Conservatives In Quebec Illegally Shifted Ad Expenses, Elections Canada Charges
2006 Election May Have Been Won By Conservatives Through Fraudulent Means
The Canadian Press
July 22, 2008 at 9:26 AM (EDIT)
OTTAWA — The Conservative Party illegally shifted thousands of dollars in advertising expenses from two of its top Quebec candidates to other Quebec candidates who had more spending room in their 2006 federal election campaigns, the lawyer for Elections Canada has charged.
A former financial officer for the Conservative party confirmed last month in a court examination that expenses incurred by Public Works Minister Christian Paradis and former Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier were inappropriately assigned to other candidates.
Elections Canada lawyer Barbara McIsaac probed Ann O'Grady over records involving claims for radio and TV advertising by Mr. Paradis and advertising claimed by Mr. Bernier.
The financial statements and invoices – filed in a Federal Court case concerning $1.3-million in questionable Conservative ad expenses – also showed that Mr. Bernier and Mr. Paradis paid a fraction of the related ad production costs compared with other Tory candidates.
Mr. Bernier and Mr. Paradis are among 67 Conservative candidates whose advertising expenditures are under investigation by the federal elections commissioner. Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand has refused to reimburse the expenditures on grounds that they did not qualify as local candidate expenses.
The Commons ethics committee is also conducting an inquiry into the bookkeeping, which Elections Canada states allowed the Conservative party to exceed its national campaign spending limit by more than $1-million.
The Canada Elections Act prohibits candidates from absorbing or sharing the election expenses of other candidates.
NDP MP Pat Martin, a member of the ethics committee, said that the Conservative party also shifting expenses from Mr. Bernier and Mr. Paradis to other candidates adds an entirely new dimension to the controversy. “That's absolutely not allowed.”
In a sworn cross-examination last month, the transcript of which was subsequently entered in the Federal Court file, Ms. McIsaac pressed Ms. O'Grady about advertising and ad production costs that were transferred from Mr. Bernier and Mr. Paradis to other candidates.
“I'm going to suggest to you that Mr. Bernier was less than $2,590 from his spending limit and that he couldn't afford to put the additional amount into his return,” Ms. McIsaac said to Ms. O'Grady.
Ms. O'Grady responded, “Who knows what else would have been going on at the time? I can't comment on how Mr. Bernier ran his campaign.”
In the case of Mr. Paradis, Ms. O'Grady was forced to concede that the candidate had originally been invoiced $29,766 and subsequently received a “credit note” of $10,000 that was 'reallocated' to another candidate, Marc Nadeau.
“Now, again, the reason for this was that Mr. Paradis had reached his limit with respect to spending as well, is that correct?” Ms. McIsaac asked. “He had to allocate some of his money to Mr. Nadeau, did he not, because he was close to his limit?”
“I would not know that,” replied Ms. O'Grady, who replaced former Tory chief financial agent Susan Kehoe several months after the election.
Ms. McIsaac also questioned Ms. O'Grady over the fact that Mr. Bernier paid no production costs for his share of the advertising. Mr. Paradis paid only $233.93 for his share, even though Ms. McIsaac said other candidates paid $4,500 each for production costs.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Posted by Fillibluster at 8:59 AM