08/28/2013 09:04 EDT | Updated 10/28/2013 05:12 EDT

Stephen Bronfman Becomes Liberals' Chief Fundraiser


Montreal businessman Stephen Bronfman will lead the Liberal Party of Canada's fundraising efforts, CBC News has learned, and he will lay out his ideas at the caucus meeting in Prince Edward Island today.

The Bronfman name is one of the biggest in Canadian business — Stephen Bronfman's grandfather built the Seagram liquor empire, making the family billionaires.

Bronfman runs the private investment firm Claridge Inc., and is a longtime family friend of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. He was one of the key players in Trudeau's leadership campaign, helping to bring in more than $2 million, and now he has signed on to help the whole party.

In P.E.I., Liberal MPs began their day with regional caucus meetings early Wednesday morning, then gathered in the same room for their national caucus meeting at a golf resort in Roseneath.

Trudeau made some opening remarks, telling his MPs he was looking forward to the day ahead. He said there are many reasons for the party to be optimistic, but they have a lot of work to do and he wants feedback on what went on in their ridings over the summer.

Bronfman told CBC News that he's excited for his new role and that in order for the party to be successful in fundraising, it needs to give Canadians a reason to donate.

"I think Justin is a reason but in this day and age, you have to offer more, so we have to rethink the way we do certain things," Bronfman said. The party has to build on what it's doing well but also do things differently, he added. "I think we're bringing a different group of people, a different level of professionalism. We've learned from the past and today is a new day. We've got a big job to do and I think everyone's pretty jazzed up to do it."

The Conservative Party of Canada is a well-oiled fundraising machine, and Bronfman said he knows the Liberals have their work cut out for them to compete at their level. But there are a lot of committed Liberals across the country, he said, and Trudeau is "able to light their fires."

Online fundraising a growth area

A quarter of Trudeau's leadership campaign donations were raised online, and Bronfman said that's a growth area that needs investment. While donating online might appeal more to younger Canadians, Bronfman said the party will try to raise money from all demographics.

"The older Canadians have been amazing, they vote, they give. I think what we're able to do is we're able to tap into younger Canadians and then sort of blend it in," he said. "We've got work to do on all fronts: young, middle, old. We've got to get them all. It's a big country, it's a big fight and we're ready to do it."

Getting ready to fight the next election is one of the themes at this summer caucus meeting. Liberals will discuss how to take the enthusiasm they say was generated from the leadership campaign and carry it forward in the months ahead.

They will also be talking about transparency and accountability. Trudeau said in the spring that Liberal MPs and senators will post their expenses online beginning this fall and on Wednesday they will be talking through the logistics of that commitment.

Economic policies will also dominate the meeting's discussions — the Liberals are making the middle class one of their priorities.

Trudeau is expected to address the media around lunchtime. Later Wednesday, he will deliver a speech to his caucus and local residents at a party hosted by P.E.I. MP Lawrence MacAulay at his farm.

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