Thursday, April 24, 2008

Elections Canada - Having problems interpreting the law

Looks like there may be someone else besides the CPC and Gerry Nicolls that has a difficult time accepting the notion of Elections Canada as some kind of infallible deity.

Licia Corbella describes her own run-ins with 'that independent government body' - Chief interpeter can't even interpret election ad laws (H/T to reader Frmgrl):

...The first three agents at Elections Canada's head office in Ottawa had never even heard about the advertising law and told me to call a 1-800 number.

When asked if it would be legal for me to pay for such an ad, one agent said: "Sounds fine with me. It's your money. You should be able to do whatever you want with it."

I agreed with her wholeheartedly. "So is that your answer?" I asked. "This is kind of important. After all, if I interpret this wrong, I could go to jail and get a criminal record."

That stumped her. Eventually, after being put on hold and speaking to close to one dozen Elections Canada staff members, most of whom didn't even know about the law, I was put through to a polite Elections Canada lawyer, who after a long conversation told me that he couldn't give me legal advice, just "legal information." His advice, or "information"? To hire a lawyer to figure it out. I'm not making this up!


( . . . )

While giving his evidence in chief, Kingsley said "third-party" individuals or groups had to be limited to spending no more than $3,000 in any given federal riding to a maximum of $150,000 during the election campaign or face criminal charges, large fines and even jail.

But when he was asked to interpret various scenarios -- like the one I presented to Elections Canada officials during the 2004 federal election -- he was unable or unwilling to interpret the law he says he helped frame and of which he was the self-described chief interpreter and enforcer...

And she gives her opinion of the current brouhaha:


...Just days after the election began, Andrew Kumpf sent an e-mail to Conservative party officials, wondering if the proposal to have Retail Media place ads on behalf of local candidates would violate the Canada Elections Act: "While our thinking is that this option would be legal, we are not certain beyond all reasonable doubt."

Is anyone? If the Tories sought clarity on election advertising from Elections Canada, like I did and the court did, they very likely got conflicting information, ambiguous information, no information or some "legal information" to call a lawyer.

The New Democrats did virtually the same thing as the Tories during that election campaign -- that is, they used national party funds to run national ads with just a local tagline at the end of the ad promoting the local candidate.

But Elections Canada hasn't raided the NDP's headquarters or the Liberals, who have engaged in the same practice in the past...

Wherever the truth may lie, the opposition parties will pursue this one as long as they can. However, I hardly think it has the impact of the sponsorship scandal on Joe Blow Canadian.

He's more concerned about his gas and food prices going up while his job disappears.

* * * *
Update: Just watching MDL. Did anyone else hear Buzz Hargrove suggest that the government can change the exchange rate? i.e. lower the value of the looney?

* * * *

Steve Janke has several great posts on the Elections Canada story:

Elections Canada Investigators' Manual

Elections Canada warrant makes no mention of interviews with senior Conservative officials

and Four questions concerning the search warrant.


And from the Colonist - Tory ads legal, organizer claims.


* * * *


BIG FRIDAY UPDATE: Actually, the Tories might have a point - Ottawa Citizen.

...What in there (Election Act) says local spending must happen locally or concern local issues? I see nothing.

Of course the courts might not agree with my interpretation. Or they may say the Tories did a legal thing but in a carelessly illegal way; one Liberal staffer suggested to me that the central problem was that local candidates did not technically "incur" the costs in question. Even if true, that claim hardly justifies Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc's reference to "an Enron-style accounting practice" at a Thursday press conference...



18 comments:

OMMAG said...

"To hire a lawyer to figure it out. I'm not making this up!"

And there you have it in a nutshell.

Of course you could ask Gayle .... she seems to know it ALL!

But seriously ... this is the kind of crap you get at every branch of government agency. If you're not involved in some initiative that is on their priority list you will get NOWHERE..... been there and done that ... still doing it.

Roy Eappen said...

So its favouring the grits and gross incompetence. I am not surprised after all it is the civil service.

Blue Maic said...

Just remeber the names of the MP's and PPG memebers who have convicted the CPC already.

If the CPC win there case againts Election Canada they are going to look very, very dumb.

And they must be remind of that, if the CPC does win there case. B/c that won't make the front pages.

Ardvark said...

The entire EC warrant is based on that the CPC " knew or OUGHT reasonably to have known contained a materially false or misleading statement."

Judging by the numerous examples of conflicting advice given by EC, and that this practice has passed muster in the past, how exactly was the CPC supposed to know this?

