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Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media at the end of a two-day cabinet retreat in Calgary, Alberta, Canada January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Bolin (CHRIS BOLIN/REUTERS)
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media at the end of a two-day cabinet retreat in Calgary, Alberta, Canada January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Bolin (CHRIS BOLIN/REUTERS)

Globe editorial

Globe editorial: Bringing cash for access out of the shadows and into the light Add to ...

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has asked his Minister of Democratic Institutions to introduce legislation that will ban secretive cash-for-access party fundraisers held in private homes and clubs. Good.

After having spent months vehemently denying that something he was doing was wrong, he and his cabinet will now stop doing the thing in question, and furthermore will make it an offence for anyone else to do it in the future.

Political fundraisers involving cabinet ministers, party leaders and leadership contestants will have to be held in publicly accessible places, and be advertised in advance. The party or candidate will have to subsequently report, in a timely manner, on how many people attended and how much money they gave.

The Liberal government is also committing itself to allowing the media to attend its events, and aims to convince other parties to do the same, though this will not be part of the legislation.

These are all welcome moves. If the legislation lives up to its billing, it will end unannounced political fundraisers in private homes, where over the last year, well-to-do donors paying as much as $1,500 a person were given intimate access to the PM and his most powerful cabinet ministers.

Mr. Trudeau had been rattled by the justified accusation that these events violate his own Open and Accountable Government guidelines, which state “there should be no preferential access, or appearance of preferential access” in exchange for political donations. Even if the events were legal, they didn’t look right.

So, in response, the Liberals are tightening the rules, while letting more sunlight in.

The proposed reforms are designed as a vindication of Mr. Trudeau’s assertion that he and his party have nothing to hide, and never did.

Canadians are legitimately concerned about preferential access, and the wealthy and well-connected using political donations as a way of buying face-time with the Prime Minister or other cabinet members. Now they and the media will have a greater opportunity to look for themselves and see whether things are above board.

It will hopefully make the federal political fundraising game, which is already heavily regulated, even more transparent.

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Rona Ambrose calls Liberal cash-for-access law a 'smokescreen' (The Canadian Press)

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