Federal Conservatives are demanding the Liberal Party release the guest list from a private, $500-a-head fundraiser Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould attended at a big Toronto law firm Thursday.
But Wilson-Raybould, who represents the riding of Vancouver Granville, reportedly maintains she attended the controversial event as a member of Parliament, not in her capacity as Canada’s attorney general.
Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould holds a news conference in Ottawa in November 2015. (Photo: Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)
Deputy justice critic Michael Cooper says the whole situation calls into question the new government’s “much-touted” open and accountable government policy introduced in November. The plan explicitly calls on ministers to avoid political contributions from “departmental stakeholders,” which includes individuals who have “current or anticipated official dealings” with ministers.
“Canadians deserve to know who attended this event and whether or not the Attorney General had a conflict of interest,” Cooper said in a statement released to media.
Cooper has also written to Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson to express concerns of a potential conflict.
Invite reportedly mentioned ministerial mandate
His letter cites reports that the event — hosted at the Bay Street office of Torys LLP — was not publicly advertised, that specific guests were invited, and that an email to invitees mentioned Wilson-Raybould’s ministerial mandate on marijuana legalization, assisted dying, and missing and murdered indigenous women.
Cooper also notes that Torys LLP “offers lobbying as part of its services to clients.”
The rookie MP for the riding of St. Albert—Edmonton said most Canadians would find this all an ethical breach.
“When the Attorney General has a fundraiser for the Liberal Party at one of the top law firms in Canada, it blurs the lines between what is Liberal Party business and what is Government business,” he said in the statement.
Read his full letter to the ethics watchdog:
But Wilson-Raybould told a reporter Thursday she was not crossing any lines.
"All MPs are called upon to help raise the money for the Liberal Party to engage Canadians in the political process. I am here, as an MP, to do just that,” she said, according to CBC News.
But it’s not just Tories who think something is fishy.
Former Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh speaks in the House of Commons in this file photo. (Photo: Canadian Press)
Former federal Liberal cabinet minister Ujjal Dosanjh wrote a blog Tuesday saying it was “totally incomprehensible” for Wilson-Raybould to attend the fundraiser.
He also said that the position of attorney general demands Wilson-Raybould be seen, at all times, as independent.
A Liberal spokesman told The Huffington Post Canada in an email this week that Wilson-Raybould takes her “ethical obligations very seriously” and contacted the ethics commissioner in advance to make sure there was no conflict.
"When the Attorney General has a fundraiser for the Liberal Party at one of the top law firms in Canada, it blurs the lines between what is Liberal Party business and what is Government business.'"
— Michael Cooper
“As one would expect, all MPs have a role to play in attending events for their political party, and the Commissioner's office has recognized that fundraising is an important part of all MPs' political engagement,” Braeden Caley, senior director of communications for the Liberal Party, said in the email.
When asked about the event on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pointed to the strict fundraising rules at the federal level.
“We as a party have always demonstrated a level of openness and transparency in how we've conducted our affairs and we will continue to set a very high bar,” he said.
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