Canadians strongly opposed to lobbyists’ attendance at exclusive party fundraisers, Nanos poll finds

Canadians are strongly opposed to allowing lobbyists to buy their way into exclusive political fundraisers featuring party leaders, according to a new Nanos Research survey.

The Globe and Mail reported last month that the Liberal Party frequently allows lobbyists to attend what it calls “Laurier Club” donor-appreciation events, which feature Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or a member of his cabinet. These events restrict attendance to individuals who have donated at least $1,500 to the Liberal Party.

The Conservative Party and the NDP also hold donor-appreciation events, but they do not disclose fundraising details. All parties will be required to publish attendance lists for fundraisers under new federal legislation that will take effect in December.

More than 80 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they were either not comfortable or somewhat not comfortable when parties allow registered lobbyists, who contribute $1,500 a year to the party, to attend fundraising events featuring the party leader that are only open to top donors.

Only 3 per cent of respondents said they were comfortable with the practice, while a further 9 per cent said they were somewhat comfortable. The remaining 7 per cent said they were unsure.

“This should be a big signal to parties, not just the Liberal Party, but any party, that they have to be very careful and circumspect in terms of the line between contributions and registered lobbyists,” pollster Nik Nanos said.

The survey of 1,000 Canadian adults was commissioned by The Globe and Mail and was conducted between Sept. 29 and Oct. 4 as part of an omnibus hybrid phone and online survey. The margin of error for a random survey of that size is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Last month’s Globe report analyzed the first 72 fundraisers disclosed by the Liberal Party since introducing a new policy in early 2017 that promised greater transparency and new restrictions on the attendance of lobbyists at party fundraisers.