Opposition accuses Trudeau of selling access to 'Chinese billionaires'
The Liberals are once again being accused of selling access using pricey fundraising dinners -- and this time it was the prime minister who showed up for the meal.
In May, Trudeau dined on Chinese food and gave a speech to an audience that included Chinese businessman and Communist Party member Zhang Bin.
As a Chinese national, Zhang is ineligible to make political donations in Canada. But he, along with a partner, gave a million dollars to The Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation.
The Liberals say that’s fine because Trudeau no longer has any role with the charity named for his father.
Also present at the dinner was Shenglin Xian, whose application to open a Canadian bank received approval under the previous Conservative government.
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, during daily question period, accused the prime minister of a “serious lapse in judgement.”
“He is hosting Liberal Party fundraisers with Chinese billionaires,” she said. “These are the Chinese one per cent.”
Conservative MP Candice Bergen demanded to know if any Liberal MPs have “a problem with the prime minister selling access and influence to billionaire, communist donors for the favours that they want.”
Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc accused Bergen of being on “a fishing trip.”
“What she’s trying to do is stich together a whole series of things, which when taken together have absolutely no basis in reality,” he said.
It’s not the first time the year-old Liberal government has faced questions over their high-priced fundraisers.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau was the guest of honour last month at a small Halifax fundraiser that cost $1,500 a ticket. Earlier this month, he appeared at a $500-per-ticket fundraiser in Toronto.
Morneau told CTV’s Question Period that the people attending fundraisers are supporting “the democratic process” and “it doesn't in any way suggest that the people that are going to a fundraiser have any different sort of access."
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has also faced criticism over her fundraising, including an event at a Toronto law firm with a $500 entry price. Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has Wilson-Raybould didn't break any rules, but that MPs should consider making them tougher.
Trudeau addressed the criticism of his ministers earlier this month, stating that the Conservative Party’s approach to fundraising was “to name people like Mike Duffy or Irving Gerstein to the Senate and charge them with the responsibility of raising money for the Conservative Party of Canada.”
Bruce Hicks, a political science professor with York University in Toronto, said the fundraisers have created “a perception out there that some people are getting access.”
“This is something the government has to clean up somewhere between now and the next election,” he added.
The Liberals say they’ve done nothing to break the political donations law. The opposition charges they’re breaching the ethics guidelines that Trudeau set for his own ministers when he came to power last year.
With a report from Glen McGregor and files from Laura Payton