Election Finances: Recent Reforms in British Columbia, Manitoba and New Brunswick
Election finance rules in British Columbia, Manitoba and New Brunswick have undergone significant reform over the past several months. British Columbia has now imposed monetary limits on political contributions, prohibited corporate contributions and introduced new requirements governing sponsorship contributions made to third-party advertisers. New Brunswick has similarly imposed restrictions on making political contributions and decreased its monetary limits for political contributions. Manitoba has, among other things, increased contribution limits in the province.
The new British Columbia government has made a number of changes to the B.C. Election Act early in its mandate. Two especially significant changes were the addition of restrictions on who can make political contributions and the introduction of limits on the amount of such contributions.
Section 186 of the B.C. Election Act now provides that political contributions can only be made by residents of British Columbia who are citizens or permanent residents of Canada. Corporations and unions are no longer permitted to make political contributions in B.C.
New limits are now in place on the amount that individuals can contribute annually. The province previously had no donation ceiling. An eligible individual is now restricted from making political contributions in 2018 that have a total value greater than:
- C$1,200 to any one registered political party, the candidates of that political party, the constituency associations of that political party and the nomination contestants of that political party
- C$1,200 to an independent candidate and the constituency association that supports the independent candidate
- C$1,200 to an independent candidate who is not supported by a constituency association
- C$1,200 to each leadership contestant, in relation to that individual’s seeking of the leadership.
These limits will be reviewed by the chief electoral officer for the year 2019.
Significant changes have also been made to the rules governing contributions to third-party advertisers. New provisions were added that regulate sponsorship contributions, which are contributions provided for the purpose of sponsoring election advertising.
Under Part 11 of the B.C. Election Act, sponsorship contributions can only be made by eligible individuals and must not exceed C$1,200 (in 2018). Moreover, third-party sponsors are not permitted to use contributions to sponsor election advertising unless they first obtain from the contributor a confirmation that the contributor is a British Columbia resident who is a citizen or permanent resident of Canada; and consent that the third-party sponsor may use all or part of the contribution to sponsor election advertising.
Finally, individuals and organizations are restricted from making sponsorship contributions indirectly by giving money, or providing property or services without compensation, to a person who uses the money, property or services to make a sponsorship contribution, or as consideration for that person making a sponsorship contribution. There is an exemption in this rule for eligible individuals who make a sponsorship contribution with money, property or services of another eligible individual and disclose to the registered third-party sponsor the full name and address of the eligible individual whose money, property or services are being used.
The rules governing political contributions under the Manitoba Election Financing Act have been amended by increasing the annual monetary contribution limit for individuals from C$3,000 to C$5,000. In addition, new provisions have been added establishing that all fees paid to attend a political party conference or convention including a leadership convention, are considered contributions, while volunteer services by a self-employed person for which they normally charge are not considered contributions.
The rules governing advertising and communications made by third parties in Manitoba have also been amended. The most significant change is the imposition of monetary limits on third-party spending for election communications during a general election. The limits have been increased from C$5,000 to C$25,000 for election communications made during the general election period and C$100,000 in the 90-day period before the start of a general election period for a fixed-date election. The C$5,000 spending limit for election communications during a by-election remain unchanged. The definition of “communications” has also been expanded to include communications about issues associated with a political party or a candidate (a communication was previously limited to a message that promoted or opposed a registered party or the election of a candidate).
Finally, the registration threshold for third-party advertisers has been increased. Previously, a third-party advertiser was required to register with the chief electoral officer once it had incurred election communication expenses totalling C$500; however, as a result of the amendments, registration is now only required once a third-party advertiser spends C$2,500 on election communications.
Significant changes have been made to the rules governing political contributions under the New Brunswick Political Process Financing Act. Among these changes is the addition of a prohibition on corporate contributions. The amended legislation now provides that only individuals are permitted to make political contributions in New Brunswick. In addition to this restriction, the monetary limit for political contributions in New Brunswick has been reduced from C$6,000 to C$3,000.
Amendments have also been made to the rules governing financing provided to registered political parties, registered district associations, registered independent candidates, leadership contestants and nomination contestants under the New Brunswick Political Process Financing Act. The legislation now states that “only individuals, chartered banks, trust companies, credit unions and other commercial lending institutions may provide financing” (previously individuals, corporations and trade unions were permitted to provide such financing). The legislation further imposes the following monetary limits on financing by these entities:
- With respect to financing provided to registered political parties, registered district associations and registered independent candidates, individuals may provide financing that, taken together, does not exceed C$3,000. There are no such monetary limits applicable to chartered banks, trust companies, credit unions or other commercial lending institutions providing such financing.
- With respect to financing provided to leadership contestants and nomination contestants, individuals, as well as chartered banks, trust companies, credit unions and other commercial lending institutions, may only provide financing that, taken together, does not exceed C$3,000. This monetary limit does not apply to financing provided by chartered banks, trust companies, credit unions and other commercial lending institutions that is secured by sureties or guarantors.
The Election (Fairness and Accountability) Amendment Act, 2017 (Bill 606), was introduced and received first reading in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan in November 2017. Although it is early in the legislative process, if passed, Bill 606 could lead to new monetary limits on political contributions and restrict contributions to individuals who are residents of Saskatchewan. Such changes would bring Saskatchewan’s election finance rules in line with most Canadian jurisdictions, leaving only Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Yukon as the remaining jurisdictions without monetary limits on political contributions.
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