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Campaign Finance

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A word about record keeping

You are responsible for keeping records of the financial activities related to your campaign. The Municipal Elections Act, 1996 does not require you to use any specific accounting system. You may want to consult with an auditor or an accountant early in your campaign to make sure that you are using a bookkeeping and accounting system that will suit your needs.

You should also look through the Campaign Financial Statement (Form 4) that you will be required to file to make sure that you are keeping records of all the information that must be included on the Statement. Please see Where to Find Forms for links to forms.

You are required to keep all of your campaign financial records until December, 2018 when the next council or school board takes office.

You must keep the following records: 

  • the receipts issued for every contribution including when you accepted the contribution and the date you issued the receipt (Remember to issue receipts to yourself for any contributions you make) 
  • the value of every contribution, whether it is in the form of money, goods or services, and the contributor’s name and address 
  • all expenses, including the receipts obtained for each expense 
  • any claim for payment of an expense that the campaign disputes or refuses to pay 
  • the funds raised and expenses incurred from each separate fundraising event or activity 
  • the monies received at a fundraising event or activity by donations of $10 or less 
  • the terms of any loan received from a bank or other recognized lending institution

What is my campaign period?

You are only allowed to accept contributions or incur campaign expenses during your campaign period.

Your campaign begins on the day you file your nomination.

In most cases, your campaign will end on December 31, 2014. Exceptions are: 

  • If you withdrew your nomination, your campaign ends on the date you informed the clerk in writing that you wanted to withdraw 
  • If you were not certified as a candidate and your name did not appear on the ballot, your campaign ends on nomination day (September 12, 2014)
If you have extended your campaign to pay down a deficit, the end date for the extended campaign period will be the earliest of: 

  • the day you notify the clerk in writing that you will be ending your campaign and not accepting any more contributions 
  • June 30, 2015

Bank account

Once you have filed your nomination form, you are required to open a separate bank account for your campaign. Even if you are planning a very small campaign, you are not permitted to use your personal bank account for campaign finances.

All contributions – including contributions you make yourself – must be deposited into the campaign bank account. All expenses must be paid for from the campaign account (with the exception of the nomination fee, because you can’t open the campaign account until you have filed your nomination).

Contributions

Campaign contributions are any money, goods or services that are given to you for use in your campaign, including money and goods that you contribute yourself.

If you are given a special discount on a good or service that you are purchasing for your campaign, the difference between what you were charged and what an average person would be charged is considered to be a contribution.

Example:

Your order for campaign signs would normally cost $500, but the vendor agrees to sell them to you for $300. You must record a contribution of $200 in goods or services from the vendor.
If a professional who would normally charge for a service gives you that service for free, the value of the service (i.e. what an average person would pay for it) is considered to be a contribution.

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

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

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

If you or your spouse guarantees your 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 deemed not to be contributions

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

A cash donation of $10 or less received at a fundraising event is not considered to be a contribution, and you may accept such donations without keeping track of who gave them to you.

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

When you can receive contributions

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

Who can make a contribution

You can accept contributions from:

  • individuals who are normally resident in Ontario 
  • corporations that carry on business in Ontario 
  • trade unions that hold bargaining rights for employees in Ontario 
  • yourself and your spouse

If you are going to accept a contribution from a business, you must ensure that the business is a corporation. Other kinds of businesses such as sole proprietorships or LLPs are not eligible to make contributions. If the owner of a sole proprietorship wishes to support your campaign, they may make an individual contribution from their personal funds (as long as they are a resident of Ontario).

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).

Note: The City of Toronto has passed a bylaw banning contributions of money, goods and services from corporations and trade unions. This ban applies to the municipal election. It does not apply to any school board candidates.

Ineligible contributors

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

  • 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

Contribution limits

There is a $750 limit that applies to each person, corporation and union who contributes to your campaign. If a person, corporation or union makes more than one contribution (e.g. contributes money, contributes goods, and purchases a ticket to a fundraising event), the total value of all the contributions cannot exceed $750.

