01/21/2014 12:57 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST

Shelly Glover Fundraiser Controversy: Arts Community Members Invited To Share 'Views'


She's refunded the money and contacted the ethics commissioner herself, but questions are still being raised about Heritage Minister Shelly Glover's presence at a controversial Winnipeg fundraiser last week.

Glover was heavily criticized by opposition MPs last weekend after she participated in an event in her riding on Thursday where members of Manitoba's arts and cultural community donated money to the Conservative riding association.

But an invitation obtained by CTV Winnipeg suggests the event was not just about raising funds but also affording members of the arts community a chance to engage with the minister directly.

CTV News crashed the party and asked Glover why she was accepting donations from people who rely on her department for funding. She told a reporter at the time she had only "stopped in briefly."

Federal conflict-of-interest rules forbid cabinet ministers from soliciting funds from anyone who has lobbied or is likely to lobby the minister's department.

A Glover spokesperson said guests paid the riding association $50 each, with another guest offering $500.

Glover later told a reporter that while her riding association was in charge of invitations, she opted not to accept the $1,200 raised because some guests did indeed have dealings with her department.

A statement was released from her office on Friday saying Glover was not involved in the planning of the event and proactively contacted the ethics commissioner for additional guidance.

"Given the fact that some of the attendees have dealings with the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Minister decided that any conflicts of interest - real or apparent - must not occur," it reads. "Immediately following the event, she instructed the [Electoral District Association] not to accept any funds from this event."

But new details shared in the CTV Winnipeg story on Monday complicate the notion it was a run-of-the-mill Conservative fundraiser.

In fact, the wording of the invitation suggests members of Manitoba's arts community were directly summoned to share their ideas.

"Invitees are primarily members of the cultural community in Winnipeg," it reads. "Shelly is interested in meeting with you and hearing your views."

According to CTV, representatives from the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba Theatre Centre and Manitoba Opera attended.

But the chairman of the Winnipeg Art Gallery board told the Winnipeg Free Press that his invitation to the event made him uncomfortable.

Brian Bowman told the paper that he was busy the night of the fundraiser, but most likely would not have attended anyway.

"I felt it wouldn't be appropriate," he said.

Liberal MP Ralph Goodale has already called on federal ethics watchdog Mary Dawson to investigate the matter.

"Any breach of the Conflict of Interest Code undermines the confidence that Canadians have in our elected representatives, and as such, warrants an investigation by your office," Goodale stated in a letter over the weekend.

Glover is already no stranger to controversy.

The Saint-Boniface MP, who was elevated to cabinet this summer, exceeded her legal campaign spending limit during the 2011 election.

Yet, she avoided punishment by working out a "compliance agreement" this fall with the commissioner of elections, Yves Cote.

Under the deal, the Glover campaign acknowledged it spent $2,267 more than the legal limit, but the over-spending is deemed to have been the result of "inadvertence and an honest misunderstanding of what constitutes an election expense."

The agreement notes that Glover will voluntarily spend $2,267 less than the legal limit if she runs again in the 2015 election.

With files from The Canadian Press

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