My guess is the CPC asked their own lawyers, and proceeded honestly with that advice. I also think that a judge will see it this way as well.

Anonymous said...

Found this in Jack's site Liberals demand RCMP investigate Tory election financing.

And I want Torys to demand that the RCMP investigate into why the $40 million the liberals took from taxpayers for their own personal use has not been returned yet to us . and into Paul Martin's $161million which he took from canadians for his CSL.

May said...

Thanks Joanne, this is the best article I've read on this issue.

Anonymous said...

I think its offensive that someone would try and get free legal advice! Good for the government lawyer to comply with his ethical obligations!
If you want legal advice you should have to pay for legal advice.
He also did a good job protecting his licence as he cannot give legal advice to two different clients (one of whom was trolling for free advice)!

hunter said...

Great find Joanne. How about many, many people starting to complain about the 40 million that won the Liberals an election? You have up to 10 years to make a complaint. Or complain specifically about a candidate. From the Elections Canada website:

"We must receive a complaint about an alleged offence within 10 years after the offence was committed. Keep in mind that the passage of time may significantly affect the Commissioner's ability to deal with a complaint.

If you have a complaint about how an election was conducted but you do not believe it is an offence, send it to the Chief Electoral Officer.

To make a complaint about an alleged offence, please contact:

Commissioner of Canada Elections
c/o Elections Canada
257 Slater Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0M6

Fax: 1-800-663-4908
E-mail: commissionersoffice@elections.ca "

Greg said...

With respect to Buzz, it would be easy to lower the dollar. Just get his puppet Dalton, the lying, and banning maniac to ban employment unless you belong to a union. I'm pretty sure that would make Zimbabwean currency look good next to ours.

Tony said...

I have the feeling that Elections Canada decided to stick it to the Conservatives. It must have angered them that the Conservative Party dared to challenge their ruling and take them to court. Hopefully the Conservative Party's challenge of the Elections Canada ruling will be heard in court sooner, rather than later.

Jeff Davidson said...

Wherever the truth may lie, the opposition parties will pursue this one as long as they can. However, I hardly think it has the impact of the sponsorship scandal on Joe Blow Canadian.

He's more concerned about his gas and food prices going up while his job disappears.


it may not carry the same weight as adscam but it chips away at harper's credibility a little more.add it to all the other ethical issues surrounding the govt that was supposed to restore accountability and you'll see tory support continue to stall or indeed decrease.

i agree with you regarding your observations surrounding gas and food prices or the economy in general. it is a major concern for average canadians. however, when things go south, it's not provincial govts or opposition parties that canadians blame, it's the federal govt.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

. however, when things go south, it's not provincial govts or opposition parties that canadians blame, it's the federal govt.

Then I'm sure the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition will bring down this government.

fh said...

just out of curiouity i looked back at some blogs from jan 2006

Steve Janke
blogged on jan 31 2006
"more financing weirdness"

that is worth reading re:personal loans and interest free loans from developers

Garth Turner mentioned that he loaned money to himself for his campaign

doesn't sound illegal but does sound like a method of getting around election canada's rules

Liberals are looking for scandal and finding none

fh

Cool Blue said...

This sounds pretty similar to my experience with Elections Canada.

I recall dealing with them to try to figure out how to properly arrange the financial for a political fundraising diner. The issue was whether or not the cost of the event counted as a donation, or if only the amount above the cost, counted as a donation.

Finally after speaking to different EC employees who gave us different explanations we contacted CPC lawyers who advised us to only count the amount above the costs as a donation, just as how the party arranged the 2004 convention...

However, a few months later EC went after the CPC claiming that the full amount of the convention fee, not just the profit above the costs, should have counted as a donation.

These guys need to get their act together.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

With respect to Buzz, it would be easy to lower the dollar. Just get his puppet Dalton, the lying, and banning maniac to ban employment unless you belong to a union...

lol! Yes, that could do it...

I replayed that segment with Hargrove, and I see now that he was referring to lowering interest rates, which might lower the value of the dollar, but you can't take interest rates too low either.

Eskimo said...

A higher dollar/lower interest rate might be the least of Buzz Lightyear....uh....Hargrove's worries as Toyoto edges out General Motors in sales.

Anonymous said...

Le Blanc
at a press conference said that this whole thing sound like an 'Enron'. WHAT?????

maryT said...

People should do as I do when I come across a tax problem Phone Rev Can 5 time, take the best 3 out of 5 answers.