, integrity and transparency.

Provincial

In this section

Contributions are for electors only

Only electors may make a financial contribution to a political party. Legal persons, such as companies, associations, and trade unions, may not contribute to the financing of political parties or authorized independent candidates. They may not donate money or render a service or provide a good free of charge, nor may they reimburse, or attempt to reimburse, a person who makes a contribution.

Maximum: $100

Electors may contribute a maximum yearly amount of $100 to each of the political parties or to authorized independent candidates. Electors may contribute up to $100 more on two occasions:

  • In a by-election, from the time the office becomes vacant until 30 days after the election.
  • During the year in which a general election is held.

Making a political contribution

Government contribution

The government pays $2.50 to political entities for every dollar they collect in contributions from electors. This type of public financing is called matching sums. This income cannot exceed the amount stated below.

Maximum amount for matching sums per year
Year of a general election Other years
Political party $500,000 $250,000
Member of the National Assembly or independent candidate $2,000 $2,000

This income is used to cover expenses related to:

  • Daily administrative costs (e.g., renting spaces)
  • Promoting a political platform (e.g., putting up a website)
  • Coordinating political actions by members or supporters (e.g., organizing an AGM)
  • Election expenses (e.g., election signs)

More information about matching sums

Main expenses: publicity

Publicity is often the main election expense of political parties. The election expenses of political parties and independent candidates fall into four categories.

  • Publicity
  • Purchase of goods and services
  • Rental of premises
  • Travel and meal expenses
Total election expenses of the four political parties represented in the National Assembly for the 2018 elections
Political party Expenses
Coalition avenir Québec $6,105,016
Québec solidaire $2,969,747
Parti québécois $6,321,618
Quebec Liberal Party $7,043,240

These amounts represent the total sum of election expenses incurred and paid by these political parties.

No political party or authorized independent candidate may make publicity during the first seven days of the election campaign or on election day.

Election expenses are limited

Election expenses are limited to the same amount for all candidates in the same electoral division. It's a matter of fairness: all candidates may spend similar amounts of money to promote their candidacy.

During a by-election, in most electoral divisions, the election expense limit for each candidate is $1.46 per elector. On average, this amount is $72,000.

Learn more about election expense limits

Expenses to promote or oppose a candidate are reserved for political parties and candidates

Citizens and businesses may not spend money to promote or oppose the election of a candidate during the election period. Any public action is prohibited if it:

  1. Provides visibility to a party or candidate or has a partisan effect: for example, by promoting or opposing the election of a candidate.
  2. Incurs costs related to, for example:
    • Printing documents, such as posters or pamphlets.
    • Creating a website.

The same rule applies to legal persons, such as companies, associations and trade unions.

All election expenses must be paid and authorized by the official agent of a candidate or political party.

Every political party or authorized independent candidate must have an official representative to manage its current income and expenses. During an election period, it must also appoint an official agent to manage its election expenses.

Only an official agent may make an election expense

Election expenses are limited to the same amount for all candidates in the same electoral division. It's a matter of fairness: each person has a budget similar to the others to promote their candidacy.

To ensure the application of this rule, only official agents of political parties and authorized independent candidates may incur election expenses. This rule also ensures greater transparency since all expenses must then be reported to preserve the electorate’s trust in our democratic system.

Examples of illegal partisan activities during an election period

  • A person cannot pay to post on Facebook an advertisement that promotes or devalues a measure proposed by a party.
  • A company cannot take out newspaper advertising that takes a stance regarding an act performed by a candidate.
  • An individual cannot print, at their own expense, posters promoting a candidate in the workplace or other public place.
  • An association cannot endorse a candidate on its website since there is usually a cost to create and maintain a website.

Want to express your preferences or opinions?

You can do so, as long as your actions do not cost anything. You can also obtain authorization to act as a private intervenor.

A private intervenor is an elector or group of electors who may spend up to $300 on publicity, during an election period, to:

  • Express their opinion on a subject of public interest or to obtain support for such an opinion.
  • Encourage voters to spoil their ballot or not to go to the polls.

The message should never directly promote or oppose a person's election.

A vote has financial value

By voting for the person who is most in tune with your values and your vision of the Québec of tomorrow, you are helping them pursue their political activities.

  • Half of the election expenses of a person who is elected, or who receives at least 15% of the votes, will be reimbursed to their official representative. These expenses must have been made and paid in accordance with the Election Act.
  • In a general election, annual financial assistance is provided to political parties based on the number of votes they received. The results of a by-election do not affect this financial assistance.
    • The total amount divided among the parties is calculated by multiplying $1.58 by the number of electors on the list of electors. This sum is distributed in proportion to the percentage of votes obtained by each party.
      • In other words, each person on the voters' list generates $1.58. The voters determine how the total amount is distributed among the parties.

