PM accused of $500-a-plate 'hypocrisy'
Harper to attend pricey political dinners while pressing for ban on corporate giving
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has repeatedly accused the Liberals of selling access to former prime ministers, will attend two $500-a-plate political fundraisers on the East Coast this weekend.
Liberal MP Dominic Leblanc said it was hypocritical for Mr. Harper to speak at a dinner for the provincial Conservatives in his province -- one that is asking corporations to buy tables for $5,000 -- when the federal Conservatives' new accountability act would impose a complete ban on all political contributions from corporations.
"Is this how the Prime Minister plans to reduce corporate influence on government or is this just another Conservative flip-flop?" Mr. Leblanc asked during Parliament's Question Period.
Mr. Harper replied that donations to a provincial Conservative party are not the same as donations to the federal party.
"The fundraiser in question is not for the Conservative Party of Canada," he said. "It is a fundraiser for the provincial Progressive Conservative Party and of course is conducted under the laws of the province of New Brunswick."
When he unveiled the new accountability act, Mr. Harper said: "We've seen lobbyists making their pitch to Paul Martin and his ministers at $5,000-per-person cocktail parties. It has to stop."
It is a mantra he has often repeated since the days just before the recent federal election when former prime minister Paul Martin helped boost Liberal Party coffers by attending such events.
The New Brunswick fundraiser will be held Saturday, the day after a similar event in Charlottetown. Premier Bernard Lord of New Brunswick and Premier Pat Binns of Prince Edward Island are both Conservative -- and both campaigned for Mr. Harper during the election.
Mr. Harper "offered a technical defence that this is for a provincial Conservative party. He may technically be correct," said Mr. Leblanc. "I just think that there is an increasing hypocrisy where we go down to raise money for Conservative premiers -- corporate money to help in our federal election, and then we make a great virtue out of receiving no corporate funds."
Mr. Leblanc also said he doubts that Mr. Harper will fly to the events on a commercial jetliner at party expense despite complaining in opposition about Mr. Martin's habit of doing so.
The fundraising dinners were just one area of Conservative accountability in which the opposition tried to poke holes yesterday.
Liberal Leader Bill Graham took Mr. Harper to task during Question Period for nominating Gwyn Morgan, a former oil company executive who has raised considerable funds for the Conservatives, to head the new body that will oversee government appointments.
"Is it not a stretch for the Prime Minister to say that the only qualified person for this job was his close friend and fundraiser?" Mr. Graham asked.
Mr. Harper replied that Mr. Morgan is one of the most highly respected chief executives in the country. "What he has volunteered to do for $1 a year is to clean up the appointments process in the country," he said. "Canadians thank him and I understand why the Liberal Party does not want the process cleaned up."
But Mark Holland, a Liberal MP from Ajax, near Toronto, who has said opposition members will oppose the nomination when it comes before the Commons operations and estimates committee, said Mr. Morgan's "best qualification for the job is a $100,000 donation in December, 2003, when the Conservative-Alliance swallowed the Progressive Conservatives."
There were additional questions from the Bloc Québécois about the communications director for Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon who sent out a release for the minister on April 10 and another for Apple Canada Inc., a former client, on April 11. Ministerial staff members are not permitted to work for private enterprise, according to parliamentary ethics rules.
Mr. Cannon said he has a letter dated in February in which his communications director, Huguette Guilhaumon, resigned from Apple, and he would be checking into the matter.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
THAT'S THE REASON I COULDN'T MEET WITH STEPHEN HARPER A FEW MONTHS AGO!!! I DIDN'T HAVE $500.00!!!!
PM accused of $500-a-plate 'hypocrisy'