Wildrose calls for investigation into Rachel Notley at Ontario fundraiser
EDMONTON – Alberta’s Wildrose Opposition wants an investigation into Premier Rachel Notley’s role at a big-ticket Ontario NDP fundraiser which the Wildrose says solicited donations from companies doing business in Alberta, but the premier says there’s “no issue.”
The Opposition says it is asking ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler to look into Notley’s involvement in last Friday’s event, saying it raises questions around impartiality and the selling of access.
“(Premier) Notley once campaigned on greater openness and transparency in politics, but within a year she is now conducting secret, big-money fundraisers for her friends,” said Jason Nixon, Wildrose critic on the democratic accountability file.
Notley addressed the issue while speaking to the media Tuesday afternoon. She said as the leader of a provincial party, it’s not uncommon for party leaders to ask leaders of other sections of the party to attend events.
“All of the money, of course, raised from that goes to Miss Horwath and the Ontario NDP,” Notley said. “As far as being a provincial leader that attends fundraising events in other provincial sections, that’s been going on in all parties by pretty much all provincial leaders for a very, very long time. I simply did it as a favour and I did not do any evaluation of where these people were from. ”
Notley maintains she did not break any laws by attending the event.
“They didn’t give a cent to me, to the Alberta NDP. There was no benefit, no benefit to me or the Alberta NDP by my being there and that is what the crux of the issue is,” she said.
“I actually don’t think there’s an issue here.”
Watch below: Notley responds to questions about Ontario fundraiser
Notley’s spokeswoman, Cheryl Oates, said the premier cleared the event beforehand with Trussler.
Oates said Notley did not travel at government expense, and she said none of the donation money went to the Alberta NDP.
“I can confirm that the premier attended. She was a guest of the Ontario NDP for one night at their fundraiser,” said Oates.
“Her (Notley’s) main focus is her role as the premier of Alberta, but she is also the leader of a political party, and so once in a while she will participate in political events and she participated in one for one night in Toronto.”
Oates said any further information would have to come from Ontario’s NDP.
The event was held at the Royal York hotel in Toronto.
It was billed on tickets as an evening just with Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario NDP, which sits third in the Ontario legislature.
But Wildrose says sources invited to the event were told it would be a close-access dinner with no more than 20 donors invited.
The Wildrose sources also said that Ontario companies doing business in Alberta were solicited to attend.
“Our understanding, and this is why we’ve asked for the list so we can get clarification on that… is that there were Alberta companies targeted to be there because the premier was going to be there,” Nixon said in an afternoon media conference Tuesday.
Nixon said even if Notley’s attendance at the Ontario fundraiser falls under the ethical rules of Alberta, going to another province to attend a “secret fundraiser” is “definitely against the spirit of the law that she put in place and is questionable.”
“We voted with the NDP to ban corporate and union influence in our political system, and to jump into another province to try to bring that back violates the spirit of what we did,” he said. “We have to question whether the premier travelling to all these other provinces, raising money for other political wings of the NDP Party, if there’s other ways that can buy influence.
“We need answers about these questionable practices and we need accountability going forward.”
Watch below: Nixon responds following Notley’s comments on Ontario fundraiser
Alberta corporations and unions are banned from donating to political parties under legislation passed by Notley’s NDP last spring.
Nixon says the Toronto fundraiser raises questions about whether Alberta companies can gain access and influence to Notley through the back door, by participating in out-of-province NDP fundraisers.
He also said even if such events meet the letter of the fundraising and conflict of interest laws, they fail to live up to the spirit of the rules.
Karla Webber-Gallagher, provincial secretary of Ontario’s NDP, addressed the issue in a short email.
“We had a successful event that went ahead as planned, an intimate dinner hosted by Andrea Horwath at which Premier Notley was our guest.
“The attendees included people from a wide range of sectors, including business and labour all based or doing business in Ontario.”
Webber-Gallagher did not immediately respond to followup questions on who attended, how they were solicited, and whether they had business dealings in Alberta.
Notley’s NDP have made headlines previously on fundraising issues.
On Monday, NDP provincial secretary Chris O’Halloran told The Canadian Press that the party decided to cancel an add-on event scheduled to take place before a $250-plate fundraiser Tuesday night at the Art Gallery of Alberta in downtown Edmonton.
The add-on event, at $1,000 a ticket, offered closer access to Notley and her legislature members in a separate room at the art gallery for an hour before the main event. He said the $1,000 event was not advertised on the party’s website. He said tickets were solicited through emails and phone calls.
The $1,000 ticket also included access to the $250 event.
O’Halloran said party officials cancelled the $1,000 event “recently” but wouldn’t say why. Shortly after, the premier’s office announced the event was on and was, in fact, never off.
Notley’s office noted Monday that Trussler also reviewed the $1,000 event and ruled that lived up to the provisions of the Conflicts of Interest Act.
The Wildrose has asked Trussler to revisit that issue as well.
Last May, the NDP party was forced to backtrack after it tried to leverage the swearing-in of Notley and her cabinet into a party fundraising event.
Last November, the NDP caucus apologized to the legislature chamber after it was revealed the party was promoting access to Notley and her team at a Calgary fundraiser as cabinet ministers.
With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News.
© 2016 The Canadian Press