Numerous superior court justices that have been appointed under the Trudeau government have also been found to have attended federal Liberal party fundraisers shortly before their appointments, according to a National Post investigation.

Since 2016, more than three times as many Liberal donors have been appointed to judicial positions when compared to Conservative donors.

Data from the government’s Orders in Council database was analyzed by the Investigative Journalism Foundation (IJF) and the National Post to see if any federally appointed judges under the Liberal government had attended party fundraisers in the past. Names from the orders and council database were then compared with lists from Elections Canada’s Regulated Fundraising Events Registry (from 2019 to present) as well as names listed on the historical event records from the Liberal party’s website.

Any federal fundraiser that charges over $200 for per attendee and features a party leader, cabinet minister or leadership contestant is required to notify Elections Canada. 

Three federally appointed judges to Alberta’s superior trial court appear to have similar names to those who were listed on the Liberal’s fundraising registry, according to the National Post report.

Robert Armstrong, Michel Bourque and Kevin Feth are all Alberta judges appointed under the Trudeau government who appear to have similar names to those who attended Liberal fundraising events prior to their appointments.

Armstrong and Borque both attended numerous Liberal fundraisers that included high-level cabinet members only months before being appointed to Alberta’s Court of King’s Bench. Armstrong was appointed in February 2021 and Borque in December 2021.

The name Michel Borque appears on the Liberal party fundraiser list five times from October 2017 to September of 2021. The name Robert Armstrong is listed as attending three fundraisers from July 2018 and October 2020. Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland were in attendance at several of those same events.

Those same names, as well as the name Kevin Feth are all registered to be members of an exclusive club for Liberal donors called the Laurier Club. In order to be a member of the Laurier Club one must make an annual donation of $1,700 dollars, the maximum amount a person can legally contribute to a national party. 

Jana Steele was appointed to the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario in May 2020 and the name Jana Steele also appears on the Liberal historical events list twice in 2018 and 2019. 

In 2018, a Jana Steele attended a Laurier Club event headlined by Trudeau. The event in 2019 was a breakfast reception hosted by Trudeau at the Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto that cost attendees $1,625 per ticket.

The remaining two recently appointed judges in question are sitting on the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and the Supreme Court of Newfoundland. 

The IJF and National Post reached out to all six judges for comment regarding their potential ties to the Liberal party and to confirm whether or not the names on the list were in fact theirs, however none had responded. 

They also spoke to Mohammad Hussain, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in July, asking why Liberal donors were being appointed at a higher rate than those of Conservatives and Hussain replied by saying, “the process is always based on merit. We do not use political party databases.”

The process for appointing federal judges begins with Independent Judicial Advisory Committees (JAC) and the minister of justice offering recommendations of good potential candidates for the role, however it is the prime minister who makes the final decision on appointment. 

The prime minister can ignore JAC recommendations and is not required to make public if they decide not to select a candidate that had been highly recommended by the JAC.

Boise State University political science professor Lori Hausegger believes that more transparency should be provided in the judicial appointment process.

“A key question is whether the current government skipped over others in the pool that weren’t at that fundraiser,” said Hausegger. “Of course, if they were all ‘highly recommended’ and the Liberals chose someone they knew a little more about, that is a much different scenario than if they chose someone ‘recommended’ over someone ‘highly recommended’ who wasn’t at the fundraiser.”

The co-founder of Democracy Watch, Duff Conacher, said that appointing judges who had previously attended fundraisers headlined by the prime minister could undermine, “public confidence in the independence and impartiality of judges across the country.”

“Having the prime minister at an event and being able to show the prime minister how much you support his party, face-to-face, is something that everyone should be very concerned about, because it’s access and influence that’s only available to those who can afford it and it taints decisions,” said Conacher. “As the Laurier Club shows, Liberals have explicitly said, ‘Give us more cash, you get more access.’ And access gives you the opportunity for influence.”