An Elections Canada logo is shown on Tuesday, Aug 31, 2021. Elections Canada suggests that registered political parties cannot avoid listing their cash-for-access event locations. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Political parties should list fundraising venue locations, Elections Canada suggests

Elections Canada has suggested that venue names should be listed for fundraising events after a political party asked whether it had to disclose the specific location in light of safety concerns.

The federal agency said parties are obligated under political financing law to publicly list the venue name, but added the government could opt to change the law.

The Liberal party has removed public venue locations from online notices of fundraising events attended by the prime minister after one of his events was cancelled in the spring due to aggressive protesters.

As iPolitics first reported, a draft interpretation note published by Elections Canada in November said that while the agency “shares the security concerns of registered parties, the legislation as debated and enacted suggests that the venue must be specified in a registered party’s website notices and reports on these events.”

“Parliament may wish to consider amending the legislation to address emerging security concerns in this area.”

Federal political parties and the commissioner of Canada elections, the independent officer responsible for ensuring compliance with the Canada Elections Act, have until Jan. 19 to provide comments on the note. A final version will then be published.

Liberal party spokesman Matteo Rossi said the party “fully complies with the Canada Elections Act and all Elections Canada regulations for fundraising,” adding it will review the draft note.

Elections Canada didn’t say which party made the initial inquiry, but in the 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 note.

During the 2021 general election, there was an increase in incidents ranging from vandalism to assault, Elections Canada said.

Security concerns prompted a plan to equip MPs with mobile panic buttons to alert authorities in the event of danger.

Elections Canada began looking at whether — as suggested by the unnamed registered party — disclosing the municipality and province or territory in which a fundraising event was taking place would be sufficient to meet the location requirement in a notice on a party website.

The federal agency suggested in the draft note that venue names should be posted in accordance with the Canada Elections Act.

The law states fundraising events for registered political parties must be posted publicly on their websites and include the venue’s name, unless it is a virtual fundraiser or takes place at a private residence.

On Thursday, the Conservative critic for democratic reform, Michael Cooper, said while security issues are a growing concern for all parties, it doesn’t give anyone the right to break the law.

The Liberals should stop holding meet-and-greet fundraisers altogether, he added.

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