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Conservative Financing Controversies 

[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 election campaign. 

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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