Recent social media postings from the office of the P.E.I. Liberal Caucus are raising questions about the line between legitimate caucus business and partisan activity.
Two photos of members of the Liberal caucus – one posted to the twitter account of Premier Wade MacLauchlan and one posted on the P.E.I. Liberal caucus Facebook page – feature most of the Liberal cabinet in a group photo. The photos also feature three nominated, but unelected, candidates for the Liberal Party – Tommy Kickham, Karen Lavers and Gord McNeilly – posing with members of the Liberal caucus.
One of the photos features the group touring a blueberry farm while the other features the group at a metal fabrication enterprise.
“On Tuesday, our PEI Liberal Caucus toured in King's County, starting at Eastern Fabricators in Georgetown,” states the caption accompanying the group photo posted on the P.E.I. Liberal Caucus Facebook page.
According to a government spokesperson, the photos were taken following a government cabinet meeting on Sept. 25. During the meeting, cabinet approved the recommendation from the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission to approve the amalgamation of the Three Rivers municipality.
The cabinet meeting was followed by a Liberal caucus meeting, attended by Kickham, Lavers and McNeilly. The caucus then visited the blueberry and hemp farm, as well as the Eastern Fabricators facility in Georgetown.
The activities of the office of the government caucus, like the office of the official Opposition or the office of the third party, are supposed to be non-partisan, according to official legislative guidelines. Despite the fact both government and official Opposition social media accounts bear the Liberal and PC Party logos, these guidelines state the activities of these offices should be “separate and distinct” from political party activities and logos.
“It is the responsibility of each caucus office to ensure that caucus activities and expenses are restricted to ensure that there is no perception of utilizing caucus office resources for direct political party purposes,” read the official Guidelines for the Operation and Expenditures in Caucus Offices.
A statement from Jeff Himelman, the director of communications for the office of the official Opposition, said the resources of caucus offices are meant to be used for elected MLAs.
“Typically, caucus meetings are for elected MLAs only due to potential sensitive discussions which might be held related to legislative duties,” Himelman said in an e-mail.
“Legislative resources are for the support of MLAs in their legislative functions rather than on behalf of nominated candidates.”
Mary Moszynski, the executive director of public affairs for the province, said the Liberal caucus is not restricted in inviting unelected guests to caucus meeting, including unelected candidates for the Liberal Party.
“It’s important to note that no government resources were used. Caucus offices have their own resources and budget,” Moszynski said in an e-mail.
“I’d also point you to other examples – Jagmeet Singh isn’t elected but attends federal NDP caucus meetings. Rob Lantz attended caucus activities when he was PC leader. The PC candidate for Tyne Valley was at an Opposition health care announcement recently.”
The Office of the Third Party, represented in the legislature by two Green Party MLAs, declined comment when approached by The Guardian.
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