The reimbursement of election expenses and the annual allowance are two sources of public financing: they come from the government. Public financing is intended to foster the integrity and vitality of our democracy by supporting those who work in politics. In 2020, this financing represented 81% of the total financing of political parties.

Following the 2018 general election, six political parties and 309 of 940 (32.9%) candidates received election expense reimbursements.

Learn more about the annual allowance

All political party income and expenses are examined

Following an election, each political party and authorized independent candidate must file an election expense report. The Chief Electoral Officer audits these reports to ensure that the rules on political financing have been respected.

Candidates must file their election expenses returns no later than 90 days after election day. Political parties must submit their returns no later than 120 days after election day.

Violation of the Election Act

The Chief Electoral Officer may investigate whether any provisions of the Election Act have been contravened and prosecute them. You can consult all the lawsuits that have been filed in the court ledger.

While Élections Québec remains vigilant, the watchfulness and support of citizens and stakeholders working in the field can also have a decisive impact. Report political financing irregularities by calling the  tip line at 1-855-644-9529. Any information received will remain completely confidential.

Municipal

In this section

The rules on municipal political financing are derived from the Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities.

Contributions

  • An elector may make a contribution of up to $100 for a party or candidate. During a general election or by-election, the candidate may make an additional $100 contribution.
  • The candidate may contribute an additional $800 for their own benefit or for the benefit of the party for which they are a candidate.
  • Contributions over $50 must be made by cheque or personal credit card.

Non-compliant contributions

  • A political entity may be required to reimburse a contribution if there is convincing evidence that it was made contrary to electoral laws, regardless of when the contribution was made.
  • Non-compliant contributions that have been reclaimed are published on our website.

Mandatory training

  • Official agents and official representatives of political parties and authorized independent candidates must undergo training on their roles and responsibilities regarding political financing and the auditing of election expenses.

Public financing

  • An annual allowance is paid to all political parties in municipalities with a population of 20,000 or more inhabitants that received at least 1% of the votes in the last general election.
  • In a general election year, or during a by-election, authorized political parties and authorized independent candidates from municipalities with a population of 20,000 or more are entitled to additional financing. They receive $2.50 for every dollar raised in contributions, up to the maximum amount allotted.

Authorization

  • A person who undertakes to run as an independent candidate in the next municipal general election may request an authorization from the returning officer of their municipality. They may submit this request as of January 1 of the year preceding that of the election.

Financial reports and signed statements

  • Mandatory financial reports and election expense returns must include signed statements from the various parties involved, including the party leader, the authorized independent candidate (where applicable), as well as the official representative and official agent. These reports are designed to increase the accountability of party leaders and authorized independent candidates, who are key players in election financing and expenses.

School board

In this section

Only electors can make contributions

Only qualified electors who are authorized to exercise their right to vote in an English-language school board may make contributions. This is generally the case for parents whose child is currently enrolled, or has been enrolled, at an English-language school board. This is also true for individuals who do not have a child enrolled at the English-language school board or to the French-language school service centre serving their area.

Legal entities, such as companies, associations, and trade unions, may not contribute to the financing of candidates. Parents whose children are enrolled at a French-language school service centre are also not allowed to contribute. They may not donate money nor provide a service or goods for free. They may not reimburse or attempt to reimburse an elector's contribution.

An elector who wants to run as a candidate in the next school general election may apply for authorization as of January 1 of the election year. This person then becomes an authorized elector. After submitting their nomination paper, they become an authorized candidate. 

An elector who shows intent to become a candidate, or who becomes a candidate, is considered a candidate. Therefore, from that moment on, they must respect the rules on political financing.

The maximum contribution is $300 per year

In addition to this amount, in the same fiscal year as the election, a candidate may also make a contribution for their benefit in an amount not exceeding $700. A candidate can therefore contribute up to $1,000 for their own benefit in an election year.

If you wish to make a political contribution, please note that:

  • You must be an elector to make a contribution, whether it is a monetary donation, a service rendered, or goods furnished free of charge.
  • To receive a contribution, the candidate must be authorized (this includes the authorized elector).
  • The candidate is responsible for solicitation. Any other person soliciting a contribution must have been designated for this purpose, in writing, by the candidate.
  • Only a contribution of $100 or less may be made in cash. A contribution of $100 or more must be made by means of a cheque or other payment order signed by the elector, drawn from their account in a financial institution with an office in Québec, and it must be made payable to the candidate. All contributions must be paid to the candidate or to a person designated by the candidate to receive the contribution.
  • A receipt must be issued to the contributor. You must sign the slip stating that your contribution is being made out of your own property, voluntarily, without compensation or consideration, and that it will not be reimbursed in any way.
  • If you contribute more than $100, your name, postal code and municipality of residence will be made public through the Élections Québec website contributor search engine.

