US & Canada

Trudeau government faces 'cash-for-access' criticism

Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau delivers a joint press conference with Argentine President Mauricio Macri (out of frame) after a meeting at Casa Rosada presidential palace in Buenos Aires on November 17, 2016 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under fire for political fundraising

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under fire for attending an exclusive fundraiser with key Chinese-Canadian business leaders.

Political opponents say the "cash-for-access" event breaks the Liberal party's own ethics guidelines.

The Liberals say they are following federal political financing rules.

It is not the first time the Trudeau government has faced criticism for its fundraising practices.

Last May, Mr Trudeau was the guest star at a CAD$1,525 ($1130/£900) fundraiser at the private Toronto home of Benson Wong, the chair of the Chinese Business Chamber of Canada.

The exclusive event has Mr Trudeau's political opponents accusing him of breaking the "open and accountable" ethics rules the Liberal party brought in shortly after their election in 2015.

Opposition politicians repeatedly pressed the issues for a second day in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

"These fundraisers don't pass the smell tests. Will the prime minister do the right thing and stop these cash-for-access programs?" said interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose.

The Liberals say no federal political fundraising rules were broken and that government business was not discussed at the dinner.

Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Finance Minister Bill Morneau have also been criticised for attending similar partisan fundraisers, with tickets going for CAD$500 ($300/£295) and up.

In Canada, political contributions to federal parties are currently capped at CAD$1,525 a year. Union and corporate donations to political parties are banned. Only Canadian citizens can donate.

Opposition parties say these fundraising events give those who can afford it access to cabinet ministers in charge of major policy decisions.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose says the fundraiser doesn't "pass the smell test".

Soon after being elected, the Liberal government laid out rules for its ministers and MPs for fundraising and dealing with lobbyists. Those guidelines said that ministers "must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest".

One guest at the Toronto fundraiser, along with a partner, made a $1m ($740,000/£595,000) donation to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and the University of Montreal law faculty. A public signing ceremony was held shortly after the May event.

The Trudeau Foundation is a charity established in 2001 in Mr Trudeau's late father's memory.

The Trudeau Foundation said on Wednesday the two businessmen first reached out to university and the foundation in September 2014 to discuss a possible gift to honour the late prime minister, well before Mr Trudeau was elected prime minister.

More on this story