Non-partisan? Really? Elections Canada turns a blind eye to Liberal lawbreakers, but not Tories
Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand arrives before the Procedure and House Affairs committee Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 28, 2013 to discuss robocalls and voter registration issues. (Andre Forget/QMI Agency)
Elections Canada describes itself as “the independent, non-partisan agency responsible for conducting federal elections and referendums.”
Given their actions this week, the last thing this body should call itself is non-partisan.
After spending the last few years dragging Conservative MPs, senators and even the party through investigations, prosecutions and court cases, Elections Canada chose not to prosecute four Liberals who seem to have broken Canada’s election laws.
Ken Dryden, Joe Volpe, Hedy Fry and Stephane Dion not only failed to pay off their debts from the 2006 leadership contest on time, they missed a court-granted extension that ended in 2011. At the end of December 2011, Ken Dryden still owed $225,000, Volpe owed $97,800, Fry $69,000 and Dion $7,500.
Under Canada’s election financing laws, any loans still unpaid at the end of the 18-month grace period are to be considered donations. Since our law also limits donations to $1,200, anyone owing on a loan greater than that will have broken the law.
“It is clear that the leadership contestants who continue to have unpaid debts from the Liberal Party of Canada’s 2006 leadership contest are not in compliance with the Canada Elections Act,” said Marc Mayrand, Canada’s chief electoral officer.
So why isn’t Mayrand prosecuting then?
According to the man charged with ensuring fair elections and enforcing the law, “the Act, as currently drafted, does not provide a means by which these contestants can be sanctioned or compelled to repay their outstanding debts.”
If Mayrand actually thinks that, then he hasn’t read the act he is sworn to uphold.
Section 497 (1) of the Canada Elections Act says anyone who contravenes the contribution limit is guilty of an offence. Section 500 of the Act lays out the punishment for violating the Act: A fine of up to $1,000, three months in jail, or both.
But Mayrand says he can’t prosecute these four Liberals, two of them still sitting MPs.
Is the problem that he can’t read or he doesn’t want to prosecute?
Having watched Mayrand closely before parliamentary committees, I can assure you the man knows how to read.
In a letter to Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, Mayrand said prosecution of these offences requires proof of “wilfulness.”
OK, if we take Mayrand at his word, then I assume they conducted an investigation to see if there was wilfulness. Did they check to see if the candidates took out huge loans, sometimes from themselves, without intending to pay the money back? Did Mayrand’s investigators look to see if the candidates actually tried to raise money to pay off the debts?
It doesn’t look like Elections Canada did any of this.
I asked the “non-partisan” watchdog three specific questions about their investigation:
Did they conduct interviews with every lender and candidate?
Did they demand the production of e-mail and phone records related to the loans?
Were staff members of the lenders or candidates interviewed?
“While we will not comment on the specifics of the Commissioner’s review of this matter …” the e-mail reply began. Translation: Elections Canada didn’t do any of these things.
This is important because Elections Canada investigators have done all of those things when investigating Conservatives for possible election finance violations.
Dean Del Mastro, the Conservative MP from Peterborough, had his bank records seized before he even knew Elections Canada had any questions for him.
Why? They think he donated too much money to his own campaign.
Funny, that would be the same charge against someone like Ken Dryden, who loaned his own leadership campaign $300,000. But Dryden gets a pass because he is a Liberal.
From the late Sen. Doug Finley and current Sen. Irving Gerstein to MPs like Del Mastro, Jeff Watson, Shelly Glover and James Bezan, Elections Canada has no problem going after Conservatives, but they won’t lift a finger to investigate Liberals that have broken the law.
Mayrand and his team are not applying the law evenly or fairly. He prosecutes Conservatives with vigour but looks the other way when Liberals are involved.
Does this give you confidence that the man running our elections will be fair and balanced with all parties?
I don’t have that confidence. It’s time for Mayrand to go.