US & Canada

Canada PM Justin Trudeau insists donors hold no policy sway

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on 12 December 2016 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Trudeau also spoke about his personal "low point" over the last 12 months

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended his practice of attending fundraisers with wealthy donors.

Mr Trudeau said he and his cabinet members make themselves available to a broad range of Canadians.

Critics say the "cash-for-access" events allow special access to cabinet ministers. The Liberal Party says it is following political fundraising rules.

But Conservatives say the practice goes against the Liberal party's own "open and accountable" ethics code.

Last week the opposition party asked the federal ethics and lobbying watchdogs to look into whether any of the events potentially broke federal conflict of interest and lobbying rules.

Trudeau faces 'cash-for-access' criticism

Mr Trudeau fielded numerous questions from journalists on Monday over the Liberal Party practice of charging people up to CA$1,500 ($1,140; £900) to attend fundraisers with him and senior cabinet members.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Trudeau said he is "always open to discussions and suggestions"

"I can say that in various Liberal Party events, I listen to people as I will in any given situation, but the decisions I take in government are ones based on what is right for Canadians and not on what an individual in a fundraiser might say," he said.

Mr Trudeau said he is "always open to discussions and suggestions on how we can improve the confidence people have in our political system".

In Canada, political contributions to federal parties were capped at CA$1,525 in 2016.

Union and corporate donations to political parties are banned. Only Canadian citizens can donate.

During Monday's wide-ranging, year-end news conference, Mr Trudeau also spoke emotionally about his personal "low point" over the last 12 months, which was his first full year as prime minister.

He said it was the death of two Canadians held in the Philippines by Abu Sayyaf militants.

Robert Hall and John Ridsdel were killed by the Abu Sayyaf group after a multi-million dollar ransom deadline expired.

The two men had been kidnapped by the Islamist group in September 2015, along with Filipina Marites Flor and a Norwegian, Kjartan Sekkingstad. Both were later released.

It is official Canadian government policy not to pay ransoms for Canadians kidnapped abroad.

Mr Trudeau said it was "personally difficult" to have the responsibility of "directing and articulating the Canadian position" and to speak with the bereaved families.