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Fundraiser raises questions about MMA lobbying: NDP

<p>TORONTO - The NDP renewed its call Friday for Ontario's integritywatchdog to investigate whether illegal lobbying played a role in thegoverning Liberals giving their blessing to mixed martial arts.</p>

TORONTO - The NDP renewed its call Friday for Ontario's integrity
watchdog to investigate whether illegal lobbying played a role in the
governing Liberals giving their blessing to mixed martial arts.

justice critic Peter Kormos wrote a second letter to commissioner Lynn
Morrison, saying there's a new development that raises questions about
whether unregistered lobbying may be going on.

The Ontario
Liberal Party is advertising a $250-a-ticket fundraiser Oct. 19 hosted
by former premier David Peterson and his colleague Noble Chummar, who
is a registered lobbyist for Ultimate Fighting Championship, he said.

close relationship between UFC, Chummar and Peterson raises questions
given the government is developing regulations around mixed martial
arts, he added.

Peterson flatly denied there was any illegal lobbying going on and called the NDP's suggestions “scurrilous.”

“Factually incorrect - wrong,” he said.

doesn't raise any questions at all. Everything we do is scrupulous, we
know what the rules are, and this is just a typical NDP scurrilous,
baseless allegation.”

But Kormos argues an investigation is
needed to assure the public that partisan fundraising events aren't
being used by unregistered lobbyists to advance MMA rules that favour
the industry.

The cocktail reception, which is being held at
Peterson's law firm in downtown Toronto, also features cabinet minister
Sandra Pupatello.

Peterson confirmed that Chummar is a
registered lobbyist for UFC. But Peterson denied he has had any contact
with the provincial government about MMA.

“I'm not a lobbyist,” he said.

minted Consumer Services Minister John Gerretsen said he doesn't see
the problem in having a lobbyist for the UFC host a fundraiser for the

“It's my understanding that any number of companies
may be hosting these MMA events, and not just a single promoter,” he
told The Canadian Press in an interview.

“There are fundraisers
being held by all parties all the time,” he added. “I'm not influenced
by who's holding a fundraiser for what purpose, and I can assure that
the regulations won't be affected by that one way or another.”

wrote to the commissioner last week following reports that individuals
are lobbying the Liberal government without registering - a violation
of provincial laws. Those reports also suggested Peterson may have
lobbied the government on behalf of UFC.

A spokeswoman for
Morrison said the commissioner reviews every complaint, but the process
is confidential under current legislation, so neither the complainant
nor the public would be notified if any action was taken.

The Liberal government announced two weeks ago that they would open the door to MMA in 2011.

Dalton McGuinty had previously dismissed the idea of allowing the often
brutal combat sport, saying it wasn't a priority for Ontario families.

surprise move to allow MMA, as well as the Liberals' recent blessing to
online gambling, have raised questions about whether McGuinty will hold
on to his “Premier Dad” image.

McGuinty said he reversed course
on MMA because the economy is now on the mend and his government could
focus on other priorities.

Money was apparently also a factor in the flip-flop on MMA.

cash-strapped government, which ran a deficit of $19.3 billion in the
last fiscal year and expects years of red ink, said one MMA event could
attract up to 30,000 fans and generate up to $6 million in economic

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