Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Conservative Minister of State Gary Lunn's third party friends

The Tyee follows up on the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding expenses from the October federal election where Conservative Gary Lunn was reelected in a very close race over Liberal Briony Penn: "Details Emerge on MP Gary Lunn's Third Party Advertisers." There is some evidence that Lunn's campaign co-manager helped one of the third party advertising groups with campaign signs. So what's the big deal, you might ask. Well, the Elections Act, with its spending limits, prevents collusion between candidates and third parties. Otherwise, it'd be easy enough to circumvent limits by setting up third party groups to supplement a candidate's funding, particularly in a tough riding. So why the fuss with Lunn's riding? There were 5 third party groups that advertised in his riding in support of Lunn, a high concentration given only 59 groups across the country. Here's how the numbers broke down:
Altogether the five groups that advertised to support Lunn spent $15,671. That's more than four times what any one of them could have legally spent on its own.

Lunn's own campaign, according to recently released campaign financing reports, spent $89, 575 on election expenses, putting him within a couple thousand dollars of the spending limit in the riding.

Lunn was in a hard fought contest in October with Liberal challenger Briony Penn. Penn, for comparison, spent $82,691 that was subject to spending limits.

Penn, by the way, received support from the group One Step at a Time that collected $4,200 from 60 individuals, according to its submission to Elections Canada, and spent $3,463 on a Times Colonist ad, as well as from Avaaz's national campaign, whose many donors included musicians Sarah Harmer, Leslie Feist and Dave Clarke.

When the votes were tallied, Lunn came out ahead of Penn by 2,625 votes.
Penn had third party support as well, and that's not prohibited by the Act. Collusion, however, is and the admission by Lunn's campaign manager that he provided assistance to a third party, in combination with other interwoven links among the groups, makes an Elections Canada investigation a possibility. Elections Canada is not commenting. It would be a good thing, however, for a message to be sent by Elections Canada by launching one here, that suggestions of candidate collusion with third parties will be fully investigated in order to put a halt to people getting any more bright ideas next time around.