All candidates for the same position must respect the same limit for their election expenses

It is a matter of fairness, so that all candidates have similar budgets to spend to promote their candidacy.

During an election, each candidate must respect a maximum amount slated for election expenses.

  • For election to the position of school board chair, the maximum amount is $3,780. This amount may be increased by $0.30 per person entered on the list of electors for the English-language school board. Where applicable, the candidate may spend an additional amount of:
    • $0.10 per person entered on the list if the density of electors per square kilometre is greater than 1 but less than or equal to 10;
    • $0.20 per person entered on the list if the density of electors per square kilometre is greater than 0.45 but less than or equal to 1;
    • $0.35 per person entered on the list if the density of electors per square kilometre is less than or equal to 0.45.
  • For election to a position of commissioner, the maximum amount is $1, This amount may be increased by $0.30 per person entered on the list of electors for the electoral division.

Election expenses

Websites, events, advertising, election signs: regardless of the form, any promotion that entails a cost, that has a partisan effect, and which occurs during the election period, constitutes an election expense. Partisan actions include:

  • Directly or indirectly promoting or opposing the election of a candidate.
  • Propagating or opposing a program or policy of a candidate.
  • Approving or disapproving of courses of action advocated or opposed by a candidate or any acts done or proposed by them.

Citizens and organizations cannot incur expenses to promote or oppose the election of a candidate during the election period

During an election period, you may not carry out a public act if that act:

  • Provides visibility to a party or candidate or has a partisan effect. For example, by promoting or opposing the election of a candidate.
  • Incurs costs, such as:
    • printing of documents, such as posters or flyers
    • the creation of a website
    • the loan or gift of property

The same rule also applies to legal entities, such as companies, associations and trade unions.

All election expenses must be paid and authorized by the candidate.

Only candidates can incur election expenses

Election expenses are limited to the same amount for all candidates for the same position at the same English-language school board. It's a question of fairness: each person has a similar budget to promote their candidacy.

To ensure the application of this rule, only candidates may incur election expenses. It also ensures greater transparency, as candidates must report all their expenses for audit purposes. This measure is intended to preserve the confidence of the electorate in our democratic system.

Here are some examples of illegal partisan activities during an election period:

  • A person cannot pay for an advertisement on Facebook or any other media that is intended to promote or oppose a measure proposed by a candidate.
  • A company cannot take out an ad in a newspaper to take a position on an act performed by a candidate.
  • An individual cannot print, at their own expense, posters promoting a candidate.
  • An association cannot endorse a candidate on its website, as there is usually a cost associated with creating and maintaining the website.

Want to express your preferences or opinions?

You can do so, if you do it at no cost. You can also obtain authorization as a private intervenor.

A private intervenor is an elector or group of electors who may spend up to $300 on advertising, during an election period, to:

  • Express their views on a matter of public interest or to obtain support for such views.
  • Encourage electors to spoil their ballot paper or abstain from voting.

However, the private intervenor's messages must not directly promote or oppose the election of any person.

A vote has a financial value

By voting for the candidate who is most in line with your values and vision, you are helping them pursue their political activities.

The election expenses of a person elected, and those who obtained at least 15% of the vote, will be reimbursed. The amount reimbursed cannot exceed the amount of the debt incurred from their election expenses and the amount of their personal contribution. To be reimbursed, the candidate's expenses must have been incurred and paid in accordance with the Act respecting school elections to elect certain members of the boards of directors of English-language school service centres (ASEESSC) or the provisions of the Act respecting school elections in force prior to the adoption of Bill 40.

The reimbursement of election expenses is a source of public financing, i.e., this financing comes from the State. By supporting those who become involved in politics, the State aims to foster the integrity and vitality of our democracy.

The total income and expenses of candidates are audited

Following an election, each candidate (including those who were authorized but did not submit their nomination paper) must file an election expense return. The Director General of the English-language school board, with the assistance of Élections Québec staff, audits all these returns to ensure that the rules on political financing are being respected.

Candidates must file their election expense return no later than 90 days after election day.

In the event of an infraction

 The Chief Electoral Officer may undertake inquiries on their own initiative, or upon receiving a complaint, to ensure compliance with the provisions of the ASEESSC or the provisions of the Act respecting school elections in force prior to the adoption of Bill 40. Criminal proceedings may be brought in the event of a violation of one of these laws if an offence has occurred.

Any person may report political financing irregularities by submitting a complaint through the Élections Québec website or by calling the tip line at 1 855 644-9529. The information received will be treated with the utmost confidentiality.

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