Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Experts against the in-and-out scheme

Have we seen an expert in Canadian election laws weigh in on the side of the Conservatives yet? (And no, Robin Sears clearly doesn't count.) Here's another one offering an opinion this morning:
...Robert MacDermid, a professor of political science at York University in Toronto, said the Canada Elections Act has been rewritten three times since 2004.

"The parties are constantly trying to game the legislation," Dr. MacDermid said. "They try to get around it."

But Canadians will be paying attention to this particular scheme, he said.

"If this is true, [the Conservatives] broke the spending limit on the central campaign," Dr. MacDermid said. "Canadians resolutely support spending limits on candidates because they don't want a free-for-all that you get in America."
And there's this expert in elections law from earlier this week:
Transferring money is not what's at issue, said Prof. MacIvor, who teaches political science at the University of Windsor. It's the content of the Conservative Party's television and radio ads at the local level that are in question. "Under the Canada Elections Act, the finances of the registered party in an election campaign are treated separately from the finances of the local candidates. There is nothing to prohibit transfers of money per se, between the national party and the candidates' campaign. That does happen all the time," she said, noting that the national party sends money to local campaigns often if the candidate's fundraising is dry or if they need an extra boost to help with advertising costs. The money must be used, however, for local campaign activity, including local ads.

"What I think has raised questions about what the Conservatives did in these ridings and the 2006 campaign is that the ads were not local ads," Prof. MacIvor told The Hill Times last week. "They were the national ads, and the only thing that was different was the tiny, tiny print at the bottom of the last image and that tiny tiny print says, 'Authorized by the official agent for... .'"

Prof. MacIvor said chief electoral officers do not go "picking fights" and would certainly not refuse rebates to candidates "unless he was absolutely certain that not only were the ads identical to the national ads, but also that this money was transferred to the riding for a purpose that was not entirely legitimate."
At this rate, the Conservatives may be hard pressed to find a reputable Canadian expert witness to assist them in their little lawsuit battle with Elections Canada. That would be a sad state of affairs indeed.