The Liberal Party is ending the secrecy surrounding its fundraisers that feature Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and cabinet ministers, promising to hold them only in public spaces and launching a new website that posts events in advance as well as a guest list after the fact.
Details about events with a ticket price of $200 or more will be posted at least three days in advance on the party website, and media will be able to contact the party to facilitate coverage, a senior Liberal official said. Any Canadian citizen or permanent resident who donates to buy a ticket can attend, and guest lists and reports about the events will be available on the site no more than 45 days after each event, the official said. Two events were already posted to the site when viewed by The Globe and Mail: one featuring Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in Toronto on April 25, and the other with Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr in Calgary on April 27.
"Canadians expect our political leaders to meet the highest standards for transparency in political fundraising," Liberal Party president Anna Gainey said.
"… These steps do exactly that," she said in the statement.
The move comes after a series of revelations in The Globe last fall found that Mr. Trudeau and senior ministers were raising millions of dollars at private fundraisers with tickets as high as $1,500, giving donors access to cabinet away from public view.
Mr. Trudeau defended the events for months, even though the cash-for-access fundraisers breached his government's own Open and Accountable Government guidelines that state "there should be no preferential access, or appearance of preferential access" in exchange for political donations.
The Liberals are now calling on other political parties and federal leadership candidates to follow their lead in posting details about fundraising events, before the Trudeau government introduces legislation that is expected to make similar changes to those announced by the party.
Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould has indicated she is aiming to introduce the legislation some time this spring, and plans to discuss the changes with opposition parties.
However, the new measures will not apply to backbench MPs who will be free to raise money at private or closed-door events.
The government is also not cutting the maximum political donation allowed. For 2017, the limit is $1,550 per individual for donations to a federal party.
The Conservatives and New Democrats have urged the government to allow the Office of the Ethics Commissioner to investigate political fundraisers, and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has asked that these rules be transferred to her mandate. However, a government source told the Globe in January this was not part of the Trudeau plan to change fundraising rules.
The party's fundraising practices over 2015 and 2016 also ran counter to internal Liberal Party rules, held up by the party as evidence of due diligence, that say "there is a thorough process to ensure that the rules are followed – especially that no department stakeholder, lobbyist, or employees of lobbying firms are specially targeted for fundraising."
In mid-December, Mr. Trudeau himself conceded people lobbied him at the fundraisers but said he ultimately made up his own mind as to what policy is good for Canadians.
Days later, the Ethics Commissioner announced she would question the Prime Minister to determine whether Mr. Trudeau breached the Conflict of Interest Act when he attended party fundraisers with corporate executives seeking favours from Ottawa.
Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd announced in November that she had also launched an investigation after The Globe revealed that business executives who have lobbied the government were buying tickets to cozy up to senior ministers.