Saturday, October 27, 2007

Latest on the Conservative in and out scheme

The Toronto Star has an article today which is quite a good primer on the issue for those who have yet to come up to speed on it. The Conservatives continue to offer a blanket we-complied-with-the-law answer to every question in the House of Commons. But it's not going away. What's new in the Star report? The following information about a transfer by the federal Conservatives to the Aylmer-Hull riding as provided by Garth Turner. The significance of the transfer, for those confused about the entire thing, is italicized:
Liberal MP Garth Turner recalls that when he was still with the Conservatives, the riding association in Hull-Aylmer in March 2006 talked openly about a money transfer.

"I was asked to be the guest speaker ... but before I gave my speech the treasurer gave their report for the annual meeting and they had more than $40,000, which was transferred into their bank account and then the same day they wrote a cheque back to the central party. And by transferring $40,000 into their bank account during the campaign they got a 60 per cent rebate," said Turner, who was kicked out of the Tory caucus earlier this year.

Actually the amount transferred to the western Quebec riding across from Ottawa was $48,558.55 and it was transferred back four days later. But Elections Canada is withholding the rebate along with several others until the outcome of the Federal Court decision

"Of course they didn't spend it on the campaign, they just gave it back, labelled it as advertising and then booked it as an expense ... that's at least $24,000 that the taxpayers gave the Hull-Aylmer Conservative Riding for doing (nothing) – for writing a cheque."
The advantage to this scheme is two-fold. It's not just the advantage given to the national party, which gets to in effect exceed its federal spending limit by executing these transfers which go in and out of the local ridings. It's also that the taxpayer is on the hook to rebate the money that momentarily passed through the local riding association to the local Conservative candidate. In this way, the local Conservative gets a "head start" for the next election by gaining this bounty that they never raised in the first place. Playing elbows up hardball with Elections Canada is quite the choice that the Conservatives made:
The Tories ran the 2006 campaign largely on ethics and accountability. If they were shown to have broken rules in their victory, the matter could be damaging during another election campaign.
The Citizen report, just cited, also quotes Dominic LeBlanc and his pushing for this issue to be cleared up in advance of the next federal election. Otherwise, what assurances will there be that federal spending limits will be rendered essentially meaningless and the Conservatives will exercise this scheme all over again?