Premier denies Angus L. Club reception is $750 cash-for-access event
'There is no price tag to put my integrity on the line for,' says Stephen McNeil
It's one of the higher-level Liberal clubs with perks that appear to match the size of the members' donations, critics say.
This weekend, members of the Angus L. Club — which costs $750 a year or $60 per month to join — will come together for a pre-dinner reception with Premier Stephen McNeil and his cabinet at the party's annual general meeting.
According to the party's website, Angus L. Club members get "enhanced opportunities" to meet with the leader, caucus members and other special guests, as well as "exclusive invitations to special events on a quarterly basis."
Those enhanced opportunities to meet with the Liberal leader and caucus members drew criticism Thursday from the New Democratic Party Leader Gary Burrill on the floor of the legislature.
"Only those who have given $750 to the Liberals' Angus L. Club are entitled to come to the meeting with the caucus and the premier on the weekend," Burrill said. "Those who have been able to contribute $300 may not come. Those who have been able to contribute $25 may not come.
"Is this the way we wish to run politics? I don't think so."
'Zero financial limitation'
Burrill is asking for changes to ensure that "integrity is offered" and parties aren't charging people for access to political representatives and leaders.
"I think there should be zero financial limitation on your access to elected representatives. The NDP in Nova Scotia would not give this two seconds of consideration. It should be that way in the Liberal Party. I find it is shocking that it's not."
The Tories also have various levels at which a person can donate, with the largest being the Leader's Circle. To be a member, one must contribute $1,200 annually or $100 per month. Those members are also offered exclusive event invitations.
The NDP does not have levels of donors in its financial structure.
No price tag on integrity
McNeil said the Angus L. Club is a vehicle for supporters to make political contributions to their party.
"It's a way for longtime party people, for people who want to believe in the vision that we have, to be able to help their party … to continue to operate," he said.
"Some people, for example, will donate the maximum amount. Others will donate a portion to the respective club that is inside the party."
McNeil called questions about his integrity "silly."
"There are strict limits on what you can contribute in the province of Nova Scotia and people just use whatever form they want to make a contribution to the party.… There is no price tag to put my integrity on the line for."
He called Burrill "self-righteous" and accused him of being divisive.
With files from Jean Laroche