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Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page waits to testify before a Commons committee on March 16, 2011. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)
Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page waits to testify before a Commons committee on March 16, 2011. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)

Kevin Page event raises eyebrows - and sends Liberals scrambling Add to ...

A federal Young Liberal organization is scrapping plans to receive political donations at an event Tuesday evening featuring Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page.

Just hours before the event in Nanaimo, B.C., the lead organizer told The Globe and Mail money raised at the door would go the Vancouver Island University Young Liberals. The organizer also said receipts would be offered to those wishing to claim a political donation for tax purposes.

But after The Globe asked Mr. Page to comment on the optics of his appearance at an event that would be raising money for the Liberal Party, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said he would refuse to appear unless he was assured any profits would go to charity. He said he was told the event was non-partisan and that he would be contacting the organizer.

Minutes later The Globe received an email from the organizer explaining that plans had changed.

“We just now decided to clear the air and to wash away any misunderstandings or misconceptions,” wrote Mike McDowall, who is organizing the event and who is also vice-president of the federal Liberal association for Nanaimo-Alberni. “All the proceeds will go to pay for costs and any other profits raised will go to a local Nanaimo food bank.”

Chisholm Pothier, a spokesman for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, described Mr. Page’s planned appearance at the event as “deeply disappointing” and said it calls into question the neutrality of his position. “One would think he would know better,” he said in an email.

The event in Nanaimo was promoted on the website of the federal Liberal Party.

Advance tickets were $5 for students and $10 for adults. It was billed as a non-partisan event and there was no mention of raising money for the Young Liberals.

Yet when The Globe first contacted Mr. McDowall Tuesday, he explained that money raised at the door would go the Young Liberals on campus.

“Technically the money will be going to the VIU Young Liberals, part of their financial assets,” he said when asked about what would happen to the money raised at the event. “We are giving the option for people to sign off if they want to get a tax donation... We’ll be mentioning that.”

The Parliamentary Budget Office is non-partisan and staffed by public servants. Its reports challenging the federal government’s financial numbers have at times created tension between Conservatives and the office.

When asked by The Globe about the optics of appearing at a Liberal-organized event, Mr. Page said there was never any mention of partisan fundraising.

“If there are any surplus funds (after cover for [the]hall or technology support or coffee) I will request it go to a local charity or I will not speak,” he wrote.

Local NDP MP Jean Crowder said she and other New Democrats would be attending the event. While she did not expect the organizers would make a large profit, she said it would be “problematic” for Mr. Page if money did go to the Liberals.

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