The Liberal Party of Canada has cancelled plans to host a fundraiser with Justin Trudeau on a Canadian Forces base, an event that might have run afoul of military rules around political events.
The Liberal Party had planned to hold the Dec. 19 fundraiser at the Vimy Officers’ Mess in Kingston, according to information posted on the party’s website. The waterfront facility is regularly rented out for private events such as weddings.
In this case, staff were not aware of the political nature of the meeting at the time of the booking, said a spokesman for CFB Kingston. Tickets for the event cost up to $400.
“CFB Kingston is apolitical and does not allow political meetings on the base,” said Captain Jeremy Mathews. “While CFB Kingston staff were checking into the issue, the booking party moved the event to another location thus resolving the issue.”
Holding the fundraiser would have likely broken the rules that govern military facilities, said Rory Fowler, a Kingston-based civilian lawyer who served for 28 years in the Canadian Armed Forces. In an interview, Mr. Fowler said the event seemed to go against regulations that call on commanding officers to avoid any activity on a base that would “affect the actual or perceived political neutrality” of the Forces, including political meetings or speeches.
“I’ve never encountered a political fundraising dinner or event being held in an officers’ mess,” Mr. Fowler said. “It does strike me as potentially inconsistent with the maintenance of the political neutrality of the Canadian Forces. An officers’ mess is a part of the defence establishment.”
After The Globe and Mail asked the Liberal Party about the appropriateness of holding a partisan event inside a military facility, the party announced the event had been moved nine kilometres west, to the Kingston campus of St. Lawrence College.
“A new venue was confirmed over the weekend and supporters are being updated about that today,” Liberal spokesman Braeden Caley said on Monday afternoon.
Mr. Caley said the venue was changed because of “capacity, accessibility and other logistics.”
The Conservative Party is hoping that Mr. Trudeau will use the Kingston fundraiser to apologize for the government’s mistreatment of veterans and military members.
“It’s truly unfortunate this Liberal Party and Prime Minister refuse to do the right thing by our men and women in uniform and those that have served, and would rather pack up and leave the space entirely just to avoid accountability for their actions toward our veterans,” said Ruslan Yakoviychuk, the Conservative candidate for the 2019 election in the riding of Kingston and the Islands.
The Liberal Party changed its policy regarding fundraising events in early 2017, promising greater transparency and new restrictions on the attendance of lobbyists. The party announced those rules after The Globe published several stories in 2016 about small, private Liberal fundraisers featuring the Prime Minister or cabinet ministers that critics labelled “cash-for-access” events.