Liberal leadership candidate Joe Volpe has received $108,000 in 20 donations from five current and former executives of generic drug maker Apotex Inc. and their family members, and the NDP has called for an investigation into whether his campaign has skirted fundraising limits.
The 20 donations of $5,400 each -- the maximum allowed -- including some from teenage children of the Apotex executives -- make up 70 per cent of the $152,700 that Mr. Volpe's campaign reported earlier this month that it has raised.
Companies are barred from donating to federal party leadership campaigns under a 2004 law.
New Democrat MP Pat Martin yesterday filed a complaint asking Elections Commissioner Raymond Landry to investigate whether "individuals may be trying to circumvent campaign fundraising limits."
"I suppose it is possible that all six children of two drug company executives would choose to donate their life savings to the Liberal leadership campaign of the member for Eglinton-Lawrence.
"It is possible, but it is not likely," Mr. Martin said in the Commons.
"It is a lot more likely that this is a case of deliberate and premeditated fraud to circumvent the donation limits of the Elections Act."
A spokesman for Mr. Volpe, Corey Hobbs, said that "every contribution is in full compliance with the law" and that Mr. Volpe's campaign will treat statements that suggest otherwise as slander.
Mr. Volpe has come under fire after The Canadian Press reported on Friday that he received donations from two executives of Apotex Inc. and their family members, including four teenagers.
Chairman Barry Sherman, his wife, Honey, and four children each donated $5,400, as did president Jack Kay, his wife, Patricia, and two children.
But the number of donations from sources with some current or past connection to that firm is in fact larger.
The Globe and Mail found Mr. Volpe received 20 donations of $5,400 from four current Apotex executives, one former executive, and 15 of their family members.
That made up $108,000 of the $152,700 that Mr. Volpe reported earlier this month he had raised.
Mr. Volpe's campaign-finance filings to Elections Canada show he also received $5,400 donations from Apotex International executive vice-president Craig Baxter, and three other people listed at the same address: Cathy Baxter, Adam Baxter and Matthew Baxter.
Apotex vice-president Michael Florence also donated $5,400.
The same company's former vice-president of procurement, Allen Shechtman, also donated $5,400, as did wife Mary and children Rebecca, Noah and Matthew.
Asked yesterday if all of the donors in his family are adults, Mr. Shechtman said: "No. No they're not." He said he was in a meeting and suggested a reporter call back later, but did not return a subsequent phone call.
Mr. Shechtman, now chief executive officer of the Martin Ross Group, said he is no longer an executive at Apotex, although he may still be a director.
Apotex's corporate filings do not list Mr. Shechtman as a director. Company spokesman Elie Betito did not return a telephone call.
The law sets a $5,400 maximum for donations to a leadership campaign, but citizens and landed immigrants of any age can donate.
In addition to the 20 donations from current and former Apotex executives and their family members, Mr. Volpe received nine others, according to the contribution reports he filed with Elections Canada earlier this month. All 29 donations were received on April 20, the reports state.
The current elections law, passed under former prime minister Jean Chrétien, limits corporate donations for election campaigns and bans them for leadership campaigns.
Apotex is Canada's largest generic drug manufacturer -- a leader in an industry that regularly lobbies Ottawa over pharmaceutical policy and patent laws.
The Liberal Party insisted yesterday that all of the donations to Mr. Volpe's campaign followed the rules.
"These were clearly reported by everyone and that's because they were within the rules," said interim Liberal leader Bill Graham.
The party's national director, Steven MacKinnon, agreed.
"We have absolutely every procedure possible in place to both catch and correct any provisions of the Elections Act that appear to have been contravened, and we don't see any in this case," he said.
Canada's Elections Commissioner does not reveal his investigations to the public unless he approves prosecution for a violation or reaches a "compliance agreement" to correct breaches.