Saturday, March 10, 2012

Building democracy

Update (3:35 p.m.).

Here was Preston Manning speaking to the media yesterday on voter suppression:
Speaking to reporters, Manning said all parties should be worried about robocall vote-suppression during the 2011 election that directed some voters to the wrong polling stations and which has Elections Canada investigating complaints of voter fraud.

“I think it’s deplorable, those types of tactics. I’ve spent my life trying to get people to participate more in the political process, for them to vote more, and the fact that people are trying to work in the opposite direction is deplorable,” Manning said.
What happened at the Manning Centre for Building Democracy last night:

One of the principal reporters who has brought the vote suppression tactics that Mr. Manning deplores to the attention of the Canadian public was booted from Mr. Manning's conference. Hypocrisy? Check. That's one heck of a democracy centre he's got going there.

Let's take a look then at the most recent McMaher reporting from Thursday night then, to see what might be getting under the skin of the Manning Centre types. How about these two paragraphs?
In the federal election, RMG worked for 98 Conservative campaigns and worked for the party's national campaign, too, although the party will not say how much it paid to any of its vendors. Knowledgeable insiders estimate RMG does $10 million to $15 million worth of work for the party in a year.

Local campaign managers and candidates normally had no control over the work of RMG, even though they were receiving services from it for which they were billed, sources say.
That $10 to $15 million amount that is reported there, based on knowledgeable insiders, is pretty astounding. Given that the paragraph indicates that "the party will not say how much it paid to any of its vendors," these numbers could raise eyebrows, even within the Conservative party. Is it an expenditure made by the Conservative Fund and reported to the National Council of the Conservative Party? Presumably it would be made by the Fund if RMG is their main fundraising source. [Conservative Party Constitution 9.2 "Conservative Fund Canada shall submit quarterly financial reports and an annual audited financial statement to National Council."]

$10 to $15 million is a very large expenditure for a political party in Canada to be making to one company alone. If it is a spending decision made by the Conservative Fund, consider that the Conservative Fund is said to be run by Harper and his hand-picked board: "The party's fundraising arm, the Conservative Fund, meanwhile, has only a handful of members, all appointed by Harper. "The reality is that the leader controls the party through the Fund." (This also raises all kinds of governance questions about the Conservative party that could be delved into.)

Further, consider the $10 to $15 million numbers in light of the filings made by the Conservative party in 2011 indicating that they raised about $23 million last year.

Note also, from this report, an estimate of how much RMG made during the 2011 election:
The call centre earned more than $1.4 million, billing close to 100 local Conservative campaigns for services leading up to the May 2011 election, according to returns filed with Elections Canada.
If RMG is making $10 to $15 million a year in work with the Conservative party, the election dollars represented just a small fraction of their income from the Conservatives. The more lucrative work is whatever they do the rest of the year and beyond the election. Since RMG is a private company, there is no way to gauge what percentage of their revenues is represented by the work they do for the Conservative party.

On that second part of the excerpt above: "Local campaign managers and candidates normally had no control over the work of RMG, even though they were receiving services from it for which they were billed, sources say." That might give more impetus to the new in-and-out questions that have been raised to date. There may be an issue, again, over whether the expenditures should have been attributed to the national party rather than the local candidate accounts.

Update (3:35 p.m.): Maher tweets: