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Liberals fundraise in NYC mid-election breaking transparency promise: Report

Non-profit, non-partisan Democracy Watch co-founder thinks it’s wrong if the Consul General of Canada in New York attended the party fundraiser.
Graeme Gordon Montreal, QC

The Liberal Party of Canada hosted a mid-campaign fundraiser party at an undisclosed location in New York City on Oct. 10, according to a Tuesday report from Ottawa-based investigative news outlet Blacklock’s Reporter.

Liberal incumbent MP Marc Miller (Ville-Marie-Le Sud-Ouest-Ile-des-Soeurs, Quebec) was the representative for the LPC at the clandestine fundraiser.

As Blacklock’s Reporter noted, Miller could likely afford to take a break from campaigning for his reelection because he won in 2015 with a wide margin of nearly 14,000 more ballots than his next closest rival.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and his party came into power promising an unprecedented level of transparency from a government led by them, including disclosing activities by default.

“But then they qualified that [once in power] to only mean the Access to Information Act … not disclosure of lobbyists or disclosure of donations from fundraisers or donors,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder and head of government watchdog group Democracy Watch.

The mid-campaign NYC fundraiser was for Canadian expats living in New York. It’s not illegal for parties to raise funds from non-residents.

The Trudeau government previously took heat in 2016 when they were caught having secretive private fundraisers with wealthy Chinese-Canadian donors and other wealthy establishment types. At the time the Prime Minister’s Office responded by saying to the Globe and Mail, “fundraisers are not exclusive because they are open to all…” Finance Minister Bill Morneau reiterated the claim at the time saying events “are in fact open.” (Attempts by myself to attend one of the more expensive/exclusive fundraisers proved contrary.)

The Globe and Mail coverage in 2016 revealed more of a two-tier fundraising model by the LPC, with the top tier being more reminiscent of what the Liberals had previously railed against, “cash for access” fundraising.

Blacklock’s Reporter also reached out to the Consul General of Canada in New York Phyllis Yaffe’s office to see if her or her staff attended the Liberal fundraiser. Yaffe, who previously worked as the director of Torstar,  was appointed by the Trudeau government in her role in Manhattan in 2016, which has an annual salary of $180,000.

“It is a big question if the Consul [Yaffe] attended. I don’t think people in that position should be attending a partisan fundraising event,” said Conacher to The Post Millennial in a phone interview.

Yaffe’s office didn’t respond to request for comment. She has previously donated to the LPC.

Donations above $200 to any federal party have to be disclosed, but only two months after the election is over.

LPC top aides also did not respond to questions, including if the mid-election campaign fundraiser was advertised publicly. Previous Liberal fundraisers have been promoted on the party’s website, but some exclusive ones were not.

“Democracy Watch gives them an ‘F’ overall for their [open government promise],” said Conacher.

The Liberal incumbent MP who attended the event, Marc Miller, did not respond to an immediate request for comment.

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Graeme Gordon
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