Ontario Liberal Party held 100 exclusive fundraising events in 2015

Exclusive fundraising events with ticket prices of up to $10,000 each helped Kathleen Wynne's Ontario Liberal Party collect the bulk of the $9.2 million it raised from donors in 2015.

Tickets to 23 events benefiting Kathleen Wynne's party topped $4,000 each

The most expensive Ontario Liberal Party fundraising event in 2015 was an "Evening with Kathleen Wynne" that eight people paid $10,000 each to attend. The party used 100 ticketed events to raise more than $7 million, the bulk of the party's donations. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Exclusive fundraising events with ticket prices of up to $10,000 helped Kathleen Wynne's Ontario Liberal Party collect the bulk of the money it raised from donors in 2015. 

A newly filed financial statement obtained by CBC News show the Liberals held exactly 100 fundraising events last year. Twenty-three of them featured ticket prices of $4,000 or more. 

Such private fundraising events are at the heart of the controversy that triggered a proposal to ban corporate and union donations to the political parties starting next January.

The Wynne government was under fire for holding events that were not publicized where deep-pocketed donors would pay thousands of dollars to get up-close access to the premier or cabinet ministers, with the proceeds going to the Ontario Liberal Party.

The new documents reveal how profoundly the Liberal fundraising machine has depended on the tactic of ticketed events, with an average of two such functions every week. 

The party's 2015 financial statement, submitted Tuesday to the Elections Ontario head office, lists the fundraising events for the year. It shows 100 events in 2015, plus a handful that happened in 2014 for which the money was collected in 2015. The ticketed events raised $7,032,025, providing the vast majority of the $9.2 million in donations the Liberals reported in 2015

One event, on March 2, 2015, entitled "Evening wth KW" cost $10,000 a ticket. Eight people attended.

The rest of the pricey fundraisers give no indication of which Liberals were the star attractions. That includes another $10,000-per-ticket event on Oct. 26, 2015 listed simply as "Evening Event," attended by nine people, and an Aug. 24, 2015 "Evening Reception" at $9,975 each for the seven ticket-buyers. 

"We held a number of events of that nature and we won't anymore," Deputy Premier Deb Matthews told CBC News Thursday. "We've changed so that ministers can't attend these events with their own stakeholders."

Wynne announced in April that she and her ministers would cancel all their upcoming "private" fundraisers. But it's not clear how many events were actually cancelled outright. Instead, the Liberals made fundraisers "public" by posting the date, location and ticket price on the party website.

The parties are not required under Ontario elections law to indicate which donors bought tickets to which events. So unless the Liberals volunteer the information, we won't know who paid $10,000 to be the sole attendee at a "Breakfast Reception" on May 13, 2015, nor which Liberals attended. 

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath calls the Ontario Liberal Party's fundraising tactics "quite odious and quite questionable particularly when it comes to access to ministers." (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Wynne has continued to refuse to reveal who attended similar high-priced events, including a Dec. 7, 2015 event priced at $4,000 a ticket, attended by 19 people, according to the new documents. The Globe and Mail previously reported this fundraiser brought together the financial backers of the Hydro One stock offering with Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli and Finance Minister Charles Sousa.  

NDP leader Andrea Horwath said Thursday her biggest concern is that the Liberal fundraising events allowed wealthy donors to get exclusive access to members of cabinet.  

"Their fundraising methods are quite odious and quite questionable particularly when it comes to access to ministers," Horwath told reporters Thursday at the Legislature.  "It's outrageous to think that you would have cabinet ministers basically selling tickets for access and then turning around and providing contracts to the very same people that were bellying up at the fundraiser." 

Wynne has repeatedly denied any link between government action and Liberal Party donations.

Policy is made based on the evidence," Wynne said in Question Period Thursday, "Policies have nothing to do with the fund-raising that we do."

Ontario Liberal Party's Priciest Fundraising Events in 2015
Event & DateTicket PriceTickets Sold
March 2 "Evening With KW"$10,0008
April 1 "Evening Reception"$7,0009
April 27 "Evening Event" $5,00015
May 6 "Cocktails Event"$5,0009
May 13 "Breakfast Event" $10,0001
May 27 "Evening Reception"$4,00010
June 22 "Evening Event II"$7,5004
June 23 "Evening Event" $7,50012
July 6 "Evening Event" $5,00029
July 28 "Garden Party"$5,00031
August 24 "Evening Reception"$9,9757
Sept. 14 "Evening Event" $4,50028
Sept. 23 "Evening Event"$4,00015
Oct. 8 "Evening Event" $5,00029
Oct. 20 "Evening Event" $5,0005
Oct. 26 "Evening Event" $10,0009
Nov. 18 "Evening Reception"$5,00018
Nov. 23 "Evening Event"$5,0003
Dec. 7 "Evening Reception" $4,00019
Dec. 7 "Evening Reception"$4,0001
Dec. 9 "Evening Reception"$4,00015
Dec. 14 "Evening Event" $5,00011
Dec. 16 "Evening Event" $5,0005

In contrast to the Liberals, the PCs and NDP held far fewer ticketed fundraisers in 2015, according to their new financial statements.

The Progressive Conservative document shows 12 ticketed events in 2015, collecting $1.5 million in contributions to the party. The PC events included a "Fundraising Lunch" on April 11, 2015, with ticket prices ranging from $150 to $10,500 (paid by one person). the party also held a "Toronto Golf" event on Aug. 12, 2015, at which four donors bought tickets costing $6,250, while 88 people paid $1,500 each. 

The NDP filing shows just two fundraising events, the "Stakeholder Social" on April 22, 2015, with prices ranging from $100 to $9,975 (paid by 14 ticket holders), and an event called "Inside Track 2018" on Dec. 9, 2015, where tickets also peaked at $9,975, the maximum annual donation allowed under Ontario's current campaign finance laws. The NDP events raised less than $400,000.  

About the Author

Mike Crawley

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Mike Crawley is provincial affairs reporter in Ontario for CBC News. He has won awards for his reporting on the eHealth spending scandal and flaws in Ontario's welfare-payment computer system. Before joining the CBC in 2005, Mike filed stories from 19 countries in Africa as a freelance journalist and worked as a newspaper reporter in B.C. Follow him on Twitter @CBCQueensPark

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