Opinion: Cash-for-access is a healthy part of democracy

Liberal Fund Raiser

Puzzling ideas can sometimes be described better through pictures than words, and in the world of political satire, this week’s editorial cartoon up above is another zinger – potently exposing corruption at the highest level of Canadian public office.

The full wight of the situation is hard to grasp without seeing the cartoon of a derpy-looking shill standing beside the Prime Minister.

Those who voted for the Liberal Party must be furious that the leader participates in fundraising events. There’s no telling how much of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s integrity has already been sold to the highest bidder.

Heaven forbid a democracy where wealthier people have a greater opportunity to engage with political leaders. This is possibly the first time in Canadian history that party donors have received special treatment. It’s not fair that successful entrepreneurs get to skip the line when there are paranoid burnouts living in their parents basement who feel just as passionate about sharing their ideas with the Prime Minister.

Prime Ministers are to only use their political power for non-partisan purposes. Surely Trudeau is clever enough to protect his job and consolidate power without needing to organize any carwashes or barbeques.

But alas he has succumb to greed. And anybody spending thousands to speak with the Prime Minister surely has some sort of evil agenda to advance.

Oh well life goes on. Aside from a few editorial cartoonists and Sun Media, nobody seems to care. Most people who aren’t involved in political punditry don’t find fundraisers to be alarmingly unethical.

It’s hard to care that other people give Trudeau money so that he’ll listen to them. Listening to rich people speak doesn’t tie the Prime Minister into any contractual obligations. Cash-for-access works more like a first date – it’s nice when one person decides to pay for the entire bill, but that doesn’t mean the other person is expected to sleepover. The person who pays can only demonstrate chivalrous courtship and then hope to get lucky.

To save face, Trudeau likes to suggest that he’s a big tease, but the voices and ideas coming from donors are probably shaping public policy more than the average Canadian. And it’s probably not possible to become Prime Minister without creating major connections to wealth. Big money is a prerequisite for most winning elections –a politician won’t get very far without a having few friends in high places.

It’s unlikely that any leader has ever risen to power without owing a other people favours.

And despite Trudeau having his ethics publicly called into question, the fundraising revenues are probably all worth it. The money he raises through cash-for-access will probably buy more votes for the Liberal Party than these weak smears might take away.

But even though criticisms against Trudeau’s fundraising skills seem like manufactured controversy, his political opponents are wise in trying to devalue his time with this attack. Members belonging to the other major parties don’t have the same level of celebrity appeal. Nobody ever swooned for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper – he’s a wet blanket with a grey mushroom cut. There was no appetite to regulate political fundraisers back when we had a wallflower for a leader.

Even if Ottawa applied new rules to clamp down on cash-for-access, politicians will just find sneakier ways of doing it. There are already rules against blantanly calling it cash-for-access, that’s why politicians refer to them as fundraisers. Voters should simply be reminded that it’s a complete waste of money to donate towards any political campaign in the first place.

Dan Walton


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