Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Did the Conservatives overspend by $1 million in the last election?

This is definitely a story to watch: "Tories need to 'open the books': Dion." For a party so smug in their condemnation of the Liberals' adscam troubles, the Harper Conservatives have got some real chutzpah to have pulled the scheme they did in the last election - and to now be seeking reimbursement from the taxpayers for it.
The fact the federal election watchdog has been called in to review expense claims filed by Conservative candidates underscores the need for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to "open the books,'' Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said Tuesday.

William Corbett, commissioner of Canada Elections, has been asked by Elections Canada to check whether advertising expenses by some Tory candidates were genuinely spent on local TV and radio spots or used to benefit the national campaign.

"It's a very serious issue,'' said Dion, who is holding a three-day Liberal caucus meeting in St. John's.

"We need to know where the expenses have been made in the riding, or by the national machine of the Conservative party, because there is a possibility that this party broke the law and had $1 million in extra spending.''
The transactions at issue:
The Conservatives spent the maximum amount allowed by a political party during the 2006 campaign. In addition, they gave about $1.2-million to local candidates who had not spent their own personal maximum. The money was then given back to the party on the same day to buy ads in regional markets.

Elections Canada is locked in a court battle with 37 financial officers for candidates who want the government - which returns 60 per cent of the election expenses of candidates who get at least 10 per cent of the votes in their riding - to cover the expenditure.

The federal agency refused, arguing that the party, not the candidates, bought the advertising. (emphasis on the hypocrisy added)
So, as an added bonus to the scheme, the Conservative candidates have the nerve to try to get this money, handed to them for just a matter of hours by the federal Conservative party, back from the taxpayers. Nice. Good for Elections Canada for calling bs on this tactic and standing up to the Conservatives. And good for Dion for calling attention to it in advance of the next election.

This is an issue that needs to be taken up in the House when it returns...that little loophole needs to be closed up, real good.

(h/t to Ken Chapman on this)