Frequently Asked Questions: Making Political Fundraising More Open and Transparent

Backgrounder

Canada already has one of the most robust systems in the world when it comes to the financing of political parties and other political entities. With the introduction of An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing) in the House of Commons, the Government of Canada is taking steps to make political fundraising events more transparent and open to build trust and confidence in our democratic institutions. If passed, this Bill would make political fundraising more open and transparent for Canadians who want to learn more about these events.

Q. How would this Bill make fundraising activities more transparent?

Political parties represented in the House of Commons would be required to advertise in advance and, after, report on all fundraisers attended by federal Cabinet ministers, party leaders and leadership candidates when more than $200 per person is necessary to participate. A fundraiser would be defined as any event where a political contribution is a condition to attend.

Before the event: The fundraiser must be advertised on political parties’ websites at least 5 days before it takes place. At a minimum, the information published must include the date, time and place of the event (even if it will be held in a private house), the name of each leader, Cabinet minister or leadership contestant attending, the amount required to attend, the political entity that receives the funds (for example, the party, a leadership contestant or an electoral district association), the name of a contact person and contact details. Organizers will be free to insert more detail.

After the event: Political parties will have to provide a report to Elections Canada within 30 days after the event. The report must include the date, time and place of the event, the name of each leader, Cabinet minister or leadership contestant who attended, the amount required to attend, the political entity that will receive the funds, the name and address (city, province, postal code) of each attendee, the name of the organizer or, if applicable, the associated organization.1

Making the information public: Elections Canada will publish the reports about fundraising events on their website. These public reports will include the information provided by the political party as noted above and will be in addition to the current reports on political financing.

Q. Why doesn’t the Bill require reporting on fundraising events of $200 or less?

The $200 limit was chosen so that the law would not put an excessive reporting burden on political organizations. Currently, contributions to a federal political party or any other political entity of more than $200 must be reported to Elections Canada under the Canada Elections Act, which publishes this information online, including the contributor’s name and address. Furthermore, fundraisers are an important form of engagement between citizens and parties they support.

Q. Why not apply this legislation to all federal parties and politicians?

In Canada, there are currently 16 political parties registered with Elections Canada. Eleven of those do not have a seat in the House of Commons. Putting these smaller parties under the same obligations to report fundraising events as the larger ones would impose a considerable burden on their operations when they are further removed from power.

Q. What will happen if a party does not advertise and/or report a fundraiser it has held?

The Bill would introduce specific measures in the Canada Elections Act for violating the rules on advertising and reporting fundraisers. Political parties and event organisers will be responsible for meeting these obligations.

If the rules are not followed, all contributions collected with respect to the event will have to be returned. Also, a new penalty category will be created in the Act, with a maximum fine of $1,000. When it comes to enforcing the Canada Elections Act, the Commissioner of Canada Elections has the discretion to pursue an alternative resolution, such as issue a caution letter or enter a compliance agreement.

Q. What will happen with reporting if a fundraising event is held by individuals without the knowledge of the political party?

This legislation will offer centralised information online where Canadians can easily find and access all information about fundraisers held by political entities. Organizers will have a legal obligation to tell the political party about a fundraiser and its attendees so that the political party can advertise the event in advance and file a report afterwards. It will be the responsibility of political parties to develop whatever internal rules work best to ensure this information flows properly.

Q. Will political fundraising events be open to media?

The proposed Bill does not regulate who can attend a fundraiser – that discretion is up to the party or event organizer. If media representatives are attending a fundraising event in the course of their work, they will not be considered as participants and for that reason, their names and addresses will not be disclosed.

Q. Can lobbyists attend a fundraiser?

The proposed Bill does not regulate who can attend a fundraiser – that discretion is up to the party or event organizer. An individual who is also a lobbyist can support a party or a candidate and make a financial contribution. However, if a lobbyist attends a fundraiser and uses the occasion to lobby the Government, they are required, under the Lobbying Act, to report the communication.

Q. Are there exceptions on reporting the names of individuals who are at a fundraising event to Elections Canada?

All attendees at a fundraiser would have their name and address published in event reports on the Elections Canada website, except:

  • volunteers;
  • minors (under 18 years old);
  • journalists and media representatives; and
  • people providing services (hospitality, security, support staff, audio-visual support, etc.).

Q. What about appreciation events for donors to a political party or a candidate?

The legislation will apply to an appreciation event where more than $200 is required to attend. The Bill does not make a distinction between buying a ticket at the door and making a contribution three months prior to the event – if one has to give money to be able to attend, the event counts as a fundraiser.

Q. Would the rules apply during a general election?

During an election campaign, political entities would still be required to report fundraising events. After polling day, political entities would be required to report fundraising events held during an election campaign. However, the obligation to advertise a fundraiser would be suspended to avoid imposing a supplementary administrative burden.

Regular advertising and reporting requirements apply during by-elections.

More information on political financing and rules for participants during an election is available on Elections Canada’s website.

Q. What if the leader of a party has no seat in the House?

The new rules would apply even if the leader of a party that has seats in the House is not a Member of Parliament. Fundraising events involving that leader would still have to be advertised in advance and reported on afterwards when raising money for the party, its electoral district associations and its candidates, as well as their own federal campaign.

Q. Will the current leadership contest be affected?

The proposed measures would not impact any current leadership campaign. Should the Bill receive Royal Assent while a leadership contest is ongoing, transitional provisions will ensure that rules are not changed in the course of that contest.
 

1. As is current practice, Elections Canada receives information about all contributions. Elections Canada publishes the name and address of contributors of more than $200.

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