Roundup: Suspicions about political donations

The Star has a story that shows how a recently appointed judge made donations to the Liberal Party in the past couple of years – $1800 worth over the two fiscal years, in part by attending a fundraising dinner. And after it lays out all of his donations, the story leaves us with this: “It is not unusual for judicial appointees to have made political donations, nor does it break any rules.” Which makes me wonder why they’re making a) an issue out of it, and b) framing the story in such a way that it gives the impression that he bought his appointment, because that’s exactly what the headline screams. Emmett Macfarlane sees an issue, but I’m having a hard time buying it.

Part of my issue is the fact that we’re already at a crisis point in this country when it comes to grassroots democratic engagement, and this current media demonization of any political fundraising hurts that. The more we demand that anyone who has made donations be excluded from jobs, the worse we make the political ecosystem as a whole. Sure, once they’ve been appointed they shouldn’t make further donations – that’s fair. But the fact that he didn’t even make the maximum allowable donation over those two years, and the fact that the amount he’s donated is a couple of billable hours for him, is hardly worth getting exercised over. This isn’t America – we don’t have big money buying candidates here, nor do we have the spectre of elected judges that are entirely interested in getting re-elected. And, might I remind you, the previous government appointed Vic Toews and most of Peter MacKay’s wedding party to the bench, which seems far bigger of an ethical breach. The current government has reformed the judicial advisory committees to broaden the scope of who they’re considering, and considering how slowly the process is going, it’s not believable that they’re simply going through the party donor rolls to find a match. And while Macfarlane insists that it’s not about the dollar amount, but the perception of bias, I am very bothered by the way in which stories like this are framed adds to that perception. It’s driving the perception, not the other way around, and that is a problem when it comes to trying to fix the actual things that are breaking down about our democracy.

Good reads:

  • Justin Trudeau met with Vancouver’s mayor to talk housing, transit and the opioid crisis, but not pipelines.
  • The government is adding more diplomatic staff to our embassy and consulates in the US in advance of NAFTA talks.
  • The government’s air passenger rights bill aims to have penalties high enough to discourage airlines from treating passengers badly.
  • Apparently one of the sticking points with a softwood lumber agreement is wood coming from other countries.
  • In case you were wondering, Canada “firmly condemns” the detention of opposition leaders in Venezuela.
  • Kady O’Malley looks at who might replace Judy Foote in cabinet if Trudeau decides to her leave of absence has gone on too long.
  • Treasury Board policy that interprets sections of the Official Languages Act is being blamed for the stagnating level of French in the public service.
  • The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada personally intervened to allow LGBT groups to intervene in the Trinity Western case this fall.
  • Here’s a look at the 100th anniversary of federal income taxes in Canada.
  • Maxime Bernier still out-fundraised Andrew Scheer by the end of the Conservative leadership race.
  • Susan Delacourt wonders about Trudeau’s boasts in Rolling Stone matching what he’d said previously, and wonders if he needs a better ego check.
  • My column looks at new headaches coming to the Senate as the list of vacancies is growing yet again.

Odds and ends:

Here are five ways in which the Queen is living her best life at 91.

4 thoughts on “Roundup: Suspicions about political donations

  1. “we’re already at a crisis point in this country when it comes to grassroots democratic engagement”. We should encourage more lawyers and judges-to-be to donate to the governing party.

  2. I felt that it wouldn’t be taken off like it did if it wasn’t for the catchy ‘cash-for-access’ name and it being Robert Fife pushing the narrative rather than Jesse Brown or Ezra Levant or really anybody else.

    To me, “appearance of preferential treatment” would be non-donor with business with the LPC government calls up to set a meeting with Minister X and gets one scheduled for three weeks later, but a donor with the LPC government calls up to set a meeting with Minister X and gets one scheduled for the next morning.

    Also does Robert Fife and Steven Chase do a lot of ‘wink and nod’ since they don’t have much proof. Did the people working at Finance Canada who actually looked over and approved the bank at the centre of ‘cash-for-access’ just know telepathically about these fundraisers? Chase and Fife never bother get those people on-record saying the PM himself or someone on behalf of the PM getting in contact with them to even know about how the status of this bank, let pressure them to approve it. Finance Canada can’t just approval without cause and Chase and Fife never even mention the report.

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