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

If you accept contributions from corporations, you must determine whether the corporations are associated. Generally, corporations are associated if they are owned or controlled by the same person or persons. For specific details, please see section 256 of the Income Tax Act (Canada). The contribution limits apply to associated corporations as if they were all a single corporation.

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.

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.

Contributions from yourself and your spouse

There are no limits on how much you and your spouse can contribute to your campaign. Contributions that you and your spouse make to your campaign do not count toward the $5,000 limit.

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

You are not permitted to refund contributions made by anyone other than yourself or your spouse.

Contribution receipts

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

If you 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.

You are required to list the names and addresses of every contributor who gives more than $100 total to your campaign in your financial statement. You 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 and school board campaigns cannot be credited against provincial or federal income taxes.

Returning ineligible contributions

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

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

  • made outside your campaign period 
  • from an anonymous source (except for donations of $10 or less at a fundraising event) 
  • from an ineligible source (e.g. someone who doesn’t live in Ontario, a business that is not a corporation, etc.) 
  • greater than the $750 limit or the $5,000 total limit 
  • a cash contribution greater than $25 
  • from funds that do not belong to the contributor who gave them to you

Contribution rebates

Contributions to municipal and school board campaigns are not income tax-deductible. Municipalities have the authority to establish programs to provide rebates to contributors. You should contact your clerk to find out if your municipality has a contribution rebate program in place.

Fundraising

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

Similarly, if you have a sentence in your 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 your campaign, not to raise money.

Fundraising events and activities can only be held during your campaign period. You must record the gross income (including ticket revenue and other revenue) and the expenses related to each event and activity on your campaign financial statement.

If you sell tickets to the event, the ticket price is considered to be a contribution to your campaign and you 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 your ticket price is more than $100, you must include these contributions in Table 1 on your campaign financial statement (Form 4). If your 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), you must record these contributions – including the cost of the ticket – in Table 1.

If you 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 you 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 your campaign financial statement as “revenue not deemed a contribution”. 

Expenses

Campaign expenses are the costs that you incur (or that a person such as your campaign manager incurs on your behalf) during your campaign.

The first expense that you will incur is your nomination fee. It is the only expense that does not have to be paid from your campaign bank account (since you cannot open your campaign bank account until after you have paid the fee). The nomination fee must be reported on your campaign financial statement.

You can only incur expenses during your campaign period.

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

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

Example:

Your order for campaign signs would normally cost $500, but the vendor lets you have them for $300 because he wants to help out your campaign. You should record an expense of $500 for the signs, and record a contribution of $200 in goods or services from the vendor. (Note: if the business is not a corporation, the contribution would have to be a personal contribution from the vendor.)
Expenses must be paid from your campaign bank account. If you use a credit card to pay for purchases you should make sure that you keep clear records showing that the expense on the credit card was reimbursed from the campaign account.

Spending Limit

The spending limit for your campaign is calculated based on the number of electors who are eligible to vote for the office that you 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 you file your nomination the clerk will give you an estimate of your campaign spending limit. This estimate will be based on the number of electors in the last election. 

Within ten days after the close of nominations the clerk must give you a final spending limit which is based on the number of electors on the voters’ list for the current election.

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

Types of Expenses

Most of your expenses will be subject to the spending limit.

The following expenses are not subject to the spending limit: 

  • expenses related to holding a fundraising event or activity 
  • expenses related to parties and other expressions of appreciation after the close of voting 
  • expenses relating to a recount 
  • expenses relating to a court action for a controverted election 
  • expenses relating to a compliance audit 
  • expenses incurred by a candidate with a disability that are directly related to the candidate’s disability and would not have been incurred if not for the election 
  • audit and accounting fees

Note: Remember that any materials, events or activities must have fundraising as the primary purpose in order to be exempt from the spending limit. An incidental mention of contributions is not enough to qualify as fundraising.

