Learn more about municipal elections

On this page

Reporting campaign concerns or complaints

Municipal elections in Ontario, including the City of Ottawa’s, are governed by the provincial Municipal Elections Act, 1996 (MEA) which provides rules for the administration of elections. The MEA expressly states that the City Clerk, and by extension the Elections Office, is responsible for the preparation and conduct of municipal elections. As such, staff are not in a position to interpret the legislation, provide advice to candidates or third party advertisers, nor investigate or review any campaign related matters.

In accordance with the MEA, neither the City Clerk nor any other City employee have a role in investigating concerns related to candidate or third party advertising campaigns. This statutory oversight and investigatory role lies with the Election Compliance Audit Committee (ECAC). The ECAC is a statutory body responsible for reviewing and making decisions on applications for municipal election campaign finance compliance audits, and on reports from the City Clerk regarding apparent contraventions of contribution limits prescribed by the MEA resulting from the regular municipal election or any by-election held during the term of office for the City Council for which the Committee was appointed. 

For more information on ECAC, visit ottawa.ca/ecac.

Reporting election sign concerns or complaints

Legislation impacting municipal elections

Provincial legislation

City By-laws

Changes to Provincial legislation

Municipal elections in all Ontario municipalities, including the City of Ottawa, are governed by the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 (the “MEA”), and the Municipal Act, 2001.

Bill 3

On September 8, 2022, Bill 3, Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act, 2022, received Royal Asset, making changes to several Acts, including the following changes to the Municipal Act, 2001, with respect to vacancies in the Office of the Mayor (“office of head of council”):

  • If a vacancy occurs in the office of head of council, the City shall require a by-election to be held, in accordance with the MEA and any regulations, to fill the vacancy. 
  • Subject to subsection (3) and the regulations, if any, the following rules apply to filling vacancies in the office of head of council:
    • Within 60 days after the day the office is declared vacant, the City shall pass a by-law requiring a by-election to be held to fill the vacancy.
    • If a court declares the office of head of council to be vacant, the City shall act within 60 days after the court makes its declaration.
    • If a vacancy occurs within 90 days before voting day of a regular election, the City is not required to fill the vacancy.
  • Subject to the regulations, if any, if a vacancy in the office of head of council occurs after March 31 in the year of a regular election, within 60 days after the day a declaration of vacancy is made, the City shall fill the vacancy by appointing a person who has consented to accept the office if appointed.

Bill 254

On Monday, April 19, 2021, Bill 254, Protecting Ontario Elections Act, 2021 received Royal Assent, making the following changes to the MEA:

  • Clerks may put conditions in place that would allow candidates and third party advertisers to submit their nomination and registration forms electronically. Endorsements of a nomination that is filed electronically must still be collected as original signatures and a person who files a nomination that must be endorsed shall retain the copy of the document bearing the original endorsement signatures.
  • A registered third party advertiser may withdraw their registration by filing a written withdrawal with the Clerk during the time for filing a notice of registration (no later than the Friday before Voting day, at a time when the Clerk’s office is open).
  • If a registered third party advertiser files a nomination to run for office, their third party advertiser registration is deemed to be withdrawn and their advertising campaign automatically closes.

Bill 204

On Thursday, October 1, 2020, Bill 204Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act, 2020, received Royal Assent. The Bill, in part, provides that beginning in 2024, the Province’s Chief Electoral Officer will be responsible for preparing the Preliminary Voters’ List for municipal elections as well as establishing and maintaining a permanent register of electors rather than the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC). In addition, Bill 204 makes the following revisions to several Acts:

  • The MEA is amended to move the responsibility for preparing the Preliminary Voters’ List in municipal elections from the MPAC’s to the Province’s Chief Electoral Officer, beginning in 2024.
  • The responsibilities of the City Clerk with regard to updating the Voters’ List are adjusted accordingly, as are the dates regarding the calculation of contribution and spending limits.
  • The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation Act, 1997 is amended to require the Corporation to provide information to the Chief Electoral Officer free of charge, for the purposes of establishing and maintaining a permanent register of electors.

Bill 218

On Friday, November 20, 2020, Bill 218, Supporting Ontario's Recovery and Municipal Elections Act, 2020, received Royal Assent making a number of changes to the MEA. These changes include:

  • Removing the option to hold ranked ballot elections in Ontario municipalities by revoking Ontario Regulation 310/16 (Ranked Ballot Elections) in its entirety, and by repealing Subsections 41.1 and 41.2 of the MEA.
  • Moving Nomination Day in a regular election from the fourth Friday in July to the third Friday in August.
  • Amending Section 42 to allow by-laws authorizing the use of vote-counting equipment and alternative voting methods to be passed on or before May 1 in the year of the election.
  • Moving the date for establishing procedures and forms for the use of any voting and vote-counting equipment or alternative voting method to June 1 in the year of the election.

For more information on these changes, visit the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s website.

Amendments to election sign regulations

On Wednesday, December 8, 2021, City Council enacted amending by-laws to the City’s Signs on City Roads and Temporary Signs on Private Property by-laws. The amending by-laws came into effect on Saturday, January 1, 2022, and apply to all municipal, provincial, and federal elections and by-elections occurring after this date.

On Wednesday, October 13, 2021, City Council considered the report titled “Election Signs By-laws Review” and approved the following amendments to the City’s signs by-laws:

  1. Using the same definition for “election sign” in both by-laws.
  2. Formalizing that, in accordance with legislation, the external legal opinion and Council motions, election signs are permitted at the drop of the Writ for federal and provincial elections.
  3. Aligning the timeframes that permit election signs to be placed on private and public property in municipal elections to 45 days prior to Voting Day in a municipal election.
  4. Extending the timeframe to remove signs to 72 hours after Voting Day in any election.
  5. Removing the requirements of Section 6.(2) of the Temporary Signs on Private Property By-law for election signs and aligning the placement requirements for election signs in both by-laws.