Guide to Initiative Communications

Elections BC has prepared this guide to help individuals understand the rules for initiative communications and advertising during an initiative petition period and an initiative vote period. It summarizes the Recall and Initiative Act’s requirements, but is not a substitute for the Act. If there is an inconsistency between this guide and the Act, the Act will prevail.

For more information or assistance, contact our Electoral Finance team at electoral.finance@elections.bc.ca.

Guide to Initiative Communications

Understanding the initiative process

About the initiative process in B.C.

Initiative is a process that allows registered voters to propose new laws or change existing laws. A suggested law must be within the jurisdiction of the Legislature of British Columbia and not a matter of federal responsibility.

Any voter registered with Elections BC can apply to have a petition issued to gather support for a legislative proposal. A legislative proposal can be regarding any matter within the jurisdiction of the provincial legislature. A registered voter who wants to start an initiative petition must obtain an application form from the Chief Electoral Officer. The completed application form must be submitted to the Chief Electoral Officer with a processing fee of $50 and a copy of the proposed law in the form of a draft Bill.

If the application is approved in principle, a petition is issued to the applicant (called a “proponent”) 60 days later. The proponent then has 90 days to collect signatures of 10% of the registered voters in each electoral district. The proponent may be helped by volunteers when canvassing for signatures.

When all the signed petition sheets are submitted, the Chief Electoral Officer has 42 days to verify that enough valid signatures have been collected. If the verification process shows that sufficient signatures have been collected and the financing requirements have been met by the proponent, the Chief Electoral Officer sends a copy of the petition and draft Bill to a Select Standing Committee of the Legislature.

The Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives must meet within 30 days of receipt of the initiative petition and draft Bill. The Select Standing Committee has 90 days to consider the legislative proposal. The Committee must either table a report recommending introduction of the draft Bill or refer the initiative petition and draft Bill to the Chief Electoral Officer for an initiative vote.

If an initiative petition has met the signature threshold and financing requirements, and been referred to the Chief Electoral Officer for an initiative vote by the Select Standing Committee, the vote must be conducted on a fixed schedule according to the Recall and Initiative Act. If no initiatives have been referred to the Chief Electoral Officer then no vote will be held. If an initiative vote is required, a vote will be held on September 30, 2023, and on the last Saturday of September in every third year after that date.

If more than 50% of the total number of registered voters in the province vote in favour of an initiative, and more than 50% of the total number of registered voters in each of at least 2/3 of the electoral districts in the province vote in favour of an initiative, the Chief Electoral Officer must declare the initiative vote to be successful and the government must introduce the Bill at the earliest practicable opportunity.

After a Bill is introduced into the legislature, the requirements of the Recall and Initiative Act have been satisfied, and any subsequent reading, amendment, or passage of the Bill will proceed as with any other Bill, with no guarantee of passage.

Initiative petition timeline

Day 0 – Application approved

  • Initiative Petition period begins
  • Notice published in BC Gazette
  • Opponent registration begins

Day 30 – Opponent registration closes

Day 60 – Petition issued

  • Canvassing period begins

Day 150 – Petition filing deadline

  • Canvassing period ends (petition may be submitted to Elections BC early if required signatures collected)

+28 days – Financing report deadline

  • Proponent, opponent and advertising sponsors must file financing reports

+42 days – Verification of valid signatures by Chief Electoral Office

: Illustration of the initiative petition timeline with key dates and time periods plotted along a line. This information is repeated in the text on this page.

How to conduct an initiative petition

See our Guide to the Initiative Process for more information on starting, opposing, canvassing or signing an initiative petition.

See our Guide for Initiative Petition Canvassers for the rules and responsibilities of canvassers, and answers to frequently asked questions.

See our Guide to Initiative Financing (available soon) for more information on financial rules, contributions, expenses and reporting requirements.

Initiative advertising

Initiative advertising

Initiative advertising is advertising used during an initiative petition period to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the initiative petition or draft Bill, or advertising used during an initiative vote period to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the initiative. This includes all forms of advertising, such as media advertising, brochures, signs, paid online ads and promoted social posts, etc.

Initiative advertising does not include messages on the internet that do not, and would not normally have, a placement cost, including organic social media posts, websites and videos. Examples of messages that are not initiative advertising include: unpaid Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts, YouTube videos and websites.

Initiative advertising can only be conducted by an authorized participant or a registered initiative advertising sponsor. Authorized participants such as a proponent of an initiative petition or initiative vote, proponent group or opponent of initiative petition or initiative vote or opponent group should refer to the Guide to the Initiative Financing (available soon) for more information on advertising.

Initiative advertising sponsorship

The sponsor of initiative advertising is the individual or organization who pays for the advertising, who receives the advertising as a contribution, or who has initiative advertising conducted on their behalf.

