Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Speaking of favouritism

So the latest in-and-out elections expenses developments have been in the news the last few days, with the news of national campaign offices having been set up by the Conservatives in Quebec during the 2006 federal campaign but with expenses for those offices having been attributed to the local candidates. That's become part of the dispute with the Conservative Party having been ordered to amend its 2006 return accordingly.

Anyhow, this spawned some back and forth in Question Period yesterday and now some Conservative spin that is pushing back against Liberals who raised it. The spin is the very wrongheaded and irresponsible notion that Elections Canada is biased against the Conservatives and treats Liberals much differently. The oft-cited pass given to Liberals and mentioned in the Lilley piece? That past leadership candidates have been given extensions on repayment of their debt. Extensions are provided for in the Elections Act and further, earlier this year, a Federal Court did grant another extension on the paying back of the leadership debt for many of the candidates.

What is not mentioned in the Lilley piece and by Conservatives, however, is that Conservative candidates have similarly benefited from such extensions and there is indeed even-handed treatment that occurs.
The law allows candidates to seek court sanction for any further extensions, which have now been granted to six contenders.

Similar rules exist for candidates in elections and records show scores of Conservative candidates have routinely received extensions after missing the deadline for paying off their campaign debts.
Thank you, Canadian Press. The point is, the Conservative spin that Elections Canada is biased is nonsense. It's even more egregious because throughout the life of this in-and-out court process, going on an incredible four years now, they insist on trying to undermine one of our foundational democratic institutions. If they have a grievance with an interpretation of a law and they're having a court battle, fine. But engage in it professionally and with a sense of respect for the process, their role as the government and Elections Canada's unique position. 

The in-and-out expense case rolls on, unfinished since 2006. That's the real issue here, the ultimate answer on Conservative overspending in that 2006 federal election is yet to be provided while the case is under appeal. It may be a lose-lose for Conservatives, however, contrary to what the other Conservative spin is about all the wins racked up thus far.