Harper's Conservatives Embroiled In Scandal Of Their Own

Posted on Wednesday, April 23 at 22:42 by sthompson

The Conservative party is embroiled in scandal over the alleged misuse of campaign funds and overspending in the last federal election, after the RCMP assisted with a search warrant for Elections Canada at Conservative party headquarters last week.

At the SPP summit in New Orleans yesterday, Harper couldn't avoid questions on the alleged "in-and-out" scheme his party ran in the last election, depositing money in local campaigns and then withdrawing it again immediately to use to pay for national advertising. Perhaps it wasn't surprising that Harper, who campaigned against campaign spending limits, would hatch a scheme to bypass them (or have his people hatch a scheme for him). Never mind that to the rest of us, it looks like local campaigns laundered money for the national party. And never mind that having fought all the way to the Supreme Court (and lost) on the issue of campaign spending, Harper probably knew the law better than anyone.

Harper maintains that the Tories followed election spending rules. He also promised not to do the same thing again, "if" it turns out to have been against the rules.

But the Conservative response might just be making things worse by fighting back with a civil suit and claims that Elections Canada is just out to get them.

The Tories also tried to put their own spin on the scandal by releasing 650 pages of court documents, taking the unusual step of briefing only a "limited number" of reporters. But when other journalists learned of the briefing and showed up unexpectedly, the Conservative officials switched hotels, cancelled a briefing, and left via a fire stairwell to avoid pursuit by television cameras--which, of course, just made them seem like they had something to hide.

The Court documents themselves seem to suggest that the Tories knew they were doing an end run around the law. As the Star reports, "Among the documents were comments from local Conservative campaign officials expressing serious misgivings about the 'in-and-out' scheme. One called it 'a little too creative.' Two ridings flatly refused to participate."

And now even former Conservative candidates themselves are speaking out, saying they feel used by the party.

Some candidates who participated in the scheme had second thoughts, but "had to be told it was 'too late' to later pull out" according to a Tory official.

One former candidate even claims he was prevented from running again because he said no to the scheme:

Mr. Marler, said in his case it all began in December 2005 when he received a telephone call from Nelson Bouffard, a Conservative party organizer in Montreal responsible for his riding.

"He phoned me up and said, ‘I just want to let you know, that the party is going to deposit $30,000 in your campaign account in the next day or two and then withdraw it immediately. We just wanted to let you know that so you don't fuss about it. It's just an in and out."

"I said to him, Well what's that about? He said, ‘Don't you worry about it. It's just going to happen and it has nothing to do with you."

"I said it does have something to do with me because that is my campaign account and I've got to make sure that it is managed properly."

"He said ‘This is the party speaking, Mr. Marler. We do what we like."

"I said, I'm sorry, I'm not going to permit that to happen unless I understand exactly what it is."

Candidates like Marler didn't cook up the scheme, which is why they have spoken out against it. But the key players who did may have to answer for it.

Ultimately, the Conservative party will also have to answer to voters who thought they were an alternative to Liberal corruption. Election spending limits were put in place in the first place to keep elections fair by allowing Canadians to hear a diversity of political voices, rather than just whoever has the money to pay for the most ads. If the extra million that the Tories managed to sneak into their national advertising campaign by bending or ignoring the rules is what allowed them to win their minority government, then that's hardly fair at all. It's also not the kind of thing voters thought the party stood for, after Harper condemned the Liberals for their own misdirection of advertising funds as revealed in the sponsorship scandal, and the "culture of corruption" Harper said it showed.

No matter how often the Tories proclaim their innocence, and no matter the outcome of the Elections Canada investigation, voters in the next election will know that the scheme cooked up to get around spending limits for a national ad campaign fails the smell test for ethical behaviour, as the Vancouver Sun rightly points out.

And it will be Canadian voters who will, in the end, decide whether or not to hold the Conservatives accountable.

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Comments

  1. by Rural
    Thu Apr 24, 2008 12:37 am
    Unfortunatly this is but the latest of a string of questionable actions from our Knu Gobernment, they have clearly demonstrated (at least to my satisfaction) that they truly believe that the end justifys the means. Rules, parlimentry convention, honesty, openness, acoutability (yes, thats the word they used much to get elected) mean nothing to them. Only retaining and increasing the power of the "party" and the PMO and reducing the posibility of independently minded, or, gasp..., honest representitives geting elected, is important to them. Less you think the knu government is the only one playing these games, think again, they just seem to play the game more often and better (if you count getting away with it as better) than the other lot that have been in power. Only when and if we clearly tell em all that this type of BS is totaly unaceptable will it get any better. But how my friends, how, do we do that, when they cheat at the very means by which we have ANY meaningfull input and we have very few meaningfull alternatives?

