Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Final word: Tories lose in-and-out all around

The Conservative party and the Conservative fund were fined and pleaded guilty to exceeding the national party spending limits in late 2011. Today, there is news that the Conservatives are withdrawing their civil appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada: "Tories ditch 'in-and-out' case at Supreme Court." This means that they lost criminally and they lost civilly. They broke the law and have paid for it. Their 2006 election win will be forever tainted by the criminal and civil results. Wear it well, Conservatives.

This Conservative spin today is just so wrong:
"This has been a long-standing administrative dispute with Elections Canada over whether certain campaign expenses should be counted as local or national," Fred DeLorey, Conservative party spokesman, said in a statement to CBC News.

"We are agreeing to disagree and will be dropping our appeal to the Supreme Court. We are amending our return under protest to reflect this."
You lost, pal. You don't get to have an opinion on what the law is and say you are agreeing to disagree. In dropping their appeal, they are admitting that the Federal Court of Appeal ruling stands. It is galling that the governing party makes a statement like that. And the elections laws in this country are not trivial administrative matters. They are foundational democratic principles that the Conservative party continues to writhe against.

Their constant public relations effort just affirms that they are a party like none we have seen before. They thumb their nose at the law like it is just another political issue to be finessed. So brazenly hypocritical to their supposed law and order platitudes. Ultimately, attitudes like that are what lead to scandals like the election fraud mess in front of us.

This civil case took a lot of chutzpah for the Conservatives to bring, never forget that:
Elections Canada looked into the expenses and said the Conservatives violated campaign financing rules by moving $1.3 million in and out of 67 ridings to pay for national ads. The manoeuvres allowed the party to exceed the campaign spending limits and allowed candidates to claim rebates on expenses that weren't incurred, the agency said.

Candidates can be reimbursed by Elections Canada for 60 per cent of their expenses and the national parties can make claims for 50 per cent of their expenses. Elections Canada refused to issue the more than $800,000 in total rebates to the Conservative Party and the party then sued to get the money.
Got that? They sued to get taxpayer reimbursements for local candidates as a result of purely national money having gone in-and-out of local accounts, sometimes for just a matter of hours. So that their local candidates would gain those moneys for future political endeavours. Anything to win, anything to get a leg up, irrespective of the taxpayer dollars at issue.

In terms of some of the substance here, it does mean that the principle that spending limits for the national campaign are separate and apart from the local campaign and must mean something, to put it very generally, is maintained.

That could mean Conservative expenses will be looked at again by Elections Canada, arising out of the 2011 federal election. There are some questions that have arisen over generic spending allocations in local campaigns that may not be connected with local expenses, but rather, national.

In the bigger picture, what is clear, and what we have been experiencing for the past few years, is the challenge that a greatly resourced political party presents to the Canadian political landscape on so many levels. It can drag out legal proceedings well beyond an issue's ripeness and lessen the opportunity for political accountability. The Conservatives were able to do so with their 2006 transgressions. Next time? Given current events, their luck may just be running out.