Rules and Prohibitions for Political Entities

The Election Commissioner’s mandate is to enforce Alberta’s election laws by conducting investigations into matters that might constitute an offence under the Election Act and the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act and to apply penalties where warranted. 


The legislation that establishes the rules for political entities is not written in plain language and there are many questions about how these entities are regulated. This is the first in a series of infographics that simplify the rules that apply to political entities. The purpose is to consolidate and highlight some of the more important rules and the penalties that apply for rule violation. Other infographics to follow will cover the rules and prohibitions that apply to other political entities, including nomination contestants, candidates, political parties, leadership contestants and constituency associations.


These infographics are not meant to be legal advice, nor do they replace any of the provisions in the Election Act or the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. They are not intended to take the place of the guidance and directions that are issued by Elections Alberta. Unique circumstances and conditions often need to be considered and applied in interpreting the law. If you have any questions after reading these rules and prohibitions, you should consult the legislation itself or seek legal advice to determine how the rules might apply to your situation.  The Office of the Election Commissioner is not resourced to provide you with legal advice or opinions.

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THIRD PARTY ADVERTISING

WHAT IS A 'THIRD PARTY ADVERTISER'?

An individual, corporation or group that incurs or plans to incur expenses, or that has accepted or plans to accept contributions, for election or political advertising.


WHEN DO PARTIES NEED TO BE REGISTERED?

When they spend $1K or plan to spend $1K or more on election or political advertising or when they accept or plan to accept $1K or more in advertising contributions.


WHY DO THIRD PARTIES NEED TO BE REGISTERED?

Political parties and candidates have spending limits and financial disclosure obligations. Financial activity of third parties is also tracked and disclosed for transparency and to prevent collusion with parties and candidates to circumvent expense limits.


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NOMINATION CONTEST

WHAT IS A ‘NOMINATION CONTEST’?

This is any process used by a registered political party or a party constituency association to elect or select a person to be the party’s official candidate for election in an electoral division. (There are 87 electoral divisions in Alberta).


WHO ARE THE NOMINATION CONTESTANTS?

This is any person who is participating in a nomination contest, seeking the endorsement of a registered political party, competing to become the party’s official election candidate in an electoral division.


HOW LONG IS THE CAMPAIGN PERIOD FOR A NOMINATION CONTEST?

This period varies by contestant. It starts on the date a nomination contestant is required to register with the Chief Electoral Officer and ends 2 months after the nomination contest finishes.


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RULES FOR CANDIDATES

WHAT IS A ‘PARTY CANDIDATE’?

This is a person who has been selected for endorsement by a registered political party to be that party’s official candidate for election in an electoral division. This is usually the result of a nomination contest (or other process) organized by the local constituency association of the political party. Party candidates can be selected months in advance of an election campaign period.


WHAT IS AN ‘INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE’?

This is any person who declares their ‘independent’ candidacy for election to become the Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for an electoral division. An independent candidate is not associated with a political party and can only register as a candidate after an election campaign period starts.


HOW LONG IS THE OFFICIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN PERIOD?

In a scheduled general election year, the election campaign period starts on February 1st and ends 2 months after election day. For non-scheduled provincial elections the campaign period starts on the day election writs are issued.


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RULES FOR GOVERNMENT ADVERTISING

WHAT IS ‘GOVERNMENT ADVERTISING’?

In very broad terms, advertising is the process of drawing attention to an event, product, service or idea in a public medium. Government advertising usually consists of informational and educational messages about government programs and policies that are paid for with taxpayer funds.


WHEN DO THE RESTRICTIONS ON GOVERNMENT ADVERTISING OCCUR?

Legal restrictions on government advertising are effective during the 28-day ‘election period’. The election period starts when the writs of election are officially issued and ends on Election Day.


WHY IS GOVERNMENT ADVERTISING RESTRICTED DURING AN ELECTION?

Government advertising can be considered political when it promotes the governing party or criticizes opposing parties, either directly or indirectly. Government advertising during elections should not contain messages crediting the government for its achievements – when it is permitted it should provide useful information without promoting the government party. Political parties, candidates and third party election advertisers are all required to adhere to strict spending limits during provincial elections. Electoral fairness requires that public money not be spent on government advertising that provides the governing party with a partisan advantage during an election.


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RULES FOR POLITICAL PARTIES

WHAT IS A POLITICAL PARTY?

A political party is an organization whose primary objective is to elect candidates to the Legislative Assembly. The party can establish constituency associations in each of the 87 electoral divisions in the province.


HOW DO PARTIES CHOOSE THEIR LEADERS?

When registered political parties select a new leader they will usually hold a leadership contest. Leadership contestants must be registered and must file a campaign return with the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO). Political parties are required to advise the CEO of the results of each leadership contest they conduct.


HOW DOES A POLITICAL PARTY GAIN ‘OFFICIAL’ STATUS?

To be able to raise funds, incur expenses or transfer funds to or from the candidates it endorses, a political party must be registered with the CEO. One of three different public support criteria must be met before registration can be considered. In addition, certain details, required positions (e.g. Chief Financial Officer), associated names/signatures and specific financial institution and related account information must be provided when the application is made.


 

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RULES FOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTERS

WHAT IS A ‘POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR’?

This is a person who ordinarily resides in Alberta and makes a political contribution to a registered political entity. Registered political entities include: political parties, election candidates, constituency associations, nomination contestants, and leadership contestants. Only individuals can be political contributors — unions, corporations and other groups cannot make political contributions.


WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF A ‘POLITICAL CONTRIBUTION’?


• A political contribution is any money, real property, goods or services provided to (or for the benefit of) a registered political entity without compensation.

• Provision or payment of loans, or the use of property, goods or services, may also be considered contributions.

• The value of a non-monetary contribution is its ‘market value’ .

• Ticket values at fundraising events for a political entity may be considered contributions.


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