So far only Postmedia seems to have noticed that Conservative York-Simcoe MP and Cabinet minister Peter Van Loan was caught by Elections Canada overspending his campaign finance limit in 2008. What they are downplaying so far, though, is Elections Canada’s absolutely inexcusable decision to postpone announcing his accounting irregularities until after the election, presumably so that Van Loan would not have to face voters over the matter, even though it signed a formal settlement with his agent over the matter before the election.
The fact that Van Loan is a government minister is not important here. What matters is that Elections Canada was willing to help any Member of Parliament, of any party, hide from the Canadian public during an election campaign the fact that he had broken the law during the last election campaign. This is especially true because the “compliance agreement,” a ridiculous little device that allows MPs and their staffs to avoid being prosecuted like ordinary Canadians, contains specific commitments by Van Loan to reduce his spending to almost $4200 below the legal cap during the 2011 election. Did he, or not? We won’t know until the fall, after the deadline for submission of election records.
In addition to the in-and-out fraud cases against the Conservative Party and several of its former senior officials, including two current Senators, Elections Canada has made 23 “compliance agreements” since 2006. In each case, the accused confesses to a violation of the act, usually excuses it away as inadvertent or well-intentioned or the like, and promises to make some trivial amends. In total, during the past five years 7 Conservatives, 1 NDP, 2 Liberal, and 1 unidentified party agent have signed compliance agreements.
We should not take cartoonishly low punishments for political crimes as out of the norm, at least not in Arctic banana republics like Canada anyhow. The lobbying commissioner is now so useless that she apparently considers assigning a writing assignment (I wish I was kidding) as an appropriate punishment for illegal lobbying.
Here’s a sample from the Elections Canada records:
- During the 2008 election, Winnipeg Conservative candidate Kenny Daodu’s campaign negotiated a $1000 kickback on a lease similar to the Goodyear agreement described below. Once again, there was no apparent punishment.
- Also in 2008, Conservative MP Bev Shipley and canditate Yonah Martin (now a Senator) exceeded their campaign spending limits. Their punishments: none apparent. Still in the same year, Liberal MP Blair Wilson failed to report $9000 in expenses; his punishment was “a notation… on the Elections Canada audit file” (oh, no!).
- In 2007, now-science minister Gary Goodyear’s staff confessed he had solicited an almost $2000 donation as an illegal kickback on the minister’s campaign office. His punishment: none apparent.
- One campaign agent in the 2006 election, not identified, offered gift certificates in exchange for donations. His/her punishment was to mail out a form letter advising that the gift certificates could not be provided and confirming that the donors wished to go ahead with their donation anyways.
I wish I could say all parties were equal offenders, because I did start out wanting to write a piece about politicians’ sense of entitlement. And there are offenders in every major party. But it has to be said that only Conservatives have been caught negotiating kickbacks, and they are responsible for a majority of the cases. Maybe the others are just better at covering their tracks, but given that the Conservatives are also in court for party-level electoral fraud, I do have to wonder about this party’s commitment to the rule of law.Tweet