NDP ques­tions fee to join Lib­eral fundrais­ing club

Premier says line of ques­tion­ing is ‘silly’

Cape Breton Post - - News | Cape Breton/Province -

Nova Sco­tia Premier Stephen Mc­Neil bris­tled Thurs­day un­der NDP ques­tion­ing about a Lib­eral fundrais­ing club that will hold an event this week­end at the gov­ern­ing party’s an­nual general meet­ing.

Dur­ing the leg­is­la­ture’s ques­tion pe­riod, NDP Leader Gary Bur­rill asked Mc­Neil whether pay­ing the $750 yearly fee to at­tend the An­gus L. Club amounts to cash for ac­cess.

Bur­rill said the Lib­er­als should be aware that ques­tions have sur­rounded fed­eral Lib­eral fundrais­ers and that per­haps changes should be made to avoid any po­ten­tial ap­pear­ance of gain­ing in­flu­ence at “ex­clu­sive events.”

Mc­Neil told the leg­is­la­ture there was no dan­ger of that hap­pen­ing in Nova Sco­tia be­cause of strict rules around po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions.

“I don’t know any­body in this house who is will­ing to sell their dig­nity for 750 bucks,” the premier shot back.

Out­side the leg­is­la­ture Mc­Neil told re­porters that Bur­rill’s line of ques­tion­ing was “silly.”

“The ques­tion was ques­tion­ing my in­tegrity and it’s kind of a silly ques­tion,” Mc­Neil said. “There is no price tag to put my in­tegrity on the line for.”

The premier was again asked whether the club amounted to cash for ac­cess.

“No, it’s a way for peo­ple to be able to sup­port the party,” he said. “We have some of the strictest rules in the country when it comes to the amount of fundrais­ing you can do. Peo­ple just use whichever fo­rum they want to make a con­tri­bu­tion to the party.”

Bur­rill said set­ting any dol­lar amount to at­tend a po­lit­i­cal fundraiser is wrong and he be­lieves the Lib­er­als should at the very least re­lease a list of donors who at­tend.

“Some­thing’s wrong here when those who can’t af­ford to at­tend high-priced events aren’t given the same ac­cess to talk to their lead­ers that those who can af­ford that are given and I think we are in that sit­u­a­tion in Nova Sco­tia.”

Bur­rill added that he was ques­tion­ing “the ad­e­quacy of the sys­tem that the Lib­eral Party op­er­ates un­der.”

The party’s web­site says mem­ber­ships in the An­gus L. Club can be bought for $750 a year or $60 a month. Ben­e­fits in­clude in­vi­ta­tions to events across the prov­ince and “hear­ing from lead­ing voices on our Lib­eral team,” as well as meet­ing a “strong net­work of busi­ness and com­mu­nity lead­ers.”

The Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives also have var­i­ous ways to do­nate, with the most sig­nif­i­cant be­ing the Leader’s Cir­cle. Those who pledge $100 a month are of­fered ex­clu­sive event in­vi­ta­tions and other en­tice­ments.

The NDP has no such clubs.

In Nova Sco­tia, in­di­vid­u­als can contribute a max­i­mum of $5,000 an­nu­ally to each reg­is­tered party, its can­di­dates or its elec­toral district as­so­ci­a­tions.

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