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2018 Candidates’ guide for Ontario municipal council and school board elections

Contributions

Campaign contributions are any money, goods or services that are given to a candidates for use in candidates’ campaign, including money and goods that candidates contribute to themselves.

If candidates are given a special discount on a good or service that candidates are purchasing for their campaign, the difference between what candidates were charged and what the market value would be is considered to be a contribution.

Corporations and other businesses are not permitted to make contributions to candidates. If candidates are being offered a discount, candidates should make sure that whoever is offering the discount is entitled to make a personal contribution to their campaign.

If a professional who would normally charge for a service gives candidates that service for free, the market value of the service is considered to be a contribution.

If candidates sell goods at a fundraising event for more than their market value, the difference between what the person attending the fundraising event paid candidates and what they would have normally paid for the item is considered to be a contribution.

If candidates sell tickets to a fundraising event, the cost of the ticket is considered to be a contribution.

If candidates have inventory such as signs left over from a previous campaign and candidates use them again, the current market value of the signs (i.e. what it would cost candidates to buy those signs today) is considered to be a contribution that candidates make to their campaign.

If candidates or their spouse guarantees their campaign loan and the campaign is unable to repay the full amount, any unpaid balance is considered to be a contribution by the guarantor.

Things that are not contributions

If candidates have volunteers working for their campaign, the value of their volunteer labour is not considered to be a contribution.

A cash donation of $25 or less received at a fundraising event is not considered to be a contribution, and candidates may accept such donations without keeping track of who gave them to candidates. candidates will have to report the total amount of money that candidates received from these donations on their financial statement.

The value of free political advertising, provided that such advertising is made available to all candidates and is in accordance with the Broadcasting Act (Canada) is not considered to be a contribution.

If candidates obtain a campaign loan from a bank or a recognized lending institution, the amount of the loan is not considered to be a contribution.

Who can make a contribution

candidates can accept contributions only from individuals who are normally resident in Ontario. Corporations and trade unions are no longer permitted to make contributions to candidates.

If their spouse is not normally a resident in Ontario, they can still make contributions to their campaign. They may not make contributions to any other candidate.

Groups such as clubs, associations or ratepayer’s groups are not eligible to make contributions. The members of these groups may make individual contributions from their personal funds (as long as they are residents of Ontario).

Who cannot make a contribution

The following individuals and organizations are not permitted to make contributions to municipal council and school board campaigns:

  • a corporation
  • a trade union
  • an individual who is not normally resident in Ontario
  • a federal political party, constituency association, or a registered candidate in a federal election
  • a provincial political party, constituency association, or a registered candidate or leadership contestant
  • a federal or provincial government, a municipality or a school board

When candidates can receive contributions

candidates can only accept contributions after candidates have filed their nomination, and candidates cannot accept contributions after their campaign period has finished. Any contributions received outside the campaign period must be returned to the contributor. If candidates cannot return the contribution to the contributor, candidates must turn it over to the clerk.

Contribution limits – contributions from theirself and their spouse

If candidates are running for municipal council, there is now a limit on the total amount that candidates and their spouse may collectively contribute to their own campaign. The contribution limit is calculated based on the number of electors who are eligible to vote for the office that candidates are running for. The formula to calculate the limit is:

  • for head of council: $7,500 plus $0.20 per eligible elector
  • for council member: $5,000 plus $0.20 per eligible elector

There is a cap of $25,000. If the formula results in a number greater than $25,000, the limit will still be $25,000.

The clerk will tell candidates what their self-funding limit is.

All of the contributions that candidates and their spouse make to their own campaign count towards this limit, including:

  • contributions of money
  • the value of goods or services that candidates or their spouse donate to the campaign
  • the value of any inventory from the previous election that candidates use again in this campaign

This limit does not apply to school board trustee candidates.

Contribution limits – contributions from other people

There is a $1,200 limit that applies to contributions from other individuals. If a person makes more than 1 contribution (e.g. contributes money, contributes goods, and purchases a ticket to a fundraising event), the total value of all the contributions cannot exceed $1,200.

If candidates are running for mayor in the City of Toronto, the limit is $2,500.

The maximum total amount that a contributor can give to candidates in the same jurisdiction (i.e. running for the same council or the same school board) is $5,000.

candidates are required to inform every contributor of the contribution limits. An easy way to make sure that this is done is to include the contribution limits on the receipt that candidates provide for each contribution.

Only a contribution that is $25 or less can be made in cash. All contributions above $25 must be made by cheque, money order or by a method that clearly shows where the funds came from (such as certain debit, credit or electronic transfer transactions).

Contribution receipts

candidates must issue a receipt for every contribution candidates receive. The receipt should show who made the contribution, the date and the value. If the contribution was in goods or services, candidates must determine the value of the goods or services and issue a receipt for the full value.

If candidates receive a cheque from a joint personal account, the receipt must be issued only to the person who signed the cheque. The contribution can only come from one person.

candidates are required to list the names and addresses of every contributor who gives more than $100 total to their campaign in their financial statement. candidates should keep a record of the names and addresses of every contributor, regardless of the value of their contribution, because the same contributor may make multiple contributions that end up totalling more than $100.

Note: Contribution receipts are not tax receipts. Contributions to municipal council and school board campaigns cannot be credited against provincial or federal income taxes.

Returning ineligible contributions

candidates are required to return any contribution that was made or accepted in contravention of the act as soon as candidates learn that it was an ineligible contribution. If candidates cannot return the contribution, candidates must turn it over to the clerk.

