March 30, 2016 3:42 pm
Updated: March 30, 2016 5:36 pm

Ontario Liberals expected to raise $3 million with $1,600-a-plate dinner

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli's remarks come after Premier Kathleen Wynne refused to confirm reports her ministers have six-figure fundraising targets.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Matthew Sherwood file
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TORONTO – The Ontario Liberal Party was expected to rake in about $3 million from a big fundraising dinner Wednesday night, a day after Premier Kathleen Wynne said stricter donation rules were in the works.

The $1,600-a-plate Heritage Dinner – donors can pony up an extra $2,000 for a 10-seat “victory table” and an extra $1,000 to get into a 30-minute “pre-reception” – is a huge annual event for the party and last year raised $2.75 million.

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Wynne has refused to confirm reports that her ministers have six-figure targets, some as high as $500,000 a year, but according to her energy minister, all cabinet ministers are fulfilling their obligations to pad the party coffers.

“I’m not aware of any minister who hasn’t met their allotment,” Bob Chiarelli said Wednesday on his way into a cabinet meeting.

READ MORE: Ontario to tighten but not ban corporate and union political donations: Wynne

But both he and Finance Minister Charles Sousa denied there is any quid pro quo for big donors. They were responding to a Globe and Mail report that one of the banks that acted as an underwriter for the Hydro One IPO promoted a $7,500-per-person fundraiser for the two ministers.

Earlier this month, Wynne defended such fundraising, denying that a $6,000-a-head dinner co-sponsored with a high-powered lobbying firm amounted to selling access to herself and her cabinet ministers.

But on Tuesday she said she plans to tighten rules on political donations this fall, “transitioning away from” corporate and union donations, though not all the changes will be in place before the 2018 election.

In Ontario, people, corporations or unions can donate $9,775 to a party each year, another $9,975 to the party for each campaign period, plus $6,650 annually to constituency associations of any one party, but no more than $1,330 annually to a single constituency association. They can also donate $6,650 to candidates of any one party in a campaign, but no more than $1,330 to a single candidate.

READ MORE: Wynne sees no problem with $6,000-a-head fundraising dinner

Chiarelli agreed there should be lower caps.

“I think the perception is: you’re meeting with people and it’s a larger amount so they’re going to get more special treatment,” he said. “That’s not the fact, but I think that has to be addressed.”

Sousa said he has not paid much attention to the optics of those fundraisers.

“It’s not something I have been concerned about,” he said. “I make myself accessible to all stakeholders.”

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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