Just days before issuing a statement expressing “deep sorrow” for the passing of Cuban Communist leader Fidel Castro and the criticism that ensued, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau found himself fielding criticism by opposition parties for attending a cash-for-access fundraiser with Chinese billionnaires last May.
One of the guests at the fundraiser was a wealthy Chinese businessman with ties to Beijing who later made a large donation to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.
During question period in Parliament on Friday, Nov. 25, Conservative MP Pat Kelly said Trudeau’s attendance opened the door to foreign influence.
“I know he admires dictatorships from Havana to Beijing, but this goes too far. Will he stop selling influence to foreign powers?” Kelly said.
Liberal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc answered in Trudeau’s stead, saying Kelly could “manufacture outrage” as much as he wanted, but the Liberal party followed all Election Canada rules that only Canadian citizens can make donations to the party.
The Globe and Mail sparked the controversy with a recent report that Trudeau was hosted by Chinese Business Chamber of Commerce chair Benson Wong last May in a fundraiser event at which several Chinese billionaires were present. Tickets cost $1500, just $25 shy of the annual cap for political contributions to registered parties under Canada’s elections laws.
One of the attendees at the fundraiser was Zhang Bin, an adviser to the Beijing regime who, along with a partner, donated a total of $1 million to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation as well as to the University of Montreal Faculty of Law, which Pierre Trudeau graduated from.
Another guest of note was Shingling Xian, the founder of Wealth One Bank of Canada, who at the time was awaiting final approval from federal bank regulators to operate a bank in Canada. A Liberal party spokesperson told the Globe that Xian’s application was not discussed at the event. Xian had received tentative approval a year before under the Conservative government, and received final approval in July.
During Tuesday’s question period in Parliament, Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said “rubbing elbows with millionaire at these cash-for-access events does not pass the smell test, and the prime minister knows it. Why does he keep doing it?”
Trudeau responded that his administration has followed all federal laws on political fundraising.
Ambrose again raised the issue during question period on Wednesday, saying Trudeau is “hosting Liberal party fundraisers with Chinese billionaires.”
LeBlanc responded that Ambrose should know that only Canadians can contribute to fundraising efforts. “She also knows that the names of every individual who attends these very routine fundraisers is disclosed publicly, as the law requires.”
However, Elections Canada only requires the names of people who make financial contributions be reported, not all those who attend an event. That means the actual attendance is not disclosed.
When asked where such a list could be found, a Liberal party spokesperson said Leblanc was referring to the $200 donation threshold. This is the amount above which the contributor’s name and address have to be recorded, and a receipt must be issued.
Zhang Bin was one of the non-paying guests.
Zhang Bin is a member of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory body within the Chinese communist regime. He holds a number of other titles, including the president of the China Cultural Industry Association (CCIA).
According to the CCIA’s English website, the organization is “empowered to develop China’s cultural industry, to boost the soft power of Chinese culture and advance the campaign of going global of [sic] Chinese culture, while striving to become a social organization with global standing in the cultural field.”
According to a post with photos on the CCIA’s website, three people from the organization met with Trudeau at the May 19 fundraiser.