The Liberal Snow Job

If you are ok with the status quo of letting the rich have access to the powers that be and the little guy has to suck it up, then do nothing because the Liberals are still doing that, as they promised they wouldn’t. BUT, if you want to see ACTUAL CHANGE, contact us and get involved.

The Liberals screwed up, but let’s not overestimate the impact of pricey fundraisers

The real problem is that in an effort to differentiate themselves from their opponents, the Liberals promised to be purer than the driven snow—which generally turns out to be a snow job.

1To date, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals have done a reasonable job of not sounding smug or looking self-interested. But with political fundraising back in the news and focused squarely on current Liberal Party of Canada practices, the vanilla veneer is getting smudged.

In different reports last week The Globe and Mail came full bore at the Liberals. As the Globe’s main Saturday editorial headline screamed: “For Justin Trudeau, avoiding conflict of interest is more of a suggestion than a rule.” The paper opined, “Justin Trudeau knows perfectly well that it is wrong for political parties to hold fundraisers at which wealthy donors pay top dollar for intimate access to cabinet ministers. He said so himself.”

The Globe reported that it found at least 20 instances over the last year where the Liberal Party was asking people to pay as much as $1,500 to spend time with senior ministers who have responsibility for key spending and policy decisions. All of this on the surface, it is being argued, is counter to the government’s Open and Accountable Government document, which supposedly forbids cabinet ministers from attending cash-for-access fundraisers.

The Liberals are encountering a problem not unfamiliar to past governments. In an effort to differentiate yourself from your opponent, you promise, while campaigning, to be purer than the driven snow—which generally turns out to be a snow job. That looks like the case here, as the Liberal response to The Globe and other critics has been the “Conservatives did this too” argument. If your best defence is ‘it was okay for the other guys,’ you are probably losing the argument.

That said, the Liberals are right that Conservatives did have high-end fundraisers. It also does not appear like the Liberals are contravening federal political fundraising laws. But they are laying waste to the perception that they tried to deconstruct before their victory, that the Liberal Party was an entitlement-minded insider organization. At a minimum, they are also liberally interpreting the guidelines of their Open and Accountable Government manifest.

The government has shown discipline in many other areas of their politicking, but it is being very careless when it comes to fundraising practices. Likely a large part of that stems from the fact that the Liberals are starting to believe they are invincible. For more than a year they have seen public opinion polls that highlight their popularity. The Conservatives and the NDP are in leadership races. What outside criticism there has been has not dented the Liberals yet politically. But there is nothing more dangerous to the Liberal Party than a cocky Liberal attitude.

Political parties, not just the Liberals, also do a poor job of justifying political fundraising to those outside their partisan ranks and in the commentariat. It exists and it is legal. Political parties, like other organizations, should have the ability to showcase their ideas and make the public arguments they want. If they are good enough, people will be inclined to support. If they aren’t, they won’t. Unless we taxpayers want to fully subsidize political parties, we need to be a little less boy-scout-like about party fundraising practices.

This notion that somehow a near-maximum donation of $1,500 can buy a political outcome is silly. No politician worth their salt in any party is going to flush their career down the tubes for a publicly allowed donation of that amount. And most people who pay $1,500 to attend such an event could for all intents and purposes see that MP anyway. Canadian politicians and their staff tend to be accessible. Trust me, having been to a few of these things in my day, they are torturously boring affairs where you hear some lame speech and wish you had your time back.



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