The Liberal Trudeau Government has made many promises for change. Some of the promises are integral to our country’s democratic make-up, and those are specifically under the ministerial responsibility of the Honourable Karina Gould, who was recently made Minister of Democratic Institutions. She appeared before the Senate in Question Period on Tuesday, February 14, 2017, to answer questions. When reading the Minister’s Mandate Letter, which lays out what is expected of her in her role, the Honourable Tobias C. Enverga Jr., Senator from Ontario, identified some vague and bold statements that were not entirely clear. Taking the opportunity to ask the Minister about the specifics of changes to fundraising rules that will increase politicians’ accountability to Canadians on how they raise money for their campaigns and other partisan work, Senator Enverga asked the following question:
Hon. Tobias C. Enverga, Jr.: Thank you, minister, for being here today.
With respect to the mandate letter, I quote the paragraph that starts as follows: “Sunshine is the best disinfectant to concerns about our political process . . .”
It states that fundraisers should be held in publicly available spaces, advertised in advance and reported in a timely manner.
I’m just curious. If held in a publicly available space, does it mean the fundraiser has to be open to any member of the public? Would it be possible to organize a by-invitation-only event? How far in advance does an event have to be advertised? Can you please explain what the specific changes would be, or is it more of a general wish that may or may not happen, like some of those your predecessor had in her mandate letter?
Ms. Gould: Thank you to the honourable senator for his question and for so diligently having read my mandate letter. I appreciate that.
I think it’s important to remember, note and highlight that in Canada we have very strict laws when it comes to fundraising. There are already strict rules in terms of who can donate, limits that unions and corporations are unable to donate and rules around lobbyists in terms of their activities with regard to fundraising.
The important part about this in my mandate letter is indeed about ensuring that these events are open, transparent and accessible to the public. The idea of holding them in public spaces is so that, yes, of course we would not have private events for fundraising that includes the Prime Minister or cabinet ministers, party leaders or those who are aspiring to lead parties, and it does mean that they would be advertised in advance.
Of course, the specifics are what I need to work out and what I need to work on with my colleagues in the other place and here to ensure that we get that right and that we provide that information to Canadians as best as possible.