Trudeau to end Canada's secret political fundraisers

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will lift the veil of secrecy around cash-for-access fundraisers, a government source said on Friday, bowing to pressure over the events that allowed wealthy donors to meet with top officials away from prying eyes.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media at the end of a two-day cabinet retreat in Calgary, Alberta, Canada January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Bolin

The move comes after months of media scrutiny and criticism of the meetings between Liberal government leaders and donors, often at elite social events, that had tarnished Trudeau’s image as a youthful reformer.

The government will introduce legislation that requires future fundraisers for cabinet members, party leaders and leadership candidates to be held in publicly available spaces rather than private homes and clubs, according to a government source.

Future fundraisers also must be advertised in advance and reported on after the fact “in a timely manner” and other measures might follow after a discussion with other political parties, said the source, who requested anonymity because the legislation has not yet been made public.

With a parliamentary majority, the Liberals typically can pass legislation without amendments.

Tom Mulcair, leader of the opposition New Democrats, said the changes would not actually stop Cabinet minister from taking money for access.

“If Justin Trudeau suddenly believes that the fundraisers he held during his leadership race were wrong, will he be returning all of that money?” Mulcair said in an emailed statement.

The move will affect not only Trudeau and his cabinet but also the leadership candidates of both opposition parties. The Conservatives and the New Democrats are embroiled in separate battles to replace their leaders in 2017.

Trudeau, who took power in November 2015 after promising to run an open and ethical government, has been dogged by a string of controversies involving money and access, including his holiday vacation at the private Caribbean island owned by the Aga Khan.

The son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, he said this week he has been vacationing with the Aga Khan, a family friend, since he was a child.

While the exclusive vacation and elite fundraisers rarely came up during Trudeau’s recent cross-country tour to meet ordinary Canadians, they clashed with his government’s oft-repeated focus on the concerns of middle-class families.

Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Tom Brown