Politics

Ethics commissioner looks into Liberals' Morneau fundraising letter

Canada's conflict of Interest and ethics commissioner is looking into a Christmas fundraising letter from Finance Minister Bill Morneau that urges Liberal Party supporters to donate up to $250 for the chance to have dinner with him.

Finance minister offers to bring dinner, hopes you'll bring your wallet

A Liberal fundraising letter sent on behalf of Bill Morneau offers supporters the chance to win dinner with the finance minister. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Canada's conflict of interest and ethics commissioner is looking into a Christmas fundraising letter from Finance Minister Bill Morneau that urges Liberal Party supporters to donate up to $250 for the chance to have dinner with him. 

The letter assures potential bidders they aren't required to make a donation for a chance to win, "but I hope you'll chip in what you can and then enter the promotion."

Buttons below the link direct people to make donations of $5 to $250. Those who make a $250 contribution will get what is referred to as an exclusive Justin Trudeau cookie cutter.

The emailed correspondence from Morneau says part of his job is to "stay connected with Canadians" — and that he's excited to visit the house of one lucky Canadian and bring food.

"This is what real change is all about — it's just you, me, your guests and great conversation over a delicious meal. I can't wait!"

Upon learning of the email this afternoon, a spokesperson for the office of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson told CBC News, "We are are looking into the matter" but that it is not, as of yet, an official examination.

"There are several sections [of the Conflict of Interest Act] that could be applicable but it would be premature to identify them at this time," said Jocelyne Brisebois.

'I want to hear your ideas'

Morneau says in the email, "I want to hear your ideas for boosting the economy, and how we can help Canadians save more money at the end of each month. I want to know what the obstacles are to growing your small business, or the company you work in. And I want to know what you think we can do to get more young and Indigenous people into the workforce. Because when I hear a good idea, I take careful note of it."

Specific best practices outlined in a Privy Council Office document Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and Ministers of State 2011, say ministers "should ensure that fundraising communications issued on their behalf do not suggest any connection between fundraising and official government business."

Christina Topp, the Liberal Party acting national director, says fundraising is a top priority and in every case it ensures that all rules are followed. In this case, Topp says, Liberals were mindful not to give preferential treatment or access to any person or organization by, among other things, randomly selecting a winner.

"It is crucial that our ministers be — quite literally — at the table with families to discuss the challenges they face and the opportunities that lie ahead. This promotion is one opportunity to do just that," says Topp.

Inviting Liberal supporters to make donations in the hopes of sharing a meal with Trudeau before he became prime minister was a very popular and effective fundraising tool for the party, but that was when the Liberals were in opposition.

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