Contributions should be returned or paid to the clerk if the contribution is:

  • made outside their campaign period
  • from an anonymous source (except for donations of $25 or less at a fundraising event)
  • from an ineligible source (e.g. someone who doesn’t live in Ontario, a corporation, etc.)
  • greater than the individual $1,200 limit or the $5,000 total limit per jurisdiction
  • a cash contribution greater than $25
  • from funds that do not belong to the contributor who gave them to candidates

Refunding unused contributions

If their campaign ends with a surplus, candidates can withdraw the value of contributions that candidates and their spouse made from the surplus. If candidates still have a surplus once candidates have withdrawn their contributions, the remaining surplus must be turned over to the clerk.

candidates are not permitted to refund eligible contributions made by anyone other than theirself or their spouse.

Contribution rebates

Contributions to municipal council and school board campaigns are not tax deductible. their municipality may have a contribution rebate program. Contact their clerk for more information.

Fundraising

Fundraising functions are events or activities held by candidates or on their behalf for the primary purpose of raising money for their campaign. If candidates hold an event to promote their campaign and candidates happen to receive some contributions or ask people to consider contributing to their campaign, this would not qualify as a fundraising event.

Similarly, if candidates have a sentence in their campaign brochure asking people to make a contribution or giving them information about how to contribute, this would not be a fundraising brochure since its primary purpose is to promote their campaign, not to raise money.

Fundraisers can only be held during their campaign period. candidates must record the gross income (including ticket revenue and other revenue) and the expenses related to each event and activity on their campaign financial statement.

If candidates sell tickets to an event, the ticket price is considered to be a contribution to their campaign and candidates must issue a receipt to each person who purchases tickets. If the ticket price is higher than $25, tickets cannot be paid for in cash.

If their ticket price is more than $100, candidates must include these contributions in Table 1 on their campaign financial statement (Form 4). If their ticket price is less than $100 and a person who buys a ticket makes other contributions totalling more than $100 (including the cost of the ticket), candidates must record these contributions – including the cost of the ticket – in Table 1.

Campaign income

If candidates raise funds by selling goods or services for more than fair market value, the difference between the fair market value and the amount paid is considered to be a contribution. If the good or service is sold for $25 or less, the amount paid is considered to be campaign income, and not a contribution.

Example:

candidates have 100 t-shirts printed to sell at a fundraiser. The cost to the campaign is $10 per shirt, and candidates sell them for $25 each.

  • The $25 is not a contribution. candidates do not have to collect names and contact information, or issue a contribution receipt to anyone who buys a shirt.
  • The $1,000 that candidates spent on the shirts must be recorded as a campaign expense.
  • The $2,500 that candidates raised by selling the shirts must be recorded as campaign income on their financial statement.

If candidates sell goods (such as food and drink) at market value, the revenue is not considered to be a contribution, but must still be recorded on their campaign financial statement as campaign income.

Expenses

Campaign expenses are the costs that candidates incur (or that a person such as their campaign manager incurs under their direction) during their campaign. The nomination fee is a personal expense. It is not considered to be a campaign expense and should not be reported on their campaign financial statement.

Expenses must be paid from their campaign bank account. If candidates use a credit card to pay for purchases candidates should make sure that candidates keep clear records showing that the expense on the credit card was reimbursed from the campaign account.

Any taxes such as HST paid on purchases should be included in the amount of the expense.

candidates can incur expenses only during their campaign period, except for expenses related to the preparation of an auditor’s report. If candidates are required to include an auditor’s report with their financial statement, candidates may incur these expenses after the campaign period has ended. These expenses must also be reported on their financial statement.

Goods and services

Goods or services that are contributed to their campaign are also expenses. They should be treated as if the contributor gave candidates money and candidates went out and purchased the goods and services – candidates must record both the contribution and the expense.

Example:

their friend spends $150 on coffee and baked goods which they donate for a campaign event. candidates should record a contribution of $150 in goods or services from their friend, and record an expense of $150.

If candidates are given a special discount on a good or service that candidates are purchasing for their campaign, candidates should record the expense as if candidates were not given the discount (since the value of the discount is considered to be a contribution of the good or service to their campaign).

Example:

their order for campaign signs would normally cost $500, but the vendor lets candidates have them for $300 because he wants to help out their campaign. candidates should record an expense of $500 for the signs, and record a contribution of $200 in goods or services from the vendor. Note: As businesses are not permitted to make contributions, the contribution would have to be a personal contribution from the vendor.

Spending Limits

Candidates are subject to two spending limits – a general limit, and a separate limit for expenses relating to parties and expressions of appreciation after voting day.

General spending limit

The general spending limit for their campaign is calculated based on the number of electors who are eligible to vote for the office that candidates are running for. The formula to calculate the limit is:

  • for head of council: $7,500 plus $0.85 per eligible elector
  • for council member or trustee: $5,000 plus $0.85 per eligible elector

When candidates file their nomination the clerk will give candidates an estimate of their general spending limit. This estimate will be based on the number of electors in the previous election.

On or before September 25, 2018 the clerk must give candidates a final general spending limit which is based on the number of electors on the voters’ list for the current election.

If the spending limit estimate that candidates received when candidates filed their nomination is higher than the final spending limit candidates receive in September, the estimate becomes their official spending limit.

Spending limit for parties and expressions of appreciation

The spending limit for expenses related to holding parties and other expressions of appreciation after the close of voting is calculated as 10% of the amount of their general spending limit.

Example:

their general spending limit is $25,000. their spending limit for throwing a party on voting night and making expressions of appreciation such as giving gifts to the members of their campaign team would be $2,500. These expenses do not count toward their $25,000 general spending limit.

The clerk will provide candidates with their spending limit for expenses related to parties and other expressions of appreciation after the close of voting on or before September 25, 2018.