When the spending limit applies

Your spending limit covers expenses that you incur between the beginning of your campaign and voting day. Expenses that you incur between the day after voting day and the end of your campaign are not subject to the spending limit.

Note: If you incur an expense before voting day, but don’t get around to paying for it until after voting day, it would still be subject to the spending limit.

Campaign inventory

If you ran in the last election and you want to reuse leftover goods such as signs or office supplies you must establish the current market value of the goods – what it would cost you to purchase them today. You must record the current market value as an expense.

If you have inventory left at the end of your campaign it becomes your personal property. If you wish to store materials such as signs for use in another election, any costs related to storage are personal costs, not campaign expenses.

A note to accountants: the value of all goods must be recorded as an expense regardless of whether the campaign ends with used or unused goods in inventory. Do not deduct the value of unused goods from the campaign expenses, as this will result in the campaign having a surplus on paper that the candidate does not actually have.

Campaign Financial Statement

It is your responsibility as a candidate to file a complete and accurate financial statement on time.

The filing deadline is 2 p.m. on the last Friday in March following the election (March 27, 2015).

If you have a bookkeeper or accountant to complete the financial statement for you, you are still responsible for ensuring that it is complete and accurate and filed on time.

If you filed a nomination form, you must file a financial statement. This includes candidates who withdrew their nomination, candidates who were not certified and did not appear on the ballot, and candidates who were acclaimed.

If you did not receive any contributions (including contributions from yourself) or incur any expenses other than the nomination filing fee, you are only required to fill out the first page of the financial statement and sign it.

If you received contributions or incurred any expenses beyond the nomination fee, you must complete the relevant parts of the financial statement.

If your campaign contributions (including contributions from yourself) or campaign expenses are greater than $10,000 you must have your financial statement audited and include the auditor’s report when you submit your financial statement to the clerk.

If you think that you will be unable to file your financial statement by the deadline, you may apply to the Ontario Court of Justice for an extension before March 27, 2015.

If, at 2 p.m. on March 27, 2015, you have not given the clerk your financial statement or written notice that you have applied to the court for an extension, you will forfeit your elected office (if you won the election) and you will be ineligible to run for office or be appointed to fill a vacancy until after the 2018 election.

Separate statement for each office

If you filed a nomination and then changed your mind and filed a nomination for a different office, you may be required to file a separate financial statement for each campaign. Please see “Changing your mind – Running for a different office” in Nominations.

Extended campaigns

Your campaign period ends on Wednesday, December 31, 2014. However, if your campaign has a deficit, you can extend your campaign in order to do some additional fundraising. If you want to extend your campaign, you must notify the clerk using the Notice of Extension of Campaign form (Form 6) on or before Wednesday, December 31, 2014. Please see Where to Find Forms for links to forms.

Your campaign may be extended until June 30, 2015.

If you extend your campaign you must file two financial statements:

  • a financial statement reflecting your campaign until December 31 (due March 27, 2015) 
  • a supplementary financial statement which includes the information from your primary statement and adds financial information from your extended campaign

The supplementary financial statement must be filed with the clerk by 2 p.m. on Friday, September 25, 2015.

Surplus and Deficit

If your campaign has a surplus after you have refunded contributions made by yourself or your spouse, you must pay the surplus over to the clerk when you file your financial statement. The surplus will be held in trust, and you can use it if you incur expenses related to a recount, an application for a controverted election, or a compliance audit. If the surplus is not needed for these expenses it becomes the property of the municipality or the school board.

If your campaign expenses are greater than your campaign income, your campaign will be in deficit. You are allowed to carry forward this deficit to your next campaign if you run again for an office on the same council or school board. The campaign deficit exists on paper. You are still obligated to pay any vendors that you owe money to.

Auditor’s Report

If your campaign expenses or the contributions you received total more than $10,000 you must have an auditor review your financial statement and provide a report.

The auditor’s report must be prepared by an auditor licensed under the Public Accounting Act, 2004. Before you hire someone to prepare the report, you should ensure that they are properly qualified.