[PoliticsWatch updated 5:00 p.m., August 23, 2007]
|Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
OTTAWA -- In the span of a little more than a
year, the Conservative Party has run into two disputes with
Elections Canada over its party financing.
The latest involves questions about whether the Conservatives moved
advertising money from national headquarters to local candidates to
purchase national campaign ads during the final weeks of the 2006
An Ottawa Citizen investigation found 50 Conservative candidates
claimed $1.05 million they later gave to the party for advertising
expenses. Candidates can only claim advertising expenses that benefit them directly.
Had the national campaign spent that amount of money it would
have exceeded its party spending limit for the campaign.
Conservative officials say the ad purchases were for local
advertising, but three Conservative candidates interviewed by
the Citizen said their understanding was the money was to be spent
on national advertising.
"These are not Liberal party allegations," Liberal MP Dominic
Leblanc said at a press conference where called on the
Conservatives to open up their books. "These findings are based on reported interviews by national journalists with their own candidates who admit that this scheme was designed to pay for national advertising."
"Elections Canada has the legal responsibility to decide whether to in fact they want to turn these files over to the
police," he added.
Last year, the Conservatives had a run in with Elections Canada over
a dispute whether the fees the party charged for their 2005 Montreal
policy convention constituted political donations.
All the other parties included convention fees as a donation that
counted against donor limits, but the Tories were the only party
that did not.
Then chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley very
publicly suggested the Tories were in the wrong in the dispute. He
later resigned, but the Tories eventually declared $539,000 in
undisclosed convention fees as donations. The Tories made the
revised filing with Elections Canada on the Thursday before the
Christmas holiday weekend.
As a result of the new filing, three convention delegates exceeded
their maximum donation limit to the party. One of those delegates
was Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
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