Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Conservatives delaying Elections Canada litigation to post-election

Surprise! For the second time in a week, the Conservatives are delaying litigation deadlines in order to keep the damaging news about their scandals from interfering in the election campaign. Tonight's news, the in-and-out electoral scheme litigation - in which the Conservatives are suing the agency, arising out of Conservative overspending by $1.3 million in the last election - is being delayed to save the Conservatives from embarrassment during a campaign. The details:
Elections Canada has served notice it plans to introduce potentially damning information from an investigation of 2006 Conservative election advertising into a court case over the affair.

With Prime Minister Stephen Harper poised to call another election, the development adds a new dimension to a Federal Court court action that has been dragging on for more than a year.

But court documents also reveal the Conservatives have successfully delayed their final argument in the court case until Monday when the campaign for the next election is expected to begin.

The timing could benefit the Tories, since the delay means a responding final argument from Elections Canada will likely not be entered in the court file until after the anticipated election date of Oct. 14., opposition MPs say.

The lawyer for Elections Canada, Barbara McIsaac, wrote a court official last week to give notice she intends to introduce an Elections Canada affidavit and background information that convinced a judge to authorize a warrant to search Tory headquarters last April.

The affidavit, which includes allegations the Conservatives shifted ad expenses to election candidates to skirt the party's $18.3-million campaign expense limit for the 2006 election, has up to now not been entered as evidence in the court case.

Opposition MPs say the strategy may bolster Election Canada's side in the court case, but expressed surprise at the delay in final arguments with another election approaching.

Michel Decary, the lawyer for Conservative campaign agents who took Elections Canada to Federal Court over the affair, asked for the delay because a fellow lawyer working on the case is recovering from surgery.

A court official granted the extension over McIsaac's objections. (emphasis added)
So there you go. Profiles in accountability and courage all around to the Conservatives under Stephen Harper's leadership. Hide any possible accountability, hide hearings until it's "safe." What is particularly galling here is that this case and the separate Elections Canada investigation have gone unresolved prior to the imminent election. Perhaps the specter of these proceedings will make Conservatives follow election spending rules in the coming campaign.

But based on their sneaky, unaccountable and cowardly behaviour, why should we have any expectation that they would?