At Issue panel weighs in on buying political access

Ministers and premiers are meeting in private, exclusive gatherings and taking large donations in exchange for one-on-one time. The At Issue panel weighs in.

The National's At Issue panel has weighed in on the use of cash for access to power. 

Ministers and premiers are meeting in private, exclusive gatherings and taking large donations in exchange for this one-on-one time. 

While it is not illegal to accept thousands of dollars for face time, it does raise some concerns that put the ethics of political fundraising into question. 

Postmedia/National Post columnist Andrew Coyne said parties are selling political access to affluent Canadians. He said most people don't have thousands of dollars to spend on a meeting with ministers and premiers."You're giving privileged access. At the least, you're giving privileged access in return for large sums of money and that's the very definition of buying influence." 

Toronto Star national affairs columnist Chantal Hébert agrees that political power and political influence are for sale in Canada.

Hébert said the reason it got so bad at the provincial level because of pressure put on ministers to raise certain amounts of money. Hébert said, "you can call it not criminal, because it's legal in provinces like Ontario and B.C., but it is still collusion." 

Each commentator agreed this perception of privileged access does exist, but whether it garners any leverage is another question. 

Conservative commentator Tim Powers said that while it is a ticket to a hearing, it does not manifest itself in terms of policy decisions changing. 

Powers also said it is not in political parties' individual interest to restrict or ban contributions. 

"It's like the Cold War, a form of mutually assured destruction because you don't see other political parties in opposition in most of these provinces lobbying against it because they have to use that very system themselves to overcome the debt that they've been laden with when they're in opposition," he said.  

Watch the full segment above, and find more stories and features from The National here. 


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