Sports tycoon David Braley, appointed to the Senate Thursday, acknowledges tens of thousands of dollars in donations to the 2004 leadership campaign of Prime Minister Stephen Harper - but says he also donated to two of his competitors.
In an interview, the owner of the Canadian Football League's B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts confirmed donations of $30,000 each to Mr. Harper and Belinda Stronach, plus an unspecified donation to Tony Clement.
The self-described "middle-of-the-road Conservative" said he wanted to see the strongest possible field of leadership hopefuls in order to defeat the Liberals.
"There's nothing wrong with donations. … I was supporting what I believed in and it worked," he said.
The 68-year-old Mr. Braley noted his support of Conservative politicians runs deeper than recent political events.
In the 1960s, he said, he helped on the campaign of Lincoln Alexander, Canada's first black MP. Since then, he has helped Conservatives in Hamilton and Burlington, Ont., on their campaigns and with fundraising.
"There's no question. I had a very strong inclination toward the Conservative Party," said Mr. Braley, who lives in Burlington but travels frequently to Vancouver, which he and his wife Nancy consider "a second home."
As the Prime Minister's Office announced Mr. Braley's appointment, opposition Liberal researchers said he personally donated $16,500 to Mr. Harper's 2004 leadership campaign and that his company Orlick Industries, an auto-parts manufacturer, donated another $30,000.
Mr. Braley rejected those numbers. "You better check your facts because they are not correct," he said from his Florida residence.
In a statement marking the appointment, Mr. Harper said he welcomed the addition of Mr. Braley to the Senate.
"Through his involvement in sport and philanthropy, he has shown a commitment to both his community and his country," said the Prime Minister.
Mr. Braley has donated $5-million to Hamilton's McMaster University, his alma mater. He was born in Montreal, but raised in Hamilton.
Mr. Harper, who has supported the idea of elected senators, has appointed 33 in the last 18 months. There are now 51 Conservatives in the 105-seat chamber, 49 Liberals, two Progressive Conservatives and three unaffiliated senators.
Mr. Braley is expected to assist with the passage of Tory crime legislation as well as budget legislation. He replaces Conservative Senator Wilbert Keon, who this week turned 75, the age of retirement for senators.
"It's a great honour," Mr. Braley said. "It gives me the opportunity to top off my career." But "in the final analysis," he added, senators should be elected.
Mr. Braley said his name was put forward for the Senate about seven months ago by a friend he declined to name. He said he was called 10 days ago by the Prime Minister's Office.
He said his business enterprises, which also include Alexander Tool, a distributor of grinding, polishing and cutting tools, won't get in the way of his political pursuits. "My own businesses are running fine so I have time to do it," he said.
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