If you haven’t heard by now, a general election has been called in Ontario for June 12th, 2014. This means you will likely start to receive canvassers to your door trying to sway you to vote for one candidate or another. While you may find these unplanned visitors annoying, you cannot restrict their reasonable access to the property. Section 118 of the Condominium Act, 1998, states:
No corporation or employee or agent of a corporation shall restrict reasonable access to the property by candidates, or their authorized representatives, for election to the House of Commons, the Legislative Assembly or an office in a municipal government or school board if access is necessary for the purpose of canvassing or distributing election material.
While “reasonable access” is not defined, it likely includes the hours of at least 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. as section 81 of the Canada Elections Act (which does not govern provincial elections, but provides useful guidance in interpreting the term “reasonable access”) prohibits any person in control of a condominium from preventing a candidate or representative from canvassing between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. While it is doubtful that a canvasser would attend outside of these hours, if they do you may wish to speak with your lawyer before restricting their access to the property.
In addition to canvassers, you may have run into an issue with owners placing election signs for one or more of the candidates on their front yards. The condominium’s ability to limit or prohibit election signs depends on whether it is: 1) a federal election or provincial or municipal; 2) the sign is on the common elements or within a unit; and 3) the prohibition or restriction is defined within the declaration or rules.
The Canada Elections Act governs federal elections. It states that a condominium may prohibit election signs on the common elements, but may only impose restrictions on the type and size of signs placed within the units. This distinction is important – it means that you have to review the condominium’s unit boundaries before telling the unit owner to remove the sign from the property. If it is within the unit the condominium cannot require the owner to remove it, unless it is not of the type and size permitted. For a provincial or municipal election, such as the one called for June 12th, a condominium may prohibit election signs altogether on the common elements and within the units. To enforce an outright prohibition on signs, or a restriction on the type and size of signs on the property, the prohibition or restriction must be set out in the condominium’s declaration and/or rules. A condominium cannot require an owner to remove signs without a provision in the Act, declaration, by-laws or rules to rely upon. Also, when drafting a prohibition or restriction, remember that any prohibition or restriction within the rules must be reasonable, while those set out in the declaration need not be. It is generally a good idea to put an outright prohibition in the declaration as a judge, if ever faced with the question, may not consider an outright prohibition on election signs reasonable.
Most importantly – make sure you vote on June 12th!