Elections Canada is insisting that regulated fundraising events be publicly advertised with precise locations, despite safety concerns raised by the governing Liberals and Opposition Conservatives.
Parties are obligated under political financing law to publicly list the venue name, but Elections Canada said in guidelines published last week that Parliament could change the law to account for those concerns.
Until then, all fundraising events held in person — outside a general election — must be posted on the registered party’s website and must include the venue name as well as the municipality, province or territory, and postal code.
Both the Liberal and Conservative parties have been leaving venue details out of online notices for fundraising events attended by their leaders, citing increased security threats.
By Monday afternoon, the Conservative party had already updated its website to include the specific location of an upcoming fundraiser featuring its leader Pierre Poilievre.
For its part, the Liberal party said in a statement that it will fully comply with all Elections Canada regulations for fundraising.
Elections Canada made its final ruling last week after an unnamed political party suggested that listing the municipality and province or territory where an event was being held would be sufficient.
The agency did not say which party made the initial inquiry, but last spring the Liberal party informed the agency of a security issue linked to the public listing of a venue.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s planned fundraising event in Surrey, B.C., was cancelled after the RCMP warned the protest outside could escalate.
“This incident followed numerous reports in recent years of security concerns involving politicians across the political spectrum,” Elections Canada said in its decision.
For example, during the 2021 general election, there was an increase of incidents ranging from “vandalism to assault.” In summer 2022, MPs were issued panic buttons due to a “rising concern about harassment of Parliamentarians.”
The Liberal and Conservative parties have been united in their stance that disclosing venue locations leads to safety concerns. The New Democrats and Bloc Québécois did not express those same concerns to Elections Canada.
The Conservative party told Elections Canada that disclosing events “considerably increases the risk and security concerns” for MPs, “especially the leaders of registered parties.”
“Given that all regulated events must be advertised publicly five days prior, it exponentially increases security risks and concerns of all those involved: parliamentarians, attendees, and event staff,” the party wrote in its submission.
As for the Liberal Party of Canada, it argued that events interrupted by security risks affects people’s ability to participate in the democratic process.
“Allowing events to be disrupted in an escalated manner undermines the ability of individuals to support the democratic process, puts their safety at risk, and violates their guaranteed right to freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedom,” the Liberal party wrote in its submission to Elections Canada.
But the agency argued that when the Liberal government brought in Bill C-50 in 2018, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act on political financing, the primary objective was to increase overall transparency around political fundraising.
“A key element was transparency for the media, who have an interest in reporting on fundraisers attended by prominent politicians and who in turn keep the public informed,” Elections Canada said in its final decision.
Elections Canada is concerned that parties might not disclose the location to all people with a legitimate interest in the event, or they might not disclose the location in a timely fashion if it’s not posted publicly online.