With October coming up, we can all probably expect to see pumpkin patches, coloured leaves, chai lattes and…. electoral signs! Indeed, Ontario municipal elections will take place this October 22, 2018. This will bring the usual uncertainty as to what candidates and their supporting owners can do when it comes to canvassing and posting electoral signs.
Must corporations grant access to candidates? Can owners post electoral signs?
Access to buildings
The legislation is clear that condo corporations cannot stop candidates from coming in to canvass. However, they are not granted carte blanche to do so—their access must be reasonable.
Section 118 of the Condominium Act provides that a condominium corporation cannot restrict reasonable access to the property by candidates for an election to an office in a municipal government, among other things, if access is necessary for the purpose of canvassing or distributing election material. This access is further elaborated on by section 88.1 of the Municipal Elections Act. This section states that condo corporations may not prevent a candidate or his or her representative from campaigning between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. at the doors to the apartments, units or houses, as the case may be.
Put together, this all means that condo corporations must give reasonable access to the property (and yes, this means allowing them to transit through the common elements) for candidates for the purpose of canvassing. This includes allowing them to do so at units’ doors. However, this canvassing is only allowed between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
While the Condominium Act is silent on the issue of posting signs, the Municipal Elections Act is not. After an amendment to this act in June 2017, it sheds some light on this topic.
Section 88.2 of this Act states that condo corporations may not prohibit the owner or tenant of a unit from displaying signs in relation to an election on the premises of his or her unit but may (oddly enough) prohibit the display of signs in relation of an election in common areas of the building (unless the building is being used as a voting place). Also, like the rule above, these principles are not without limits. The Municipal Elections Act specifically provides that condos can set reasonable conditions relating to the size or type of signs that can be displayed.
What does this all mean? Certainly, owners/tenants can display signs within the confines of their unit (although this may be of limited value, unless being displayed in the window). What this may also mean is that owners/tenants may not be authorized to display electoral signs on their balconies or on the front yard of their townhomes if these areas are common elements (even of an exclusive use nature). Having stated this, in our view, the spirit of these new changes to the Municipal Elections Act is to allow owners/tenants to reasonably display electoral signs for the duration of a municipal election. As such, we recommend that condominium corporations reasonably allow the exercise of this basic democratic right. In our view, the restrictive language allowing corporations to prohibit the display of electoral signs in common areas of the building was aimed at prohibiting the display of such signs in the lobby, gym, mailroom or other such common areas, not necessarily exclusive use common areas.