Conservatives take aim at finance minister over fundraiser in Halifax


OTTAWA — The Liberal government is shrugging off Opposition complaints about a Halifax fundraiser on behalf of Finance Minister Bill Morneau that was attended by business executives.

The Oct. 13 event was held at a waterfront mansion owned by a prominent land developer.

The Conservatives argue the event was a conflict of interest for the finance minister and broke the prime minister”s own guidelines for fundraisers.

For his part, Morneau — confronted with the issue during question period today — says he followed all the applicable rules.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his ministers know to adhere to the party”s rules governing fundraisers.

Last year, the Liberals established a strict set of directives that included avoiding situations that appeared to provide preferential access to government.

The rules also require ministers and parliamentary secretaries to avoid activities that could impact their ability to do their jobs.

 “Ministers and parliamentary secretaries must ensure that political fundraising activities or considerations do not affect, or appear to affect, the exercise of their official duties or the access of individuals or organizations to government,” the rules say.

“There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.”

In question period on Wednesday, the Tories zeroed in on Morneau and the $1,500-a-head gathering.

Manitoba MP Candice Bergen demanded to know what Morneau discussed with those attending. The finance minister ignored that query.

“Like all members of this House, I”m engaged in fundraising activities in support of my party,” Morneau said. “The Oct. 13 event in question was organized by the Liberal Party of Canada and we followed all of the applicable rules.

“I will remind the House that those rules were put in place by the party that preceded us.”

Bergen said it is “just plain wrong” for the minister to be selling access.

“These Liberals look a lot like the old Liberals and Canadians are tired of that,” she said. “When will the Liberals stop abusing the public trust and provide the ethical standard that they promised?”

Alberta Conservative MP Blaine Calkins demanded that Morneau repay the money for what he called a “quagmire of conflict of interest.”