Jason Kenney: business up front... Party on the side

Jason Kenney is on quite a road trip, mixing government business with fundraising for the Conservative Party.

When the Employment Minister announced the kick-off of his "coast-to-coast-to-coast winter tour to advance the skills agenda" via Twitter on Feb. 14, he didn’t flag that he would be headlining partisan fundraisers during the taxpayer-funded trip.

On Wednesday night, though, after a busy day of ministerial business in Whitehorse, he’s the keynote speaker at a $125 fundraising dinner for the Yukon Conservative Association.

That follows an event with Conservatives in Prince George, BC, where Kenney happened to be on Tuesday wearing his Employment Minister hat for consultations with First Nations, municipal leaders and employers.

Check out his "two-hats" tweets:

Kenney's office is a bit defensive about all this. When a reporter highlighted via twitter on Tuesday that, "coincidently, Jason Kenney's event in Whitehorse tomorrow is same day as $125-plate party fundraiser for Conservative MP Ryan Leef," the minister's Director of Communications jumped in:

What we don't know, though, is whether fundaising events are always organized around government business or they sometimes flow the other way. What we do know, though, is syncing up partisan work and government business is not uncommon.

A scan of expense reports released under the federal government's proactive disclosure rules shows Kenney, who could be dubbed the Minister of Multitasking, often squeezes in Conservative fundraisers while travelling around Canada on ministerial business. Here are a few examples:

  • Kenney spent three days in Kitchener, Ontario, between June 1 to 3, 2012. His listed activities were: "attending a dinner meeting on pro-growth immigration reforms with IT industry leaders"; "meet[ing] with members of the South Sudanese community"; and "other meetings and events." The cost to taxpayers? $1,311.67. Kenney was able to fit in a Conservative event right in the middle of his trip, tweeting about speaking at a "fundraiser for Kitchener-Waterloo Conservative EDA, to support hard working MP Peter Braid." How fortuitous! 
  • Kenney's trek to Saint John in September 2012 to visit a chocolate factory in order to "review linkages between local labour markets and immigration" was sweetened by a "gathering of local Conservatives & MP John Williamson in picturesque Saint Andrew." This trip, from September 9th to the 16th, also took him to Toronto and Thunder Bay, at a total cost to taxpayers of $3,013.74. Coincidentally, Kenney was able to schedule fundraising events in both Thunder Bay and Toronto during this week-long road trip. 
  • In Thunder Bay, he held "meetings with multicultural organizations" and met "with Korean Burmese refugee sponsors." Kenney was also the keynote speaker for the local Conservative riding association, raising money at $75 per ticket.
  • Meanwhile, during the Toronto stint of his trip, Kenney visited a government-funded "settlement service organization; to speak at the opening of the Bloor West Ukrainian Festival; to participate in anti-trafficking rally; and to attend other events and meeting." He also boasted via Twitter that he "spoke to packed fundraiser of over 600 Conservative Party supporters tonight, mainly from #GTA Chinese community, along w/ @CostasMenegakis."
  • Between February 15 and 19, 2013, Kenney spent $2,073.07 of taxpayer dollars to fly to Sault Ste. Marie in Northern Ontario. While there, he "spoke at successful fundraiser for #CPC Sault Ste. Marie Association and hard-working MP Bryan Hayes." This tweet didn't make it into Kenney's government expense report. It stated: "To be the keynote speaker at Sault Ste. Marie Local Immigration Partnership Conference; to visit Sault Community Career Centre; to visit Tenaris Algoma Tube."

Kenney may be the most active traveller (and fundraiser) in the Conservative cabinet, but he's not the only one to mix ministeral business with party fundraising.

Here are a few examples courtesy of James Moore, whose name is often floated alongside Kenney as a possible successor to Stephen Harper as leader of the Conservative Party:

  • On January 21, 2012, Moore, Heritage Minister at the time, billed taxpayers $3,688.07 to fly to Calgary for a quick same-day trip to "attend the Performing Arts funding announcement." Moore was able to squeeze in an appearance at a party fundraiser. Just spoke at a fundraiser for Calgary Centre-North MP Michelle Rempel (@MichelleRempel). Great team here that loves their MP," Moore tweeted that same evening.
  • The following week, on January 26, 2012, Moore visited Penticton and Kelowna at a cost of $1,269.89 to "attend a funding announcement and stakeholders' meeting." Just past midnight, Moore tweeted about how he "spoke at a fundraiser for Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan. Packed room of constituents proud of their MP."

Stay tuned for more on multitasking ministers.

Photo: mostlyconservative. Used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence

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