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Provincial Elections: Do you know the rules on canvassing in condos?

Ontario’s provincial election is just around the corner.  Blue, green, orange and red electoral signs (we listed them in alphabetical order) are popping everywhere. Boards and property managers will soon receive requests from candidates and their representatives wanting to access the property for canvassing purposes.

Condo boards and property managers should be aware of the canvassing rules in Ontario applicable to condos, especially considering that failure to comply with them may result in financial penalties.

In this blog post we cover:

  • the rules applicable to canvassing in condos during a provincial election;
  • the rules applicable to electoral signs in condos.

The Condominium Act

First, section 118 of the Condo Act is clear about electoral canvassing: A condo corporation cannot restrict reasonable access to the property by candidates (or their representatives) who are running for election to:

  • The House of Commons,
  • The Legislative Assembly,
  • An office in a municipal government,
  • A school board.

The access to be granted is limited to:

  • what is reasonable; and,
  • what is necessary for the purpose of canvassing or distributing election material.

The Ontario Election Act

Section 89.1 of the Ontario Election Act goes further and provides that no condo corporation (or persons under their control) may prevent a candidate (or their representatives) from accessing the common areas for the purpose of :

  • Distributing material and performing related activities;
  • Requesting residents to open the doors of their units so that the candidates may engage in activities related to the election. [Naturally, residents have no obligation to open their doors or to engage in such electoral activities].

Access restrictions

Access to the common areas is subject to the following restrictions;

  • The access must be between:
    • 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. on weekdays, or
    • 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on weekends.
  • At least one person seeking access must be at least 18 years of age;
  • Every person seeking access must, on request, provide valid identification documents; and
  • Every person seeking access who is not a candidate must, on request, provide valid written authorization from the candidate.

Access exceptions

The Election Act provides for some exceptions to this right to access common areas.  Namely it does not apply if:

  • if the building has less than seven (7) self-contained units or
  • if the residents’ physical or emotional well-being may be harmed by allowing such access.

Fines and penalties

If access is denied, the canvasser can require access be granted within 24 hours (or immediately if the refusal is given on polling day).

A condo corporation who fails to comply with the Election Act may be faced with an administrative penalty ranging from $500 for the first contravention up to $2,000 for three contraventions or more. If a condo corporation fails to pay this fine, the Chief Electoral Officer may file the order with the Superior Court of Justice and have it enforced as if it was an order of the court.

For more information, condo directors and property managers may want to consult Elections Ontario.

Electoral signs

Both the Municipal Election Act and the Federal Canada Elections Act grant owners and tenants of condo units the ability to display an election sign on the premise of their unit – with certain restriction on size, type and placement of signs.

However, the Ontario Election Act is silent on this. Specifically Elections Ontario’s website indicates that it has no jurisdiction over the placement of lawn sign and that local by-laws may apply.  This, to us, means that a condo corporation could restrict or even prohibit the posting of electoral signs on the property – including exclusive use yards and windows. It all depends on the language of your condo’s governing documents.

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