With a general election scheduled in Alberta for May 2023, the statutory election advertising period under the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. E-2, as amended (the Act) begins on January 1, 2023.
For Third Party Advertisers (TPAs) in Alberta, that means big changes.
Key changes coming into effect for TPAs on January 1, 2023
- Political Third Party Advertisers (PTPAs) must stop advertising as of December 31, 2022.
- Election Third Party Advertisers (ETPAs) are the only TPAs that can advertise during the election advertising period, which runs from January 1, 2023, until the end of the general election in May 2023.
- Only funds from the election advertising accounts of registered ETPAs can be used for election advertising.
- Issues advertising is regulated during the election advertising period.
- Spending limits for the pre-writ and writ periods come into effect, including for individual electoral districts.
- ETPAs need to start filing contribution reports with Elections Alberta on a weekly basis.
Enhanced restrictions on Election Third Party Advertisers
While PTPAs and ETPAs engage in similar activities of promoting or opposing candidates and parties for election, ETPAs face more regulatory restrictions. Some of those restrictions are new since the last general election.
The key differences between political and election TPAs that anyone advertising in Alberta between January and May 2023 should be aware of include:
- Issues advertising falls within the definition of election advertising. That means, with the exception of certain activities that are expressly exempted by the Act, anyone who “transmits to the public by any means during an election advertising period … an advertising message that takes a position on an issue with which a registered party or registered candidate is associated” is engaging in election advertising and needs to register with Elections Alberta as an ETPA once they have collected or spent CA$1,000 for election advertising.
- Who can register as an ETPA is more restrictive than who can register as an PTPA. The following persons/entities are not eligible to register as ETPAs:
- A corporation that does not carry on business in Alberta; A person who is not ordinarily resident in Alberta; A trade union or employee organization that is not an Alberta trade union or Alberta employee organization; A registered charity; and
- The prohibited corporations listed in s. 1(1)(l) of the Act.
- Who can donate to an ETPA is also more restrictive. Only individuals who are ordinarily resident in Alberta can make advertising contributions to an ETPA. Corporations, trade unions and groups who are registered as ETPAs cannot self-fund election advertising. Election advertising contributions must be accounted for and reported in a manner that allows each contribution to be traced back to an individual contributor who is ordinarily resident in Alberta. PTPAs also cannot transfer funds to ETPAs.
- As outlined above, ETPAs have specific spending limits between January 1, 2023, and the start of the campaign period, and again during the campaign period. ETPAs must also report all monetary and non-monetary contributions they receive to Elections Alberta every week beginning January 1, 2023.
In addition to the key points highlighted here, there are many more regulations and restrictions that apply to political and election advertising in Alberta, including maximum contribution limits.
 Provided the general election proceeds as scheduled in accordance with section 38.1 of the Election Act, R.S.A. 2000, c E-1, as amended.