Trudeau-tied think tank receives funds from federal agency

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Photo from CP
Canada 2020, a progressive think tank tied to the Trudeau government, has received a $15,000 sponsorship fee from a federal agency. Photo from CP

A think tank with ties to the Trudeau government has received a financial contribution from a federal agency, CTV News reports, adding another layer of controversy to the Liberals’ growing cash-for-access scandal.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) paid $15,000 to the Canada 2020 think tank in part for federal minister for infrastructure Amarjeet Sohi to give a keynote address at an innovation conference.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Government House Leader Bardish Chagger also attended the event.

The think tank is run by Tim Pitfield, who is a longtime friend of the prime minister, and married to Anna Gainey, the president of the Liberal Party of Canada. He was also the chief digital strategist during Trudeau’s 2015 election campaign.

He and Gainey have also vacationed with Trudeaus, both in Tofino, B.C., last summer and on a recent Christmas holiday to the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas, another source of controversy for the party.

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The opposition has raised questions about the use of federal funds to support an organization with such close ties to the Liberal party, writes CTV’s Glen McGregor.

“Why are taxpayers’ dollars going to fund an organization that seems to be promoting, in all its work, the Liberal Party of Canada,” asked Conservative MP Blaine Calkins, according to CTV.

The conference was funded because one of its goals is “addressing Canada’s long-term, societal challenges such as innovation, including skills and talent development, which was the theme of this public conference,” SSHRC said in a statement to the broadcaster.

Canada 2020 introduced an agreement last November that must be signed by corporate or group donors, making it clear that the donation would not provide access to the prime minister or other cabinet ministers and high-profile politicians.

Trudeau has, however, attended at least three events organized by the think tank, one during his first official trip to Washington and another last June at an upscale Ottawa Restaurant following the Three Amigos Summit, CTV reports.

The Liberals have also promised legislation that would promote more transparency, by asking cabinet ministers and others to publicly disclose their fundraisers and reveal details of the events.

“We believe in providing Canadians with more open, transparent information about political fundraising that involves cabinet ministers, party leaders and leadership candidates,” Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould said in a previous statement on the issue. “We will bring forward a plan to do just that.”

Canada 2020 has said in the past that it has received support from previous governments and political parties, including from John Baird and Jason Kenney, both former Conservative cabinet ministers.

With files from The Canadian Press