An individual or organization must not sponsor initiative advertising with the property of any other individual or organization or indirectly through any other individual or organization.

Registering as an initiative advertising sponsor

Individuals or organizations other than the authorized participants, who intend to sponsor initiative petition or initiative vote advertising must register with the Chief Electoral Officer. They must file a completed Initiative Advertising Sponsor Application for Registration (930) and include the following information:

  • the full name of the applicant and, in the case of an applicant organization that has a different usual name, this usual name,
  • the full address of the applicant,
  • in the case of an applicant organization, the names of the principal officers of the organization or, if there are no principal officers, of the principal members of the organization,
  • an address at which notices and communications under the Act and other communications will be accepted as served on or otherwise delivered to the individual or organization,
  • a telephone number at which the applicant can be contacted, and
  • identification of the initiative petition or initiative vote in relation to which the applicant wants to be a registered advertising sponsor.

People eligible to sign an application are:

  • the individual applicant,
  • if the applicant is an organization, two principal officers of the organization, or
  • if an applicant organization has no principal officers, two principal members of the organization.

Applications must include a signed statement that the applicant is not prohibited from being registered by section 99 of the Recall and Initiative Act (i.e. an individual who previously exceeded an initiative advertising expense limit or failed to file an initiative advertising disclosure report).

If any information contained in an application for registration as a sponsor changes, the change must be made in writing and filed with the Chief Electoral Officer within 15 days after it occurs.

Initiative advertising limits

A registered initiative advertising sponsor, other than an authorized participant, must not sponsor initiative advertising during an initiative petition or initiative vote period that has a value of more than $5,000. This includes initiative advertising sponsored in combination with other individuals or groups.

The value of documents that are initiative advertising but that are sent directly to the registered advertising sponsor’s members, shareholders or employees is not included in the $5,000 limit.

Requirement to identify as a initiative advertising sponsor

Initiative advertising must not be conducted or published unless it:

  • identifies the name of the sponsor,
  • indicates that it was authorized by the identified sponsor or, in the case of an authorized participant, the financial agent,
  • indicates that the sponsor is a registered sponsor under the Recall and Initiative Act (not necessary for authorized participants),
  • for sponsors that are numbered corporations or unincorporated organizations, indicates the name of an individual who is a director or principal officer or member, and
  • gives a British Columbia telephone number or British Columbia mailing address at which the registered sponsor or financial agent may be contacted regarding the advertising.

Examples:

Authorized by Jane Doe, financial agent, 250-123-1234.

Authorized by Jane Doe Company, registered sponsor under the Recall and Initiative Act, 250-123-1234.

Authorized by Small Partnership, Jane Doe, registered sponsor under the Recall and Initiative Act, 250-123-1234.

Sponsors, including authorized participants, must make someone available to answer questions from the public that are directed to the address or telephone number indicated on the advertising.

Authorization statements for online advertising

Elections BC recognizes that it is not practical to include the authorization statement within certain initiative advertising on the internet due to the space and character limitations imposed by some message formats (e.g. pay-per-click ads, banner ads).

For online initiative advertising, the authorization statement is not required to be contained within the advertising message if selecting (i.e. clicking) the advertising message sends the viewer to a website, landing page or profile page which contains the sponsor’s required authorization statement.

Restrictions on initiative advertising rates

Individuals and organizations must not charge a rate for initiative advertising in a periodical publication (newspaper, magazine, etc.) or on radio or television that exceeds the lowest rate charged by the individual or organization for equivalent advertising in the same medium during the same period.

Restrictions on campaign sign placement

The sign policy of the Ministry of Transportation does not allow the placement of initiative campaign signs along provincial highways.

There may be additional rules at the municipal level regarding where signs may be placed. Authorized participants and initiative advertising sponsors are advised to check for municipal by-laws regulating the placement of signs in any municipality where they wish to erect signs.

Important safety note: Placing or erecting signs by digging or driving stakes into the ground can pose a safety hazard to sign installers and to underground infrastructure (i.e. gas lines and other utilities). Before placing 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.

Initiative petition campaigning

Initiative vote campaigning rules

There are certain restrictions relating to advertising and campaigning during an initiative vote period and near voting places.

Use of loudspeakers

During voting hours of advance voting or general voting for an initiative vote, initiative advertising by means of a public address system or loudspeaker is not permitted within hearing distance of a voting place.

General Voting Day restrictions

On General Voting Day for an initiative vote, there is a prohibition against conducting or sponsoring initiative advertising by publishing it in a newspaper or magazine, or on radio or television. The prohibition against sponsoring initiative advertising on General Voting Day applies whether the publication is done within British Columbia or outside the province.

