People at fundraisers show support for democracy: Morneau
Published Sunday, November 6, 2016 7:00AM EST
Finance Minister Bill Morneau is continuing to defend his fundraising activities, arguing that people who attend political fundraisers are supporting the democratic process and keeping good people in politics.
The finance minister has been under scrutiny for several weeks over fundraising events where ticketholders pay hundreds of dollars to have access to him. Last month, he was the guest of honour at a small Halifax fundraiser that cost $1,500 a ticket. On Monday, he's to attend a $500-per-ticket fundraiser in Toronto. One of the people selling tickets for the event is Barry Sherman, the chairman of drug manufacturer Apotex, which has lobbied Morneau's office.
In an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period, Morneau said buying a ticket to a fundraiser doesn't grant people better access than those who speak to him at town hall meetings or other public consultations.
"What's happening at those fundraisers is, people are saying we support the democratic process. [They're saying] we think it's important that we have good people that go into public life and if we don't support them, we don't get good people in public life," Morneau said.
"It doesn't in any way suggest that the people that are going to a fundraiser have any different sort of access."
The money raised from the event generally goes to the party or the riding association hosting the event. The Halifax event raised money for the Liberal Party of Canada, while the upcoming event in Toronto is to raise funds for the York Centre riding association, Liberal Party spokesman Braeden Caley said. Liberal Michael Levitt is the MP for the riding.
"It’s important to note that federal political donations are governed by some of the most strict political financing rules in Canada and all of North America," Caley wrote in an email to CTV News.
Morneau says he's been travelling across the country holding pre-budget consultations, and said that shows everyone has a chance to speak to him.
"What's critically important is that access is available irrespective of whether you're going to a fundraiser or not. I'm out across the country on pre-budget consultations pretty well every day talking to Canadians," Morneau said.
"When I'm doing a town hall in Toronto or in Calgary, I'm actually sitting down with people, hearing their points of view."
Conservative MP Blaine Calkins says the Liberals' explanations are getting worse.
"The ethics commissioner says that these are very unsavoury... [and] we have the lobbying commissioner is looking into some of these events," Calkins said in an interview.
"Many of [the events] were exclusive events that the general public is either not invited to, or is unable to purchase a ticket to.... they're exclusive events to the benefit of people who have clearly some interest in influencing the government."
Caley, the Liberal Party spokesman, pointed to a number of fundraising events held by former Conservative cabinet ministers, as well as an Oct. 17 event for Conservative Party leadership candidates. That event cost $1,500 per person, with $1,000 going to the party's fundraising wing and $500 split among the candidates who were present.
This year's limit for federal contributions to any party is $1,525.
Federal parties in Canada have no option but to fundraise since the previous government ended the per-vote subsidy that used to provide them with base funding. The Conservatives grew adept at raising small amounts from a broad base of people, but the Liberals say they caught up in the last quarter for which results are available.
"Elections Canada disclosures demonstrate that Liberal Party of Canada received support from the broadest base of grassroots Canadians of any federal political party, with 35,180 Canadians chipping in," Caley wrote.
"This is a clear contrast to the Conservative Party, which is collecting larger donations from a much smaller group of Canadians."
Conservative Party spokesman Cory Hann says the Liberals are breaking their own rules as set out by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his mandate letters to cabinet ministers. The letters instruct ministers that performing duties and arranging their private affairs “should bear the closest public scrutiny” and that simply acting within the law is not enough.