The electoral landscape has changed since the previous civic election, according to political communications professor David Black.

The reasons:

  1. social media, which can serve as a new form of advertising;
  2. slates, which can help candidates build economies of scale;
  3. and new rules for third-party sponsors.

“Let’s call them political action committees because that’s what they are,” Black said. “That’s a more truthful, more revealing name than third-party sponsors. That sounds like a charity.”

Third party sponsors have to follow certain rules, including:

  • staying under a province-wide spending cap of $150,000
  • not coordinating with candidates
  • keeping a record of spending and donations
  • identifying themselves on ads

Despite that, they can still have a significant influence.

“They allow the candidate to get out of the box they’re put in with respect to campaign finance, and really amplify their message [and] add resources to a campaign that would not be available otherwise,” Black said.

But financial disclosure only needs to be made after the election is over.

“A third party sponsor can overspend, can put out a lot of media, can influence a lot of voters, and only be called on account long after the votes are counted and the winning candidates are selected,” Black said.

There’s also the unregulated arena. Facebook pages, for example, that can share a political opinion for free.

Calvin To