Alberta's governing New Democrats are going ahead with a pricey private event with the premier that was pitched discreetly to select people.
Cheryl Oates, spokeswoman for Premier Rachel Notley, confirmed Monday that the one-hour availability with the premier ahead of a general fundraiser this week was cleared by the ethics commissioner.
Oates declined to give details and said further comment would have to come from NDP party boss Chris O'Halloran.
O'Halloran told The Canadian Press earlier Monday that the private event had been cancelled. He could not be reached after the premier's office said that was not the case.
The general fundraiser Tuesday is being held at the Art Gallery of Alberta in downtown Edmonton.
It was promoted on the party's website as offering people a chance to mingle with the premier and NDP members of the legislature at a cost of $250 a ticket.
An event costing $1,000 a ticket is giving people access to the premier and the same MLAs for an hour before the main fundraiser, but in a separate room of the art gallery.
Anyone buying the pricier ticket automatically gains entrance to the $250 event. It was not widely advertised.
Event pitched to select people
The event was pitched one-on-one to select people through "phoning, e-mails, conversations," O'Halloran said.
"It would have been more time ... and give people more time to share their opinions and feelings."
He did not say why the event was cancelled, but denied that the party was concerned it could be perceived as selling access to Notley and other NDP decision-makers.
"We decided not to move forward with it," he said. "That was a decision we made as a party."
He said the decision had been made recently and that ticketholders would be offered refunds.
An hour after O'Halloran's comments, Notley's office said the event was on and had never been cancelled.
Oates said ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler confirmed both fundraising events do not violate Alberta's Conflicts of Interest Act.
Notley's NDP has had problems over party funding tied to government events since its first days in office.
Swearing-in fundraiser criticized
Last May, the party was criticized for trying to raise money at the swearing-in of Notley and her cabinet.
Last November, the NDP caucus apologized to the legislature assembly for a fundraising campaign that offered ticketholders a chance to chat with Notley and her team in Calgary, not as party members, but in their roles as cabinet ministers.
When the NDP was in opposition, it was highly critical of the Progressive Conservatives and then-premier Ed Stelmach when the party offered access to him in a fundraising exercise.
Jason Nixon, democratic accountability critic for the Opposition Wildrose, said a lot of questions remain unanswered.
"Why has this whole thing been hush-hush?" Nixon asked Monday.
"If the premier and the NDP don't think what they've been doing is wrong, then why have they been hiding it? Why have they not been advertising it? That's what doesn't add up here."
PC Leader Ric McIver agreed.
"When it's not advertised, then one does need to wonder what the real objective is and what's really going on. The public would be right to have those questions," he said.
"(And) I imagine there are some NDP supporters that say, 'If this is so important, why wasn't I invited?"'