Party sent $37,000 to his campaign, then took it back: ex-Tory
Parliamentary panel looks into alleged Conservative scheme to evade ad spending limits Monday, August 11, 2008
In a hearing about Conservative election spending, an unsuccessful candidate testified Monday that he agreed in advance not to spend $37,000 the party sent to his campaign in 2006 and quickly took back.
Gary Caldwell, who ran for the Tories in the Quebec riding of Compton-Stanstead, said he later redrafted his election spending report to withdraw a claim for a 60 per cent federal rebate on that amount.
"I realize that the central party, any party, can give money to the local riding association, but when we examined this further I became convinced that it was only a legitimate local expense if we in fact spent it," he told the Commons ethics committee. " In fact, that was not the case."
Caldwell said he left the Tories "after what happened and my concern that the Conservative Party was no longer interested in rehabilitating parliamentary institutions." He plans to run next as a Green Party candidate.
The former Conservative, who said he spent about $9,000 on his 2006 campaign, was the day's first witness before a quarrelsome panel of MPs.
The committee is examining alleged Tory "in-and-out" arrangements to take advantage of unused spending room in local campaigns. The controversy has raged since the RCMP searched the party's Ottawa headquarters in April at the request of Elections Canada.
The elections agency alleges that the Conservatives exceeded their $18.3 million spending limit on campaign advertising by more than $1 million in 2006 by disguising national ads as local expenses.
Such a scheme would give the party a spending edge and set candidates up to claim undeserved federal campaign subsidies. Elections Canada has refused to approve hundreds of thousands of dollars in rebates claimed by Tory candidates.
That refusal is the subject of a lawsuit being pursued by the party against chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand, the head of the agency.
Doug Finley, who directed the party's winning national 2006 campaign, tried to be the first witness of the day, sitting down at a witness table and insisting on his right to speak. He was escorted from the room by security guards.
Outside the hearing, Finley said he had told the committee it was the only day and time he could appear.
Monday, August 11, 2008
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