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Globe editorial: Justin Trudeau’s latest cash-for-access explanation is worse than the last

Not that Justin Trudeau's latest defence of his party's unethical cash-for-access fundraising makes any real sense, but let's try to parse it anyway, if only for the sake of the convention that holds that the things a prime minister says are meaningful.

First, the background: Mr. Trudeau and his ministers have been marquee guests at exclusive fundraisers across the land this year where people wealthy enough to spare $1,500 each are given intimate access to the most powerful people in government.

This violates Mr. Trudeau's own rules, which state that "there should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access," for party donors.

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Mr. Trudeau won't discuss those rules anymore, because he can't. All he will say is that the fundraisers are legal, which they are. But when the spirit of the law is abused the way the Liberals have done, the perception is created that wealthy people are buying access to cabinet members in order to lobby them about their financial and personal interests.

At first Mr. Trudeau said there was no lobbying, because Liberal Party rules prevented it. Then this week he admitted that, yes, in fact, if you take a $1,500 cheque from a wealthy business owner or an envoy from a Chinese government agency so they can meet you one-on-one in the quiet of a private home, they sometimes do raise issues in a manner normally considered to be lobbying.

But, added the Prime Minister, his government is never swayed by such entreaties. That brings us to Tuesday, when the Opposition relentlessly pressed Mr. Trudeau in Question Period about his admission that lobbying was occurring at Liberal fundraisers.

His response this time? "No matter where I am or who I am talking to I always talk about the same thing: the fact that our priorities are to create economic growth for the middle class by increasing taxes for the one per cent of the wealthiest so we are able to reduce them for the middle class."

To paraphrase, "I am a droning bore."

One can imagine the look on the face of the wealthy donor who coughed up $1,500 to meet the Prime Minister and only got a hologram of Justin Trudeau reading a talking point on an infinite loop. It's amazing none of them has asked for their money back yet.

Mr. Trudeau might want to come up with a better defence, and quickly. The federal ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson, has announced she will formally question Mr. Trudeau and Liberal MP Bill Blair about their attendance at cash-for-access fundraisers. This could get interesting yet.

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