Home > Municipal > Financing and election expenses (5,000 inh. or more) > Intervening in electoral politics

Intervening in electoral politics

Certain rules need to be followed when intervening in electoral politics during an election period.

Applicable rules

During an election period, you may not intervene in a way that:

  1. Has a partisan effect or provides exposure to a party or candidate, such as by:
    • promoting or opposing the election of a candidate;
  2. Incurs costs, such as those associated with:
    • printing documents like posters or pamphlets;
    • creating a website or buying advertisements on social media.

Such interventions constitute election expenses, which must be authorized and paid by the official agent of a political party or candidate, as the case may be. As defined in electoral legislation, election expenses even include costs associated with activities that provide fair exposure – whether positive, neutral or negative – to all candidates.

These rules apply to provincial elections, municipal elections in municipalities with a population of 5,000 or more and school elections.

This framework aims to ensure that all candidates and parties have a fair chance of being elected. It also ensures greater transparency. All expenses incurred by a party or candidate need to be reported in a return that will be audited.

Any appeals for electors to vote a certain way and any direct or indirect references to one or more candidates, to the latter’s actions or to their positions may constitute election expenses. This is a matter of fairness, since all candidates running for the same seat in the same electoral division, municipality or school board are subject to the same election expense limit.  As a result, these persons all have a similar campaign budget.

There are also some exceptions to the concept of election expenses, including the possibility of obtaining authorization as a private intervenor.

Before the start of the election period

As defined in electoral legislation, partisan interventions are not considered election expenses in cases where any associated costs are incurred before the start of the election period. However, costs incurred before the start of the election period for goods and services used during the election period are considered election expenses.

During the election period

During the election period, third parties can express their opinions so long as doing so costs nothing. This includes designing, producing, publishing and distributing a message without incurring any costs. For example, posting a political opinion on a free social media service does not constitute an election expense. However, posting a video montage on YouTube that includes images purchased from one or more photographers may be considered an election expense.

There are also several exceptions to the concept of election expenses that allow third parties to intervene during an election period. Québec electoral legislation provides for these exceptions. Here are some examples:

Public meetings

When a non-partisan organization plans and holds a public meeting, the associated costs are not considered election expenses if the meeting meets the criteria laid out in Directive D-20 (in the case of provincial elections), Directive D-M-24 (in the case of municipal elections) or Directive D-S-11 (in the case of school elections). Such activities can take various forms, including a candidates’ debate or a panel discussion.

Meetings

Costs incurred for meetings, where the total amount does not exceed $200 per election period, are not considered election expenses. The meetings in question must not be organized directly or indirectly on behalf of a candidate or party.

Private intervenors

An elector or a group (the majority of whose members are electors and that is not a legal person) can be authorized as a private intervenor and incur advertising expenses of up to $300, under certain conditions.

Media

Costs associated with the publication of articles, editorials, news items, columns or letters from readers in a newspaper or other periodical are not considered election expenses, provided the content is published without payment or reward and in the same manner as outside an election period. The same rule applies to the broadcast of public affairs, news or commentary programs on radio or television.

Examples of partisan interventions prohibited during an election period

  • An individual may not pay for the printing of a poster designed to promote a candidate in his or her workplace or in any other public place.
  • A company may not buy a newspaper advertisement that attacks the position of a party or candidate on a particular issue.
  • A non-profit organization may not post an online brochure (e.g., in PDF format) that rates the policies of candidates running in the municipality on a scale of 1 to 10.
  • A union may not pay for an advertisement on Facebook that promotes or opposes a measure advocated by a party or candidate.
  • An association may not create a website to support a candidate or party, since costs will be incurred in creating and maintaining such a website.

Some further information

Definitions to better understand third-party interventions during an election period.

Third party

Any individual or organization not acting on behalf of a political party or candidate. This can include, but is not limited to:

  • businesses, non-profit organizations, legal persons and partnerships;
  • associations, unions, organizations and groups of people.

Partisan effect

As defined under electoral legislation, an intervention has a partisan effect if, among other things:

  • it promotes or opposes, directly or indirectly, the election of a party’s candidate(s);
  • it provides exposure to or fights against the program or policies of a candidate or party;
  • it expresses approval or disapproval for measures advocated or opposed by a candidate;
  • it expresses approval or disapproval for the past or proposed actions of a party or candidate.

Additional sources of information