Canada: Election Readiness: BC 2018

Last Updated: April 24 2018
Article by Rachel Vallance

As a result of statutory amendments following the 2014 election, general local elections in British Columbia are now held every four years (as opposed to every three years), on the third Saturday in October. The next general local election in British Columbia will be held on Saturday October 20, 2018.

We have outlined a few of the more significant legislative changes and important dates to be aware of as local governments begin their election preparation.

Appointment of election officials

Administration of local elections remains the responsibility of chief election officers who are appointed independently by each local government pursuant to s. 58 of the LGA. We generally recommend that our clients make this appointment early in the year of a general election to ensure that the chief election officer has sufficient time to appoint and train other necessary election officials, book voting places, make recommendations to the board or council regarding election procedures and the content of election bylaws, and fulfill other statutory duties.

New campaign finance rules

In 2017, the provincial government introduced amendments to the campaign finance provisions of the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act ("LECFA") to mirror provisions at the provincial level. Some of the more notable amendments are as follows:

Only "eligible individuals" can make campaign contributions. "Eligible individual" is defined in LECFA to mean an individual who is a resident in British Columbia and is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident.

Campaign contributions from organizations (including corporations and unions) and other individuals are now prohibited.

The Act imposes new limits on campaign contributions and loans for campaign use. For example, eligible individuals may make contributions of up to $1,200 per year per campaign to unendorsed candidates or $1,200 in total to each campaign of an elector organization and its endorsed candidates. The onus is on both the individual making the contribution and financial agent for the candidate or elector organization to ensure these limits are respected.

In addition to the foregoing, campaign period expense limits were introduced to LECFA in 2016.

Since the 2014 general election, amendments have also been made to the election advertising provisions of LECFA, including the rules regarding sponsorship of election advertising and contributions to third parties for use in election advertising. In 2016, Elections BC confirmed that messages with no placement costs that are placed on the internet (such as on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, websites or sent by e-mail) do not constitute election advertising.

Given the complexity of these requirements, we recommend that staff direct inquiries regarding campaign financing and election advertising to Elections BC. Elections BC is responsible for administering the campaign financing and election advertising requirements in LECFA and has published a number of helpful resources on these topics.

Chief Elections Officers should also note the requirements under LECFA and the LGA for providing specified information to Elections BC.

Important election dates

January 1, 2018: Election period begins (ends September 21, 2018). This is relevant for the calculation of election period expenses.

May 31, 2018: Expense limits must be made public by Elections BC on its website.

July 9, 2018: Final day for local governments to adopt bylaws or bylaw amendments that will apply to the general local election. Note that some bylaw provisions (such as those authorizing special automated voting machine specifications) require approval of the Minister prior to adoption, so additional time should be budgeted.

September 4, 2018: Nomination period begins (ends September 14, 2018). During this period, the chief election officer must make certain documents available for public inspection and must submit certain nomination documents to Elections BC.

September 22, 2018: Campaign period begins (ends October 20, 2018). This is relevant for the calculation of campaign period expenses and election advertising.

October 10, 2018: Advanced voting opportunity must be held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. A second advanced voting opportunity must be held on the date set by bylaw.

October 20, 2018: General Voting Day

Questions?

Please contact us if any questions arise during your election preparation. As usual, we will be available on the election law hot line on voting days to assist Chief Election Officers and staff with any issues that may arise.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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