The definition of election advertising is broad and applies to advertising conducted by candidates, elector organizations and third party sponsors during the campaign period only. Advertising costs incurred during the election period are still election expenses and must be recorded and disclosed, but they are not election advertising.
Election advertising is any transmission of a communication to the public during a campaign period that directly or indirectly promotes or opposes a candidate or an elector organization, including a communication that takes a position on an issue associated with a candidate or elector organization.
With the exception of sponsorship information, Elections BC does not regulate the content of election advertising.
Election advertising does not include the following:
- messages on the internet that do not, and would not normally, have a placement cost, including free social media posts, websites and videos. Examples of free messages that are not election advertising include Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat posts, tweets, YouTube videos and websites. Although these messages are not election advertising, any costs related to their design or production are election expenses and must be disclosed accordingly.
- personal or private communications (such as private letters, emails, in-person or telephone conversations, etc.)
- free media coverage from a legitimate media provider (such as news stories, editorials, radio interviews, etc.)
- producing, promoting or distributing a publication if it was planned to be sold whether or not there was an election
- a communication by an individual or group sent directly to their members, employees or shareholders
- transmission by an individual, on a non-commercial basis, on the internet, or by telephone or text message of their personal views
Not election advertising
Determining the sponsor of election advertising
The sponsor of election advertising is the elector organization that pays for the advertising.
The elector organization is still the sponsor even if:
- the advertising is provided to the elector organization as a campaign contribution, or
- another individual or organization conducts advertising on behalf of the elector organization.
A local parents’ group meets with an elector organization and they decide, with the consent of the elector organization’s financial agent, that the group will create brochures on behalf of the elector organization and distribute them door-to-door during the campaign period. The elector organization pays the local parents’ group the market value for creating and distributing the brochures. (Remember, since only eligible individuals may make a campaign contribution, the group must not pay for the advertising.)
Who is the sponsor of the advertising?
The elector organization is the sponsor. The local parents’ group is working on behalf of the elector organization to create and distribute the brochures. The cost of preparing and printing the brochures is a campaign period expense of the elector organization.
Elector organizations and candidates must not sponsor election advertising with a third party sponsor and a third party sponsor must not sponsor election advertising on behalf of an elector organization or candidate.
Sponsorship information on election advertising
Sponsorship information, also known as an authorization statement, is required on most election advertising and must include:
- the name of the financial agent,
- the words “authorized by” in front of the financial agent’s name, and
- a B.C. phone number, or B.C. mailing address or email address at which the financial agent can be contacted.
Although there are no size requirements for the sponsorship information, it must be clear and readable.
Sponsorship information must be on the election advertising itself and must be in English or understandable to readers of English. If the advertising is in another language, the sponsorship information must also be in that language or understandable to readers of that language.
One-sided election signs must have sponsorship information on the side that contains the advertising. It cannot be only on the back of the sign.
Two-sided election signs must have sponsorship information on at least one side. It is not required to be on both sides.
Elector organization sponsor
Authorized by Susan Wong, email@example.com
Authorized by John Smith, financial agent 604-123-4567
Election advertising exempt from sponsorship information
Certain types of election advertising do not require sponsorship information:
- novelty items (such as buttons, badges, pins, stickers, bumper stickers, wristbands)
- small items of nominal value that are intended for personal use (such as pens, mugs, magnets, key chains, notepads, business cards)
Sponsorship information for advertising on the internet
For internet advertising that has or would normally have a placement cost, the sponsorship information does not need to be on the ad if there is a link that takes the viewer to the website, landing page or profile page that contains it.
Where and when election signs may be placed
Elections BC does not regulate where and when signs may be placed. However, local governments have the authority to regulate the size, placement, maintenance and removal of signs and other forms of public advertising. Contact your local government for more information about election sign bylaws in your area.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure regulates sign placement on provincial highways. Please refer to the Ministry’s policy at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/transportation-infrastructure/engineering-standards-guidelines/technical-circulars/election-referendum-sign-policy.
Important safety note: Placing election signs by digging or driving stakes into the ground can pose a safety hazard to sign installers and to underground infrastructure (such as gas lines and other utilities). Before placing election signs, you may wish to contact BC One Call at 1-800-474-6886 to determine if there are risks in your area. This service is free of charge and is not associated with Elections BC.
Authority to remove election advertising
If election advertising does not include the required sponsorship information, or is conducted by an unregistered third party sponsor, Elections BC may require that the advertising be:
Campaigning restrictions on General Voting Day
An individual or organization must not transmit election advertising to the public on General Voting Day (GVD) except:
- election advertising on the internet as long as the advertising was transmitted to the public before GVD and was not changed before the close of voting
- advertising by means of signs, posters or banners
- distributing pamphlets
- advertising on the internet that is for the sole purpose of encouraging voters to vote
Permitted on General Voting Day
Not permitted on General Voting Day
Election advertising is never permitted within 100 metres of a voting place while voting is being conducted.
For more information about the 100 metre rule, please contact your local authority.
Determining the value of election advertising
The value of election advertising is an election expense. If used during the campaign period, the value is also a campaign period expense and is subject to the expense limit. The value of election advertising is the price paid for preparing and transmitting the advertising.
Since only eligible individuals may make campaign contributions, advertising suppliers such as newspapers, sign printers, etc. must not give discounts to elector organizations or candidates.
The value of election advertising includes all property and services used in preparing and transmitting the advertising to the public (such as materials, transmission fees, design services, taxes, etc.).
An elector organization pays an agency $500 to produce an advertisement and then pays a radio station $150 per play. The ad is played 20 times during the campaign period.
What is the value of this election advertising?
The production cost plus the cost per play multiplied by the number of times played: $500 + $3,000 ($150 x 20 plays) = $3,500.
Sabrina, a volunteer for an elector organization, prepares a brochure at home and prints 500 copies at a local shop for $0.25 per copy. The brochures are mailed to 500 different homes at a postage rate of $1 per brochure.
What is the value of this election advertising?
500 brochures x $1.25 ($0.25 printing + $1 postage per brochure) = $625.
The value of designing the brochure is not included in the value of the election advertising because it was made with Sabrina’s own property and she is a volunteer.
Third party advertising sponsor
It is an offence to conduct third party advertising before registering with Elections BC.
An elector organization may also act as a third party advertising sponsor but not for the election in which they are endorsing candidates. This means that generally, an elector organization can only be a third party sponsor outside their own jurisdiction. Elector organizations considering becoming third party sponsors should contact Elections BC and must register with Elections BC before conducting third party advertising.
An elector organization in Vancouver could register as a third party sponsor and do third party advertising in Whistler as long as the advertising is not related to their own campaign.
Remember, elector organizations and candidates cannot sponsor election advertising with a third party sponsor and a third party sponsor must not sponsor election advertising on behalf of an elector organization or candidate.
For more information about third party advertising and requirements for third party sponsors, refer to the Guide for Local Elections Third Party Sponsors in B.C. available at elections.bc.ca/lecf.