The office of the elections commissioner is examining a fundraiser organized by Liberal MP Majid Jowhari that is opposed by his own Richmond Hill riding association but endorsed by federal party headquarters.
Mr. Jowhari, an Iranian-born Canadian who has advocated for closer ties to Tehran since his election in 2015, has organized a $150-a-plate fundraiser scheduled for Feb. 23 at Le Parc Dining and Banquet in Markham, Ont.
The fundraiser and its expenses were not authorized by the Richmond Hill Liberal riding executive. In mid-February, the executive adopted a motion in opposition to the event.
"The board voted on a motion regarding the fundraiser," riding president Richard Rupp said in a recent e-mail. "I am not at liberty to discuss what concerns board members had."
A source told The Globe and Mail the fundraiser is being examined by the Commissioner of Canada Elections for possible breach of Section 475(2), regarding association expenses. The investigation was launched after a complaint from Liberal Party members in the riding, the source said.
Section 475(2) of the Canada Elections Act says "no person or entity, other than an electoral district agent of a registered association, shall incur the registered association's expenses."
The office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections would not confirm or deny whether it is conducting an official probe. "As you know, our Office does not confirm receipt of specific complaints, nor do we disclose whether or not we are conducting an investigation," spokeswoman Michelle Laliberté said in an e-mail.
The Globe spoke to Mr. Jowhari after a Liberal caucus meeting on Wednesday about the fundraiser dispute. "The party is responding to those questions. I don't have any comments [other] than that," the MP said.
Mr. Jowhari declined to answer specific questions on the issue. His office referred all questions to Liberal Party headquarters in Ottawa.
Liberal Party communications director Braeden Caley said the contentious fundraiser will go ahead – despite the vote by the Richmond Hill Federal Liberal Association opposing it.
"Grassroots fundraising events often involve extensive planning and discussion by the volunteer teams involved in organizing them, and it is not unusual for there to be occasional disagreements on venue choices, logistics, or other considerations," Mr. Caley said in a statement.
Mr. Caley said the Liberal Party of Canada complies with all of Elections Canada's "strict rules for federal political fundraising and, as always, contributions can only be made by Canadian citizens and permanent residents."
The source, with knowledge of the matter, said they believe party headquarters intends to conduct an end run around the riding association by processing payments itself as a way to comply with election laws.
Mr. Jowhari angered some Iranian-Canadians in his riding when he met a delegation of Iranian parliamentarians at his constituency office in November, 2016, a meeting the Department of Global Affairs later told media was not part of any official re-enagement with Canada. Mr. Jowhari told the publication Yorkregion.com that the meeting was an effort to exchange views.
The Liberal MP has previously sponsored an e-petition organized by the Iranian Canadian Congress urging Ottawa to reopen a Canadian embassy in Tehran and re-establish diplomatic relations.
During the federal election campaign, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau promised to restore diplomatic relations with Iran.
Mr. Jowhari apologized in 2016 for calling himself a "professional engineer" during the 2015 election campaign. He holds a bachelor of technology degree in industrial engineering from Ryerson Univerity and was licensed as a professional engineer between 1995 and 1999. His licence was subsequently cancelled for non-payment of dues by Professional Engineers Ontario, the provincial governing body.