Election coverage: Your questions answered

With a federal election called for October 19th, Newspapers Canada has answers to some common questions about election laws. 

If you have any other questions, or require further clarification, please contact Newspapers Canada president and CEO John Hinds at jhinds@newspaperscanada.ca.

Are there advertising blackout periods during the campaign?
The only time when candidates and political parties cannot advertise is on election day. (Section 323 of the Canada Elections Act)

Do election ads need any special authorization?
All ads for a candidate or political party must state that the advertisement is authorized by the official agent for that candidate or by the registered agent for the political party. (Section 320)

Are there any restrictions on how much I can charge a candidate or political party?
A newspaper cannot charge a political party or candidate more than the lowest rate they charge any other advertiser for equivalent space in the same issue. (Section 348)

Are there any restrictions on what an interest group can spend on advertising?
Yes, On May 18, 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that spending by outside lobby groups is restricted under the Canada Elections Act. A group is allowed to spend up to $150,000 overall; a maximum of $3,000 may be spent promoting or opposing candidates in an individual riding. Groups must also be registered with Elections Canada.

TV and Radio stations are required to provide free air time for political parties, is there any requirement for newspapers to provide space?
No, there is no requirement for newspapers to provide space for political parties or candidates, either free or paid.

Are there any special rules for the Internet?
The rules covering election advertising and blackout provisions also apply to the Internet. The ban on election day advertising or poll publication does not apply to the Internet if the material was already posted before the start of the ban and has not been changed.

When I publish an unofficial election poll or "streeter," do I have to include specific wording?
Yes, if you conduct a "streeter" or unofficial poll, you are required to indicate that the survey is not based on recognised statistical methods. Also, if you publish someone else’s unofficial poll within 24 hours of its first publication, you must include a statement that it is not based on recognised statistical methods. (Section 327)

Are there any restrictions on when I can publish an opinion poll?
Yes, you cannot publish a new poll on election day. (Section 328)

When I publish an opinion poll, what do I have to include?
If you publish a "real" opinion poll that is – not an unofficial "streeter" – you are required to include certain information if you are the first person to release the information or if you publish it within 24 hours of its first release.

You must include:

  • The name of the poll’s sponsor
  • The name of the organization that conducted the poll
  • The date on which or the period during which the poll was conducted
  • The population from which the sample of survey respondents was drawn
  • The number of people contacted to participate
  • The margin of error, if applicable

As newspapers, you must also include:

  • The wording of the survey question
  • Instructions on how to obtain a written report of the survey results

If I sponsor an opinion poll, are there any additional requirements?
If you sponsor a public opinion survey, you must, after the release of the survey, provide, on request, a written report that contains the following information:

  • The name and address of the sponsor of the survey
  • The name and address of the person or organization that conducted the survey
  • The date on which or the period during which the survey was conducted

You also must include information about the method used to collect the data from which the survey results were derived, including:

  • The sampling method
  • The  population from which the sample was drawn
  • The size of the sample
  • The number of people asked to participate in the survey and the number and percentage of those who did not participate in the survey
  • The number of people who refused to participate in the survey and were ineligible to participate in the survey
  • The dates and times of day of the interviews
  • The method used to recalculate data to take into account the results of participante who expressed no opinion, and any weighting factors or normalization procedures used in deriving the results of the survey
  • The wording of the survey questions and the margin of error

A sponsor may charge up to $0.25 per page for a copy of the report.