Ontario’s 2022 municipal elections: What nonprofits need to know about advocating

From shelters and child care to zoning and recreation, municipalities are responsible for so many areas of the nonprofit sector. That is why it is vital that nonprofits play an active role in Ontario’s 2022 municipal elections. 

Here are four things nonprofits need to know if they want to advocate:

1. Your advocacy has enormous power

As a nonprofit, you bring together beneficiaries, members, volunteers, staff, donors, and others behind a cause in your local community. Many of them would be thrilled to join a campaign to advocate for the cause during a municipal election. Particularly for nonprofits with missions that are locally focused, the low turnout in municipal elections generally means that you have the power to mobilize your community to affect election outcomes. 

2. You have a right to advocate – and communities need you to

Whether you are a grassroots group, nonprofit, or charity, you have a right to participate in the democratic process. Unfortunately, there are still some myths about what nonprofits and charities can’t do. Since changes to the Income Tax Act in 2018, charities now have an unlimited ability to engage in nonpartisan advocacy. 

3. Registered charities must stay nonpartisan

Registered charities are not allowed to support or oppose a candidate for office and this includes municipal elections. 

However, registered charities can still engage in a wide variety of nonpartisan advocacy activities like:

  • All-candidates debates
  • Pledges that candidates can sign on to
  • Petitions, flyers, and other issue-based awareness raising tools

To learn more about the rules, read this guide put out by the Canada Revenue Agency. Nonprofits that are not charities can choose to be partisan. 

4. You only need to register with your municipality if your advertisements are partisan

Under Ontario’s Municipal Elections Act, individuals and nonprofit corporations must register with their municipality only if they plan on spending money on advertising that supports, promotes, or opposes a candidate for office or ballot question. If you are considering partisan advertising, you can learn more about the general rules here

Advocacy resources:

The Ontario Nonprofit Network has created several resources on effective advocacy:

For inspiring examples of advocacy from our network, follow us on social media as we will be amplifying examples throughout the election period. 

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