Metro Morning

Political fundraising needs public inquiry, PC Leader Brown says

As Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne prepares to meet with opposition leaders today about political fundraising reforms, Ontario's PC leader says a public inquiry is needed to clean up what he calls "the wild, wild west of political fundraising."

Premier Kathleen Wynne to discuss political fundraising today with opposition leaders

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown will meet Monday with Premier Kathleen Wynne to discuss changes to political fundraising rules. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is also meeting with the premier. (CBC)

As Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne prepares to meet with opposition leaders today to discuss political fundraising reforms, Ontario's PC leader says a public inquiry is needed to clean up what he calls "the wild, wild west of political fundraising."

"The only reason Kathleen Wynne is talking about the rules today is because she got caught," Brown said Monday on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "The lines between the government of Ontario and the Liberal Party have blurred completely. Fundraising is legitimate, don't get me wrong, but using government decisions to fundraise isn't."

He said if the Liberals have nothing to hide "it will be a quick inquiry and it would be over."

Wynne plans to meet this afternoon with both Brown and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath after weeks of opposition attacks over expensive and exclusive dinners for Liberal donors.

The opposition has also attacked the Liberals over fundraising goals for cabinet ministers. Wynne has said she'll cancel private political fundraisers and has asked her ministers to do the same, but other details about how Ontario political parties raise money continue to come to light. 

Byelection loophole

Last week CBC's Mike Crawley reported that the Ontario Liberals used a loophole in the province's campaign finance laws to amass $1.6 million during a byelection campaign in which the spending limit was $142,000. 

The fundraising in Whitby-Oshawa was legal, but illustrates how parties can use byelections to amass donations far exceeding the cost of the campaign, and how donors with deep pockets can give far more than Ontario's annual spending limits.

Brown said it all points to a need for reform. 

"The Liberals have taken loopholes and driven a Brinks truck through it," he said.

Wynne has promised to introduce legislation this spring that would include a ban on corporate and union donations.

She has also said she'll ask the opposition leaders if they think byelection fundraising rules should be changed before she introduces broader legislation. 

Brown said rumours of fundraising targets for Liberal cabinet ministers are another concern. 

"The right to sit at the cabinet table should not be tied to how much they raise for the Liberal party," he said. 

In a recent interview on Metro Morning former Liberal Party president Greg Sorbara denied that the donations are about access, but said the events allow donors to support the democratic process. 

Brown himself holds fundraisers for the PC party, but he said the difference is that "I don't give contracts out." He also said PC fundraising events aren't private.

With files from The Canadian Press

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