Municipal elections of November 3, 2013 - The municipal election period begins today in Québec

September 20, 2013

Quebec City,September 20, 2013– Today marks the beginning of the election period that precedes the November 3 municipal general elections. This is a particularly important step for Québec’s 1,103 municipalities, and especially for the 184 municipalities where, starting today, the rules concerning the control of election expenses are in force, as well as for the 13 regional county municipalities where the warden is elected by universal suffrage. These figures take into account Bill 57, tabled in the National Assembly this week, which provides for the possibility that an election will not be held in Lac-Mégantic or the Granit RCM. Election campaigns will also pick up speed given that nominations will be accepted by returning officers starting today and ending on October 4 at4:30 pm.  

It should be pointed out that when it comes to managing the resources that a party or a candidate uses to run an election campaign, a distinction must be made between the 185 municipalities with a population of 5,000 or more (which include 88% of the total population) and those with a population of less than 5,000. The former are subject to the rules found in Chapter XIII of the Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities (AERM), whereas for the latter, Chapter XIV of the Act applies. Some important changes with regard to the financing and control of election expenses have been made to the Act since the last general election in 2009. For more information, please see the website of Chief Electoral Officer of Québec at www.electionsquebec.qc.ca.

Municipalities with a population of 5,000 or more

In municipalities with a population of 5,000 or more, the rules concerning election expenses will enter into force as of today until polling stations close on November 3. During this period, expenses incurred and used by parties and candidates must be authorized by an official agent and are subject to a ceiling. The maximum amount was reduced by 30% last June and has been established using a base amount ($3,780 for a candidate for mayor or warden and $1,890 for a candidate for the office of councillor), to which an amount is added based on the number of electors registered on the list of electors in the municipality or electoral district. It is up to the treasurer of the municipality to determine this amount.

It should be noted that a candidate who has been elected, or who has received at least 15% of valid votes during the election for the office being sought, may be entitled, under certain conditions, to be reimbursed for 70% of his or her election expenses. This represents an increase of 20% compared to the 50% reimbursement that was in effect in 2009.

An important aspect of the rules concerning election expenses addresses the identification of any form of publicity that is disseminated to promote or oppose a candidate or a political party. It is crucial for the official agent to clearly identify all publicity that he or she authorizes by mentioning his or her name, title and, when applicable, the name of the printer or manufacturer. If this information is not provided, the election expense will not be admissible for the reimbursement stipulated under the Act. Lastly, if authorized candidates want to join forces to disseminate publicity, their names, the designation “independent candidate” and the name of each of their official agents should appear on the advertisement in question. 

The rules also provide for accountability and reporting mechanisms, since authorized independent candidates and parties must reveal their electoral expenses in reports and returns that must be submitted to the treasurer of their municipality byFebruary 1, 2014.

The rules set out in the AERM allow political parties and authorized independent candidates to solicit and collect contributions. Given that the Act forbids companies, unions or other organizations from making contributions, only the electors of a municipality can do so. Moreover, contributions must be made to the official representative of an authorized independent candidate, a party’s official representative, or, if applicable, to individuals named in writing by the official representative for this purpose.

Since June 21 of this year, the total contributions made by a single elector, over the course of any given calendar year, cannot exceed $300 for each party and for each authorized independent candidate. However, a candidate can contribute an additional amount of $700 to his or her own campaign, for a total contribution of $1,000. For all contributions received, a duly completed receipt must be given to the contributor. And there is a new rule: the name of the contributor’s employer must now appear on the receipt. Contributions can, under certain conditions, generate a maximum income tax credit of $155.

Municipalities with a population of less than 5,000

With respect to municipalities with a population of less than 5,000, Chapter XIV of the AERM does not set out any rules concerning election expenses. Furthermore, there are no political parties in these municipalities, but candidates can join forces in “recognized tickets” acknowledged by the returning officer.

Since 2009, only natural persons can make a financial contribution to candidates that they wish to support, which excludes contributions from legal persons or other types of organizations. SinceJune 21, 2013, the total amount of these contributions cannot exceed $300 per candidate. However, a candidate can contribute an additional $700 to his or her own campaign, for a total contribution of $1,000. Any donation of $100 or more must be made by cheque or other order of payment.

More accessible information concerning the finances of political parties and independent candidates

Moreover, another “novelty” will make information concerning the finances of municipal political parties and authorized independent candidates that much more accessible. Starting next year, it will be possible to find information on the Chief Electoral Officer’s website regarding contributions of $100 or more that are made to political parties and independent candidates in municipalities with a population of 5,000 or more. Similar information will also be available concerning contributions made to candidates in municipalities with a population of less than5,000. Asummary of the financial reports and returns of election expenses of parties and authorized independent candidates will also be available on the Chief Electoral Officer’s website.

Tighter verifications by the Chief Electoral Officer of Québec

You will recall that it is the treasurer of the municipality, acting under the Chief Electoral Officer’s control and supervision, who verifies returns of election expenses. In this regard, additional resources will allow the Chief Electoral Officer to more carefully scrutinize reports and returns received from treasurers. The Chief Electoral Officer will also refine methods that make it possible to detect potentially problematic situations. It should be noted that since 70% of all election expenses are related to publicity, the Chief Electoral Officer has made the necessary arrangements to obtain all election publicity to be published in newspapers and magazines.

A tip line to be used by the public

Finally, the public is invited to use the tip line set up on the website of Chief Electoral Officer of Québec. The tip line was established with a view to facilitating communication and allowing the public to report, in complete confidentiality and security, facts or situations related to political financing and/or the control of election expenses.

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Categories : Municipal, Municipal financing, DGE