Opposition wants probe into Notley's role at Ontario fundraiser

Wildrose party asks ethics commissioner to look into Notley's involvement with Ontario NDP fundraiser

EDMONTON — Alberta’s official Opposition wants an investigation into Premier Rachel Notley’s role at a big-ticket Ontario NDP fundraiser which it says solicited donations from companies doing business in Alberta.

The Wildrose party said Tuesday it is asking ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler to look into Notley’s involvement in last Friday’s event, which cost almost $10,000 a ticket, because it raises questions around impartiality and the selling of access.

“Alberta companies who cannot donate to the NDP in Alberta can pay 10 grand in Ontario to get special face-to-face interaction,” said Jason Nixon, the party’s critic for democratic accountability.

“It is unseemly and it is unethical.”

Notley noted she cleared the event beforehand with Trussler.

“I’m the leader of Alberta’s NDP. Andrea Horwath is the leader of Ontario’s NDP,” Notley told a legislature news conference.

“It’s not uncommon for certain sections of the party to ask leaders of other sections to come along to events to attract people.

“Andrea’s a friend of mine,” she added. “She asked me to do (this). I said, ‘You know, I can probably give you one event in a year’ … and she invited me to come out to this.

“I actually don’t think there’s an issue here.”

She said the Ontario NDP paid for her trip and kept all donation money raised.

Advertising for the event at the Royal York hotel in Toronto was low key. The fundraiser was billed on tickets as an evening with Horwath, whose party sits third in the Ontario legislature.

Karla Webber-Gallagher, provincial secretary for the Ontario NDP, said donors were eventually notified that Notley would be attending.

Legislature reporters in Alberta were told by Notley’s office she was going to Toronto to accept an award.

Webber-Gallagher, in an email exchange, said the “intimate dinner” was with 20 donors.

The Wildrosers said sources who were invited to the event told them the Ontario NDP was soliciting Ontario firms doing business in Alberta.

Webber-Gallagher declined to name those who attended, but said: “The attendees included people from a wide range of sectors, including business and labour, all based or doing business in Ontario. All have given donations to the Ontario NDP in the past.”

In Alberta, corporations and unions are banned from donating to political parties under legislation passed by Notley’s government last spring.

Nixon said the Toronto fundraiser reflects poorly on a premier who has fought to remove corporate influence in Alberta politics.

“(And) given the fact that all NDP parties across the country are under the same banner, we have to wonder if money or volunteer labour is being kicked back to the Alberta NDP,” Nixon said.

The Alberta NDP has made the news several times over fundraising. On Monday, the provincial secretary said the party had decided to cancel an add-on event scheduled to take place before a $250-plate fundraiser in Edmonton this week.

The invitation for $1,000 a ticket offered closer access to Notley and her legislature members for an hour before the main event.

Chris O’Halloran said party officials cancelled the private $1,000 event, but the premier’s office announced said it has never been called off.

Last May, the NDP was forced to backtrack after it tried to leverage the swearing-in of Notley and her cabinet into a party fundraising event.

And last November, the NDP caucus apologized to the legislature chamber after it was revealed the party was promoting access to Notley at a Calgary fundraiser.