Use of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy by Political Parties – CEO Appearance on the Special Report of the Chief Electoral Officer: Administering an Election during the COVID-19 Pandemic
The use of this revenue by political parties is not limited by the Canada Elections Act.
The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) is not an illegal contribution to political parties as it is broadly accessible to all employers.
The CEWS allows eligible Canadian employers affected by COVID-19 to apply for a subsidy for employee wages. This subsidy is to help businesses with a significant decline in revenue to either keep their workforce on the payroll or re-hire them.
The list of employers eligible for the CEWS is broad and includes individuals, corporations, not-for-profit organizations, charities and private schools.
Media reports indicate that some registered federal political parties have applied for the CEWS. Some opposition MPs have expressed opposition to large federal parties receiving this subsidy because of their ability to raise large amounts of money through contributions.
On September 3, 2020, the CBC reported that the Conservative Party of Canada will stop receiving the CEWS and will retroactively return the subsidies received. The Liberal Party of Canada has announced that it would not apply for further subsidies (but would not return the subsidies received thus far).
Parties' revenue streams are not all considered contributions.
Revenues that flow to parties for reasons that are unrelated to their status as parties and that are broadly accessible to other entities are typically not considered contributions.
These include commercial revenue from the sale of assets (e.g. real estate), investments (e.g. interest on bonds), rebates of private sources (e.g. fidelity rebates to frequent clients) or government benefits (e.g. tax rebates for certain investments, GST rebates, subsidies for the purchase of electric vehicles).
Parties can use these different sources of revenue to pay for election expenses.
These revenues are subject to reporting requirements. However, there is no specific line item for that information. It would likely be found in the "other revenues" line item.
What parties are allowed to spend the CEWS on and how this is tracked are questions for the Canada Revenue Agency, which is responsible for this program.