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The House Is Exactly Where 'Cash For Access' Should Be Discussed

12/22/2016 04:56 EST | Updated 12/22/2016 04:59 EST

bardish chagger

Liberal house leader Bardish Chagger. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Team Trudeau's "sunny ways" are constantly being clouded over by the drip-drip of the fallout from the political fundraisers that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers continue to hold and attend despite mounting opposition, and media and public concerns.

The prime minister and his ministers have continued to defend what now seems indefensible. The whole practice seems even more questionable in view of the latest revelations in the Globe and Mail about how some organizers of the Trudeau fundraisers have been asking the invitees to pay $4,500, and in some cases $5,000 -- well above the $1,525 allowed per person annually.

The prime minister and his ministers have continued to defend what now seems indefensible.

It all started in April of this year with our good Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould insisting on proceeding with her $500-per-head private fundraiser at a Toronto law firm -- which I had publicly urged her to cancel, as had many others.

It didn't jibe with the new Trudeau guidelines to his ministers, and those presumably to himself as well, against preferential access or the appearance of preferential access to government for individuals or organisations that may have made financial contributions to the party. The guidelines had gone on to state that this obligation to deny preferential access wasn't satisfied by simply living within the current laws.

Ironically, the whole Liberal defence of the "cash for access" now rests solely on the practice falling within the existing law -- the Trudeau guidelines be damned. And to make matters worse, Trudeau's otherwise smart Liberal House leader, Bardish Chagger, in an interview with the Huffington Post, shockingly opined that the "House of Commons is not where [the politicians] talk about political fundraising."


No matter how one viewed the political fundraising that is fast becoming an albatross around my political party's neck, one would have thought that House of Commons is definitely the place to talk about it. It is the People's House. Political fundraising -- good, bad or ugly -- is people's business, and the people's business belongs and can be discussed -- must be discussed -- in the People's House.

Ms. Chagger, welcome to government. Since the Liberals are in power, it is their conduct and standards that are at the forefront in public discussions. More than 60 per cent of Canadians are concerned about the perception that is created by the current Liberal practice of fundraising -- followed until recently by all political parties -- that the media have dubbed "cash for access." Before the X-mas break, the government had been on the ropes in the House of Commons for not living up to Trudeau's own guidelines for government ministers.

Political fundraising -- good, bad or ugly -- is people's business.

The House is a place for the government and the opposition to discuss anything they deem relevant, and during question period the speaker prohibits questions that may appear out of order. Insofar as the commons speaker didn't stop the opposition from asking questions about "cash for access," he must have deemed them appropriate and permissible. Quite appropriately, Chagger later told the Huffington Post that she misspoke about the House not being a place for the fundraising discussion.

Chagger's words were reminiscent of Prime Minister Kim Campbell's elitist dictum of an election being "no time to discuss serious issues."

Chagger had gone on to say "political parties can talk about that [political fundraising]" among themselves, away from the House, since the People's House was not the place for it.

Chagger's remarks may not have been intended to convey elitism. But they reeked of it. Trudeau would do well to remember himself and remind Chagger that after what appeared to be Campbell's elitist remarks, her Tories had suffered their worst electoral loss.

A version of this blog originally appeared on UjjalDosanjh.org.

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