Cash for access fundraising law should be widened, says ethics commissioner
Ethics watchdog wants to see the law apply to parliamentary secretaries as well as ministers, party leaders
Proposed legislation designed to curb political cash for access fundraisers should be amended to include parliamentary secretaries to cabinet ministers, says Canada's ethics watchdog.
Testifying before members of the procedure and House affairs committee, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson said Bill C-50 doesn't go far enough.
"I welcome the move to make all party leaders and leadership contestants, and not just ministers, subject to the new advertising and reporting regime," Dawson told MPs.
"Bill C-50 does not cover parliamentary secretaries, who are subject to the Conflict of Interest Act as reporting public office holders. The committee may wish to consider this omission."
Dawson's comments come as the committee was wrapping up its hearings on legislation that will require parties to disclose information such as cabinet ministers and party leaders who will be attending party fundraising events with tickets worth more than $200, the dates of those events, the venues and the names of those who attended.
The committee moves to clause-by-clause study of the bill on Thursday.
The legislation was introduced in May in the wake of controversy over pricey $1,500 a head fundraising events featuring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or other influential cabinet ministers.
"The fundraisers prompted a great many calls to my office and several requests for investigation," Dawson said.
Dawson added that the legislation, and the increased transparency, would also make it easier for her office to investigate complaints.
"Ease of access to the names and addresses of attendees at a fundraising event could prove useful if my office were it to look into an allegation that a stakeholder who attended such an event subsequently received a benefit from a minister."
Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd said it is important for lobbyists to be transparent about their dealings with politicians, including at party fundraisers.
The key, said Shepherd, is whether the lobbyist's action can leave a politician with a sense of obligation that could create the impression of a conflict of interest.
"If the answer is yes, then any related lobbying activities risk creating a conflict of interest for that individual and should not be undertaken."
Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org