MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau touted his government's commitment to transparency and its tough stance on the wealthy at a high-priced fundraiser Wednesday attended by some of Montreal's elite.
Before beginning his remarks to the roughly 150 Liberal party donors in attendance, Trudeau thanked Stephen Bronfman, a major party fundraiser and well-known businessman and financier.
"Thank you for volunteering your time for this movement," Trudeau said, "and for being such a strong voice for progressive change in this country."
A 2017 investigation by CBC, Radio-Canada and the Toronto Star revealed Bronfman and his family's investment company were linked to an offshore trust in the Cayman Islands that may have used questionable means to avoid paying millions in taxes.
Bronfman says he's never funded nor used offshore trusts, and that all his Canadian trusts have paid all federal taxes on their income.
Trudeau said he recognized the audience in the swanky downtown Montreal ballroom "represent people who have really succeeded in this country."
Tickets to the event were $1,500 per person over 35 years old and $750 for anyone under that age. The room was mostly filled with people over 35.
Attendees included Bronfman, former mayor of Montreal Denis Coderre and Mitch Garber, a famous private equity financier and chairman of Cirque du Soleil and owner of World Series Poker.
"I know it can be frustrating," Trudeau told the crowd. "The first thing we did when we got elected is raise taxes on the wealthiest one per cent and lowered them for the middle class."
The prime minister also boasted his party was more transparent than the others in the House of Commons.
Used media as an example
He used the journalists present as an example of his government's openness.
"Our friends in the media are here tonight," he said about the handful of journalists at the back of the room.
"We are the only political party opening up our fundraisers to the media. We've encouraged the Conservatives and the NDP to do the same, but apparently their commitment to transparency is easier when they are talking about it then doing it."
However, Liberal party employees kept a close eye on journalists at the fundraiser, insisting they stay in small room adjacent to the ballroom before Trudeau spoke.
Reporters were banned from speaking with anyone at the event and were ushered out of the ballroom immediately after Trudeau finished his 15-minute speech.
There is so much of a very far-right agenda across the world. Dictatorships, gun-violence issues, racism. And then the world looks to Canada.Stephen Bronfman
After Trudeau's remarks, Bronfman took the stage and thanked the prime minister for his "courage."
"We have all bought in to believe this is the way," Bronfman said about the Liberals' agenda.
"We're in tough times," said the businessman. "There is so much of a very far-right agenda across the world. Dictatorships, gun-violence issues, racism. And then the world looks to Canada.
"You guys have taken our brand and built it to this beacon out there in the world."
He then asked the crowd to line up near the stage to have their photos taken with the prime minister.