Written By William Osler KC, Gavin Millan and Flutra Kacuri
With the next provincial election in Alberta scheduled for May 29, 2023, anyone considering making a financial contribution to a political party or candidate should be aware of the rules governing contributions as outlined in the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act (EFCDA). The EFCDA was updated effective March 31, 2022, making this the first general election under these rules.
Contributions to Political Parties, Constituency Associations, Candidates & Contestants
A contribution is defined in the EFCDA as any money, real property, goods or services, or the use of real property, goods or services provided (1) to a registered party, registered constituency association, nomination contestant, registered leadership contestant, or registered candidate, without compensation from them, or (2) for the benefit of a registered party, registered constituency association, nomination contestant, registered leadership contestant, or registered candidate, with or without their consent and without compensation from them. The recipient of a benefit does not need to consent to the benefit in order for the benefit to be considered a contribution.
Goods, services or money contributed by any person and worth less than $50 are not considered a contribution under the EFCDA.
Eligibility, Limitations & Contribution Valuations
Under the EFCDA, only individuals resident in Alberta can contribute to registered political parties, constituency associations, candidates and contestants. The maximum amount an individual can contribute to any combination of these entities in a calendar year is $4,300.
The value of contributions other than money provided to a registered constituency association, nomination contestant, registered leadership contestant or registered candidate is the market value of the contribution at that time. If any real property, goods or services, or the use of real property, goods or services, is provided to or for the benefit of one of these entities for a price that is less than the market value at that time, the amount by which the value exceeds the price is considered a contribution for the purposes of the EFCDA.
The EFCDA outlines the specific periods in which contributions are permitted:
- Contributions to a political party are permitted at any time.
- Contributions to a registered constituency association are permitted at any time outside of an election period; however, such contributions are prohibited during an election campaign period
- Contributions to nomination contestants are only permitted during the nomination contestant's campaign period.
- Contributions to registered leadership contestants are only permitted during the campaign period for the leadership contest.
- Contributions to candidates are only allowed during the time from a Writ of Election until two months after election day. An election is held within 28 days of issuance of the Writ of Election.
Contributions to Third Party Advertisers
An advertising contribution refers to any money, real property, goods or services, provided to or for the benefit of a third party advertiser for the purpose of political or election advertising.
The EFCDA distinguishes between political advertising and election advertising:
- Political advertising refers to the distribution of advertising messages promoting or opposing a registered party, the leader of a registered party, an MLA, a nomination contestant, a registered leadership contestant or the election of a registered candidate, outside of an election advertising period. The election advertising period is the period starting on January 1 of an election year and ending on the election day.
- Election advertising refers to the distribution of advertising messages promoting or opposing a registered party or the election of a registered candidate, including advertising messages that take a position on an issue with which a registered party or registered candidate is associated, during an election advertising period.
Eligibility and Limitations for Advertising Contributions
Individuals resident in Alberta, corporations carrying on business in Canada and trade unions and employee organizations in Canada are permitted to make an advertising contribution to a third party for political advertising purposes. However, the EFCDA only permits individuals resident in Alberta to contribute to third party advertisers (TPAs) for election advertising purposes.
The EFCDA imposes the following advertising contribution limits:
- Individuals resident in Alberta may, at any time, contribute a maximum of $30,000 per calendar year to any combination of political TPAs or election TPAs (ETPAs).
- Corporations carrying on business in Canada, and trade unions and employee organizations in Canada may, at any time, contribute a maximum of $30,000 per calendar year to any combination of TPAs.
The current election advertising period for ETPAs began on January 1, 2023, and will last until May 29, 2023.
Public Disclosure of Contributions
Under the EFCDA, each registered party, registered constituency association, nomination contestant, registered leadership contestant, registered candidate and third party advertiser must file certain information with the Chief Electoral Officer:
- Registered parties and constituency associations must report contributions received that exceed $50.
- Registered parties, candidates, nomination contestants, and leadership contestants must report contributions received during a campaign period that exceed $250. A campaign period is the period starting with the issue of a writ for an election and ending two months after election day.
- TPAs engaging in election advertising or political advertising must report advertising contributions received totalling more than $250.
In each case, the filings with Chief Electoral Officer must include the names and addresses of contributors.
The Chief Electoral Officer is required to disclose on the Elections Alberta website the name of any contributor who has donated more than $250 in aggregate, and the actual amount contributed, to any registered party, registered constituency association, nomination contestant, registered leadership contestant, registered candidate or TPA. In an election cycle, this information will be closely scrutinized by the media, political parties and other stakeholders, as well as the public.
Tax Credits for Political Contributions
Contributions to TPAs are not eligible for income tax credits.
Contributions to political parties, constituencies, Senate candidates, nomination contestants and leadership contestants are all eligible for non-refundable income tax credits. The tax credit must be claimed in the year for which contributions are made and cannot be carried forward to be claimed in a subsequent year.
The maximum tax credit available is $1,000 for a contribution of $2,300 or more.
If you have any questions on navigating political contributions, please contact the authors of this blog.