PEI Votes

Justin Trudeau Liberal event moved due to P.E.I. parish policy

The venue of a P.E.I. event that federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is attending on his trip to P.E.I. in support of the Island Liberal Party's election campaign had to be moved because of a Catholic parish directive.

Bishop Richard Grecco says political events in Catholic church halls may be construed as favouritism

Charlottetown Bishop Richard Grecco issued a directive four years ago that parishes shouldn't hold political campaign meetings or promotional events. (CBC)

The venue of an event that federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is attending on his trip to P.E.I. in support of the Island Liberal Party's election campaign had to be changed because of a Catholic parish directive.

A meet and greet that was scheduled for Friday afternoon was originally booked at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish Centre in Stratford.

But Wednesday night, the Liberals were told they would have to change locations.

"I didn't know anything about it," said Liberal Leader Wade MacLauchlan Thursday morning when he was told of the change.

"I'm sure we'll have fun wherever we are."

Charlottetown Bishop Richard Grecco says the change was made because of a directive he issued four years ago that all parishes should refrain from holding political campaign or promotional events in their halls.

"It could appear to be showing favouritism or political advocacy. That would jeopardize our standing as a charitable institution with the [Canada Revenue Agency]," said Grecco.

But over the past few years there have been many political events at Catholic church halls.

Two events leading up to the election campaign took place at Our Lady of Assumption Parish hall.

On Jan. 14, James Aylward's nomination meeting was held at the parish and, on Feb. 11, Wade MacLauchlan's roundtable on education took place in the same location.

Two political events leading up to the current election campaign were held at Our Lady of Assumption Parish. (CBC)
In fact, CBC News found 10 political events since 2012 that have been held in Catholic church halls.

Grecco says he wasn't aware of these instances.

Most likely they are cases of miscommunication between pastors and administrative staff, he says.

"If they hadn't been informed, they see the election as wonderful opportunity to get more revenue for the parish hall," said Grecco.

"So it's perfectly understandable that they go right ahead and book it, and then it comes to the pastor's attention a little later and that's a sad situation and I'm sorry that it happened."

Last year, federal Liberal MP Lawrence MacAulay had booked an event at the church hall in Vernon River, but was told to move it with two-day's notice.

There was talk at the time that the cancellation was because of Justin Trudeau's decision to tell his MPs to vote along pro-choice lines on abortion-related legislation.

"I'm sure that had something to do with it, otherwise why would there have been so much objection?" said Grecco.

However, he says the most recent decision has nothing to do with the abortion debate.

Grecco says he has reissued his directive to all Island parishes.

He says if other political events have been booked at church halls, he hopes parish staff will ask them to move venues.

The meet and greet will now be held at Stratford Town Hall at 2:30 p.m.

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