Tuesday, March 01, 2011

'Voluminous' evidence & court appearances ahead for Conservatives

A bit of a morning check in on the "in and out" developments worth noting. The Hill Times interviewed the Public Prosecution Service, no doubt in order to clarify the herculean Conservative effort to characterize the Elections Act charges against their party and four 2006 campaign officials as minor. This is what the Hill Times reports:
Elections Canada investigators have gathered a “voluminous” amount of evidence backing charges the elections agency laid last week against two Conservative Senators and party officials over allegations they used an elaborate money-transfer scheme to skirt the party's national campaign spending limit for the 2006 election, a spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada says.

Spokesperson Dan Brien told The Hill Times he could not discuss the evidence Elections Canada investigators collected during their inquiry, which began in 2007 and included an April, 2008, search-warrant raid of the party’s headquarters by RCMP officers and Elections Canada investigators, or the reasons behind the decision to prosecute now.

“The prosecutors have said that the evidence is quite voluminous,” Mr. Brien said.
Voluminous, you say. So that could make for some lengthy trials? Don Newman amplifies the point:
The first court appearance for senators Finley and Gerstein, along with the two other party officials charged, Mike Donison and Susan Kehoe, is in Ottawa on March 18.

Where it goes from there is anyone's guess. But in the short term, they could well have an impact on the Conservative appetite for an election this spring.
Every court appearance will bring a recap of the allegations and the inevitable contrast with the Conservative's law and order, and good public management themes.

Against this kind of backdrop, and the now official allegation that his party has mismanaged public election money, will Prime Minister Harper want to take the chance of going to the polls this spring?

And if he does, can he legitimately raise the issue of the public funding of political parties as a campaign theme?

There may be longer term implications here as well.

It has taken a long time for the director of public prosecutions to get to a court date on March 18th.

But what happens then is really only the beginning of what began with that police raid back in April 2008.
Very good point regarding Conservative credibility on public party financing being newly up for grabs as a byproduct of their current circumstances. It will be much more challenging for the Harper party to carry on with that platform pledge. These Conservative folk are always up for the day-is-night/night-is-day effort though, not to be forgotten. There is an opening for opposition parties to hammer away on the issue and ensure the Conservatives make no advances on it during a campaign. Take it away from them starting now. 

Plus Newman gives a helpful reminder here of the upcoming stream of visuals, the court appearances of these Conservative campaign officials. Taking place in Ottawa too, there's a journalistic pack in that town to attend such matters. The court appearances being so close to budget day will be undeniably rotten optics for the Conservatives. Whether they would still risk an election in these circumstances, by seeking to put off further court appearances beyond a spring election campaign period, for example, who knows. Yesterday's new ads suggest an all in approach, that all those events and money having been spent - taxpayer funded EAP ads/Conservative party attack ads - can't be put to waste. Not to be resolved today, of course...