What the Conservatives did in the last election was to find themselves running up against their national spending limit in the days immediately preceding election day. So they transferred $ to the local constituencies, 67 of them that were under budget and non-competitive, and the $ immediately flowed back to the national campaign to buy ads in regions where seats were competitive. Elections Canada has therefore rightfully denied that this money can be recouped by those 67 local candidates from the taxpayer. It's not local money and Canadian taxpayers should not be on the hook to pay it back to those Conservative candidates. They're trying to take advantage of taxpayers in very suspect circumstances. And as much as they protest, none of the other parties exceeded their national limits.
To say that Elections Canada is determining the content of ads, dictating what is local versus what is national, well, that characterization seems compelling on the surface with its appeals to free speech and all. Making it look like Elections Canada is really in the censorship business. As Frum writes:
And Elections Canada has a similar choice to make about how it treats speech. It could give local candidates wide scope to express themselves in the way that those local candidates think most effective — or it can create a new role for itself as the hall monitor of Canadian elections, adjudicating what candidates can and cannot say in their campaigns.Unfortunately for Frum, the issue's really been settled when we decided to have national versus local spending limits. They mean something. There's no giant pooling of national and local money to buy national ads. So the situation's not as ambiguous and all expressive and choosy as Frum tries to make it out to be. This reader on the Post website pretty much nailed the problem with the Conservative and Frum position:
The rules that exist allow the federal party to spend about $18M on national advertising (or other national expenses) and a local riding to spend about $80K. So, Mr. Frum suggests some Conservative candidates might think they are better served if the party would spend $22M on national advertising and they only spent $10K or so each, but they still collected their $80K from taxpayers as if this was a local expense.If Stephen Harper would like to change the system, let him propose legislation doing so rather than going to war with Elections Canada under cover of legal proceedings. That way, we can all decide what kind of system we want to live under. An American one...or a Canadian one.