Kathleen Wynne says party fundraising events did not affect policy

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on Tuesday defended her government's use of political fundraisers, saying new rules are needed to address how all political parties in the province raise money.

Ontario premier proposed changes to how parties can raise money, met with opposition leaders Monday

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said changes to how Ontario's political parties can raise money are overdue. (CBC)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on Tuesday defended her government's use of political fundraisers, saying new rules are needed to address how all political parties in the province raise money.

Wynne addressed the issue on CBC's Metro Morning on Tuesday, one day after meeting with opposition party leaders to discuss new changes to party financing rules. 

The Liberals have faced criticism for raising money at expensive events where leaders from unions and business are provided access to cabinet ministers.

Metro Morning host Matt Galloway asked if the Liberal Party has been brokering that access as a money-making mechanism to influence government policy. 

"No," the premier said. "Have there been fundraisers with cabinet ministers? Absolutely, yes there have been. Has that led to a direct line between fundraising and policy development? No."

Galloway pressed Wynne on this, saying it's unlikely donors are contributing money "just to hang out" with powerful cabinet ministers.

"You have a process within government that is based on policy development that listens to stakeholders from all sides of an issue," said Wynne. 

As an example, the premier said the Liberals were criticized for taking donations from big breweries, but then opened the market to craft beer companies.

"The fact is that the changes we made around beer in this province flew in the face of what the big breweries wanted," she said. 

'They give money to all parties'

So why do donors fork over tens of thousands of dollars at events where they can rub shoulders with cabinet ministers? 

"They give money to all the parties," said Wynne. "It's part of their way of making their points, bringing their voices. There are so many ways that we listen to people. 

"I spend much more time outside of fundraisers than I do at fundraising events, so those voices come from a whole range of people. I would say that 95 per cent of the time, on a particular issue,  I hear from at least two sides of the story if not three or four sides of the story."

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath appeared on Metro Morning prior to Wynne, and said she was disappointed the government didn't consult with stakeholders before announcing changes to party finance rules. PC Leader Patrick Brown called Monday's meeting a sham, and said he wants a public inquiry into how parties raise money.

Wynne said the consultation process is just beginning and there will be plenty of time for input. 

"There's ample opportunity ... for people to comment," she said.