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Federal ‘Cash For Access’ Controversy Reaches into BC

Chinese-Canadian businessman who paid to meet Trudeau contributed more than $10,000 to BC Liberals.

Jeremy Nuttall 24 Nov 2016TheTyee.ca

Jeremy J. Nuttall is The Tyee’s reader-funded Parliament Hill reporter in Ottawa. Find his previous stories here.

A Chinese-Canadian businessman whose participation in a $1,525-per-person fundraiser with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prompted questions in Parliament has donated more than $10,000 to the BC Liberal Party since 2012.

Shenglin Xian was among those attending a May 19 federal Liberal fundraiser that offered participants a chance to meet Trudeau at the Toronto home of businessman Benson Wong.

The Tyee first reported the event, which saw about 35 people spending the evening with the prime minister.

Trudeau has been under fire in the House of Commons for the past two days after further reports from The Globe and Mail on the fundraiser, with the opposition charging the Liberals were selling access to the prime minister.

Xian is a founder of the One Wealth Bank, created in 2015 to cater to Chinese Canadians.

A person with the same name as one of Xian’s partners in One Wealth Bank, Guifang Zhu, has also donated $35,000 to the BC Liberal Party since 2013.

Dermod Travis of the watchdog group Integrity BC said the British Columbia donations are a concern, particularly because the province does not have donation limits and allows political donations from outside of the province and the country.

“We’re accepting money both from individual and companies who are not Canadian citizens, who can’t vote in the B.C. election, who are trying to influence policy,” Travis said. “It obviously raises concerns we have a pay to play system in B.C.”

Travis said the system has taken the contribution system away from regular people and put it into the hands of the wealthy and corporations.

The federal Liberals have rejected accusations that the party is selling access to Trudeau, cabinet ministers and senior officials to raise money. They have pointed to the ban on corporate and union donations, foreign contributions and the $1,525 limit on individual donations.

But British Columbia has no rules or limits on political contributions, allowing unlimited donations to parties from individuals, organizations, corporations and foreign interests.

The New Democrats and Greens have both pledged to set contribution limits and ban corporate and union donations. The BC Liberals defend the current system.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, BC Politics

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