  2. Thu Apr 24, 2008 8:43 pm
    Well, that is why we have rules in place and bodies like Elections Canada to enforce them. The idea is to keep EVERYONE more accountable.

    There are lots of very active forum threads of this over on CKA BTW.

  3. by RPW
    Thu Apr 24, 2008 8:43 pm
    Is it really Keystone Kops in Ottawa? Can both Libs and Cons think they can ride their Krazy Kars around so, and remain immune to the wrath of the electorate? If they actually can, are we really that stupid? Or do we just plain don't care?

  4. Fri Apr 25, 2008 1:38 am
    Harper and his party have shown a great disdain for our democratic institutions since before the Reform was even a real party. The scandals show that, but so do the trail of lawsuits, speeches, and bizarre behaviours by Reform/Alliance/Conservatives over the years.

  5. Fri Apr 25, 2008 9:47 pm
    Exactly.

  6. Fri Apr 25, 2008 10:43 pm
    It does not help when you have a widely disreputable mainstream media looking the other way and throwing distractions our way everytime their "buddies" in Ottawa screw up.

  7. Fri Apr 25, 2008 10:50 pm
    too much I hope the next election Canadians kick their sorry asses out

  8. Sat Apr 26, 2008 1:26 am
    Well, you can bet I won't be voting for them, Kenmore. I think they might lose a riding or two in Saskatchewan as, and maybe the Interlake here in Manitoba. They are on the wrong side of the CWB issue in those ridings.

    They are likely to get hurt in Ontario and maybe Quebec because of their mismanagement of the economy.

    It'll be close, but I think we'll come out with a Liberal minority that needs both the NDP and the Bloc to support it.

  9. Sun Apr 27, 2008 6:03 pm
    A Liberal minority propped up by the New Democrats? Guess that means NEP II and the resurrection of a Petro Kanada style Sovietization scheme, not to mention lots of cutting of tall poppies, America-baiting and general PC-thuggery. It will be like living in Cuba, except without the nice climate.

    Don't bet against Harper though. He's just plain smarter than the gang running the Liberal Party. Besides, the stench of the sponsorship scandal and the culture of "entitlement to entitlements" still pervades the Liberal Party, despite the fact that they have a rarity (a non-scumbag) as their leader (at least until those non-rarities Rae and Ignatieff finally shiv him out of the job.

    In the meantime, we have a Prime Minister and governing party that are pro-business, pro-individual, pro-US and dedicated to tearing down the Trudeau social engineering state. In the words of the McDonald's ads, I'm lovin' it! :-)

  10. by Rural
    Sun Apr 27, 2008 7:45 pm
    “A Liberal minority propped up by the New Democrats? Guess that means NEP II and the resurrection of a Petro Kanada style Sovietization scheme, not to mention lots of cutting of tall poppies, America-baiting and general PC-thuggery. It will be like living in Cuba, except without the nice climate.

    Better than living in an old Soviet style dictatorship with all the back room and PMO boys having more say in formulating laws and policy than our elected MPs

    ”Don't bet against Harper though. He's just plain smarter than the gang running the Liberal Party. Besides, the stench of the sponsorship scandal and the culture of "entitlement to entitlements" still pervades the Liberal Party, despite the fact that they have a rarity (a non-scumbag) as their leader.

    I will agree that the Liberal party is no gift to the electorate, but the sponsorship thing is OLD news, try keeping up with the latest Conservative scandals! Hard to do I know because there is a new one almost every day and the Harper Spin Machine is working overtime to feed the public untruths. Wow what a fine endorsement of Dion! I guess that’s about as good as we get for any Federal leader? And yes, Harper is THE spinmaster!

    ”In the meantime, we have a Prime Minister and governing party that are pro-business, pro-individual, pro-US and dedicated to tearing down the Trudeau social engineering state. In the words of the McDonald's ads, I'm lovin' it! ”

    Let me rephrase that for you….
    In the meantime, we have a Prime Minister and MINORITY governing party that are pro-BIG business, pro-RICH individual, pro-BUSH policies and dedicated to tearing down the safety nets and parliamentary procedures built up over many years.
    In the words of Mark Twain “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.” I am defiantly not loving it, in point of fact I am outraged with the antidemocratic actions of this “government”. :(



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