New Brunswick

Liberal Party fundraiser piggybacks on taxpayer-funded meeting

New Brunswick Liberals are defending their decision to piggyback a party fundraiser on a taxpayer-funded meeting of the four Atlantic premiers.

4 Atlantic premiers are headlining $250-a-plate N.B. Liberal Association fundraising dinner

Energy Minister Donald Arseneault says this is a unique opportunity, 'and if we want to give access to business stakeholders and whatnot to advance their projects, their causes, hey, rightfully so.' (CBC)

New Brunswick Liberals are defending their decision to piggyback a party fundraiser on a taxpayer-funded meeting of the four Atlantic premiers.

Stephen McNeil of Nova Scotia, Wade MacLauchlan of Prince Edward Island, and Dwight Ball of Newfoundland and Labrador will join New Brunswick's Brian Gallant on Wednesday for a meeting of the Council of Atlantic Premiers.

But the four leaders are also on the bill for a $250-a-plate fundraising dinner for the New Brunswick Liberal Association Tuesday night, an all-star partisan line-up that would not have been possible if the premiers weren't coming to Fredericton at taxpayers' expense.

The evening also features a "business networking reception" that party donors can attend for $400. Ticket-buyers can attend both the dinner and the reception for the single price of $500.

'Unique opportunity'

Several federal Liberal cabinet ministers are also attending the fundraiser. They're also joining the four premiers for meetings on Wednesday.

Rarely is there so much power and influence in a single room, according to Liberal Energy Minister Donald Arseneault.

"This is a unique opportunity, and if we want to give access to business stakeholders and whatnot to advance their projects, their causes, hey, rightfully so," he said.

Arseneault described the fundraiser as another chance to help the regional economy.

It represents "more opportunities for over 300 people, business people from across New Brunswick and across Atlantic Canada to come together and network with these federal ministers and these Atlantic premiers," he said.

"At the end of the day, what we want is to create economic activity in this province, and if we can reach out, if we can get people to reach out to these decision-makers, we will do that," said Arseneault.

Alison Redford appeared for PCs

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives say the fundraiser amounts to letting people pay for access.

But the Tories have also used taxpayer-funded, out-of-province guests to sell fundraiser tickets.

In June 2013, then-Alberta premier Alison Redford was the star attraction at a PC Party of New Brunswick fundraiser in Fredericton.

Redford was in the province to visit the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John and to address the legislature to promote the Energy East pipeline proposal.

Current PC leader Bruce Fitch says the Redford appearance at the Tory fundraiser was different. "There was a positive event that came from that visit," he said, referring to the promotion of the pipeline.

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.

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