Premier defends practice of fundraising on public-funded trips

Premier Brian Gallant is defending his practice of raising money for the New Brunswick Liberal party while travelling to other provinces at public expense.

Premier Brian Gallant says it's a "normal thing" to fundraise across the country

Gallant headlined two fundraisers in the last two months during taxpayer-funded trips to Calgary and Vancouver on government business. (CBC)

Premier Brian Gallant is defending his practice of raising money for the New Brunswick Liberal party while travelling to other provinces at public expense.

Gallant headlined two fundraisers in the last two months during taxpayer-funded trips to Calgary and Vancouver on government business.

"Politics comes with expenses," Gallant said Monday. "It's a normal thing for any political party to do fundraisers across the country or in the province."

"We, just like any other political party, have done fundraisers," he said. "We appreciate people that donate and want to help us in our focus to create jobs and grow the economy in New Brunswick."

Gallant compared the donations at the fundraising events, including from large corporations, to "the many volunteers who will step up to help us as well."

It's a normal thing for any political party to do fundraisers across the country or in the province.- Brian Gallant

"We really appreciate as a political party the hundreds and hundreds of New Brunswickers and people who are outside the province, who want to see New Brunswick do well, that are supporting us."

Opposition complains 

The Progressive Conservative Opposition has repeatedly complained about Gallant's out-of-province fundraising visits.

New Brunswick's political financing law allows donations of up to $6,000 to a political party by individuals, companies, and unions. Donations of more than $100 are eventually disclosed publicly in documents filed by parties twice a year.

On March 2, Gallant attended a "fundraising reception" while in Vancouver for a First Ministers Meeting.

The reception was organized by the Wazuku Advisory Group, a Vancouver-based lobbying and consulting firm with Liberal connections.

On April 15, Gallant attended what his spokesperson calls "a small fundraising event" between meetings in Calgary, where he had been invited to speak to the Canadian Energy Executives Association.

The spokesperson said Gallant travelled back to New Brunswick the same night "to not incur any more accommodation costs."

No one from the Liberal party office could be reached Monday to discuss who attended and how much money the party collected.

The party also benefited recently from other premiers travelling on public business.

In February, the party hosted a fundraiser in Fredericton featuring two other Atlantic premiers and several federal Liberal cabinet ministers who were in the city for meetings.

A dinner ticket cost $250, a reception ticket cost $400, and a donor could buy a single ticket for both events for $500.

Boosting economy

At the time, cabinet minister Donald Arseneault described the fundraiser as a way for more than 300 business people to "network" with elected officials to boost the economy.
Liberal cabinet minister Donald Arseneault described a party fundraiser as a way for business people to “network” with elected officials to boost the economy. (CBC)

"If we want to give access to business stakeholders and whatnot to advance their projects, their causes, hey, rightfully so," Arseneault said at the time. "If we can reach out, if we can get people to reach out to these decision-makers, we will do that."

Despite their attacks on such events, the New Brunswick PCs are not immune to cashing in on travelling premiers, either.

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

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she plans to bring in new fundraising rules after a fundraising scandal there.

At the federal level, donations from corporations and unions are banned, and individual donations are capped at $1,200.

In an emailed statement, Finance Minister Roger Melanson said the Liberal government will start working on its campaign promises on political financing rules during the current session of the legislature.

Those promises did not include banning corporate and union money, but Melanson said the government will "take a look at this idea."

PC Opposition leader Bruce Fitch says he opposes banning corporate and union donations to parties because New Brunswick's small size and fragile economy make it difficult for parties to raise enough money from individuals.

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.