100 metre rule – District Electoral Offices

During an initiative vote period, no one may post, display or disseminate any initiative advertising within 100 metres of the building where the district electoral office is located.

If any contravening material is posted or displayed, etc., within the 100 metre no campaigning zone, the District Electoral Officer may enter the property where the materials are located and remove, cover or otherwise obscure them from view.

100 metre rule – voting places

While advance voting or general voting for an initiative vote is being conducted at a voting place, there is a 100 metre no campaigning zone around the building where the voting is being conducted.

Within this 100 metre zone, an individual or organization must not:

  • post, display or disseminate any initiative advertising;
  • canvass or solicit votes or otherwise attempt to influence how a voter votes;
  • carry, wear or supply a flag, badge or anything indicating that the individual using it is a supporter of a particular response to an initiative; or
  • post, display, disseminate or openly leave a representation of a ballot marked for a particular response to an initiative.

For more information on the initiative process, see our Guide to the Initiative Process.

Initiative petition reporting

Initiative advertising disclosure reports

Sponsors, other than authorized participants, must file advertising disclosure reports if the value of their initiative advertising was $500 or more during the initiative petition period or an initiative vote period. Disclosure reports must be filed with the Chief Electoral Officer.

In the case of initiative advertising during an initiative petition period, the report must be filed within 28 days after the end of the initiative petition period.

In the case of initiative advertising during an initiative vote period, the report must be filed within 90 days after the end of initiative vote period.

If the information required to be disclosed changes, or the sponsor becomes aware that the disclosure statement did not completely and accurately disclose the required information, the sponsor must file a supplementary report with the Chief Electoral Officer. A supplementary report is due within 14 days after the sponsor becomes aware of the change or inaccuracy with regard to initiative petition advertising or within 30 days in relation to initiative vote advertising.

Information required in disclosure reports

An initiative advertising sponsor disclosure report must be submitted on forms provided by Elections BC.

They must include the following information:

  • the value of the initiative advertising sponsored, reported by class,
  • for initiative petitions, the amount of contributions accepted by the sponsor during the period beginning six months before the initiative petition was issued and ending at the end of the initiative petition period,
  • for initiative votes, the amount of contributions accepted by the sponsor during the period beginning six months before General Voting Day and ending at the end of the initiative vote period, and
  • any amount of the sponsor’s assets, other than assets received by way of contributions reported under the previous paragraphs, that was used to pay for the initiative advertising sponsored.

Classes of contributor

Amounts accepted from contributors must be reported separately for each of the following classes of contributor:

1. individuals

2. corporations

3. unincorporated organizations engaged in business or commercial activity

4. trade unions

5. non-profit organizations

6. other identifiable contributors

7. anonymous contributors

Anonymous contributions

For anonymous contributions the initiative advertising disclosure report must include the dates on which the contributions were received, the amounts received on each date and, if applicable, the events at which they were received.

Contributions over $250

If a contributor made one or more contributions that had a total value of $250 or more during the period in contributions must be reported, the report must include:

  • the full name of the individual,
  • the class of the contributor,
  • if the contributor is a numbered corporation or an unincorporated organization, the full names and addresses of at least two individuals who are directors, principal officers or principal members of the organization, and
  • the value of each contribution and the date on which it was made.

Filing a late report

Upon payment of a $500 late filing fee, a sponsor may file an initiative advertising disclosure report during the late filing period. The late filing period is 30 days from the original filing deadline.

Failure to file report

If an initiative advertising disclosure report is not filed with the Chief Electoral Officer by the end of the late filing period, the sponsor:

  • is deregistered as a sponsor, and
  • must pay $500 for each day the report remains unfiled.

If the sponsor is an unincorporated organization, the members of the organization are jointly and separately liable to pay the $500 per day penalty.

Court order for relief from filing obligations

A sponsor may apply to the Supreme Court of British Columbia to seek relief from an obligation to file an initiative advertising disclosure report or from the penalty in relation to the filing of the report.

The application must be made before the end of the 30 day late filing period or, if the relief sought is in relation  to a supplementary report, within 14 days for an initiative petition or 30 days for an initiative vote after the authorized participant becomes aware of the change, incompleteness or inaccuracy of the report.

Requirement to maintain records

Anyone who is, or has been, a sponsor of initiative advertising must:

  • ensure that the records required to be maintained are maintained in British Columbia, and
  • retain those records for at least five years, or a longer period if specified by the Chief Electoral Officer, from the date of filing a report.

Information open to the public

Sponsor registration and advertising disclosure reports are available for public inspection at Elections BC’s office in Victoria and online on our Financial Reports and Political Contributions filing system.