TORONTO — Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he has abided by all the rules to ensure he has not violated any regulations governing lobbying and conflict of interest.
Morneau's comments are his first public response to allegations that lobbyists have been involved in Liberal fundraisers featuring cabinet ministers, including himself.
"Let me start by saying I have the greatest respect for the ethics commissioner and the lobbying commissioner,'' Morneau told reporters following his remarks to the Toronto Region Board of Trade.
Morneau emphasized that the Liberal party adheres to the "stringent federal rules'' in its fundraising efforts.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau speaks at a town hall meeting in Montreal on Oct. 12, 2016. (Photo: Paul Chiasson/CP)
"All political parties do so,'' he said."I know that we have very closely followed all of those federal rules to ensure that we do things that uphold the highest standards.''
Lobbying commissioner Karen Shepherd said Thursday she has launched an investigation after receiving a complaint from advocacy group Democracy Watch.
That complaint was about Barry Sherman, chairman of generic drug giant Apotex, selling tickets to a $500-a-head fundraiser early next month in Toronto featuring Morneau.
When lobbyists participate in fundraising efforts that could potentially create a conflict of interest for ministers that can make them feel a "sense of obligation,'' which would make it a violation of the Lobbying Code of Conduct, Shepherd said.
"I know that we have very closely followed all of those federal rules to ensure that we do things that uphold the highest standards.''
— Finance Minister Bill Morneau
Shepherd will also look at media reports of other fundraisers that involved ministers, including a $1,500-a-head fundraiser in Halifax that also featured Morneau, and whether lobbyists were in attendance or involved in selling tickets or organizing the event.
Ethics commissioner Mary Dawson says the fundraisers may create the appearance of unfair access to cabinet ministers.
However, Dawson said there is nothing in the current conflict-of-interest legislation that prohibits such events.
It's unclear whether or not registered lobbyists have actually attended any of the fundraisers.
The Liberal party says the names of all donors and their contributions are disclosed publicly to Elections Canada.
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