Wednesday, March 7, 2012

When did "RoboGate" become "anything-Conservatives-have-ever-done-Gate"?

Well, we now know the “Robocall Scandal” went nowhere because it turned out the NDP and Liberals had no evidence to back up their outlandish claims.  Now they’re desperately grasping at anything even remotely related to the original issue in an attempt to keep the spotlight on this issue instead of discussing something actually relevant.

They’re failing miserably.

In my past articles I've pointed out the same deliberately misleading and false statements repeated again and again by the Opposition parties.  From the beginning we’ve seen the media focus exclusively on questioning whether Conservatives were to blame instead of questioning all parties about their involvement in robocalling voters.  And when it became obvious the NDP and Liberals had no evidence of their claims whatsoever, they figured repeating the same false claims would make them true.  Indeed, all we really know is that we don’t know very much.  We know someone made a few calls somewhere, using RackNine (a legitimate business not tied to any party), using a fake name and a fake cell phone.

But allowing the RCMP and Elections Canada to do their investigation just isn't good enough, so the Opposition is turning any issue whatsoever into an attempt to throw at Prime Minister Harper what I’ve called “the Harper is scary file.”

The latest addition to this file is the claim that Harper’s Conservatives blocked increased auditing powers for the Chief Electoral Officer.  The request actually stems back to 2008, when CEO Marc Mayrand requested “the power to request supporting documents from political parties for their expenses.”

The National Post complained that, when asked why, Harper and Parliamentary Secretary Dean Del Mastro “sidestepped questions”.  The Globe and Mail, meanwhile, recognizes this is a “trap:” the Conservatives either have to agree to expand the CEO’s powers or reject the request and “be seen denying it more authority during a serious controversy over alleged election fraud.”

Why has no one stated the obvious: Elections Canada already audits campaign expenses!

Really.  Mayrand is asking for powers his department already has.  Here’s how it works:

  1. The campaign takes place in accordance with the Canada Elections Act and appropriate spending limits.  Information on the financial aspect of a campaign is available through Elections Canada.  Candidates and their Official Agent are also given this heavy workbook from Elections Canada, which details exactly how campaign finances are to be handled.
  2. Within 3 months following Election Day all claims must be paid.  The campaign’s bank account must be closed and the campaign must not have any outstanding liabilities or financial commitments.
  3. The campaign’s Official Agent then passes all documentation to a provincially-certified Auditor who was chosen before the election, who audits all expenses and provides a statement of whether the books are accurately and honestly reflected.
  4. Here’s where it gets interesting: the audited information is then sent to Elections Canada for an additional audit!  It’s not rocket science; Elections Canada states it right here:
    1. Within four months after Election Day, the campaign must submit to Elections Canada:
                                                               i.      Candidate's return, including the declaration in part 1, signed by the candidate and the official agent
                                                             ii.      Auditor's report, checklist and invoice
                                                            iii.      Candidate's Statement of Personal Expenses
                                                           iv.      All supporting bank statements, cancelled cheques, deposit slips, loan agreements and vouchers
                                                             v.      Candidate's Statement of Gifts or Other Advantages Received

What happens when this documentation is submitted?  It’s audited by Elections Canada!  In fact, you can track these audits online as they are completed: anyone can see everything from how much money an EDA made to how much money was spent during the Liberal Party leadership race.  You will note that Elections Canada requires all supporting documents: everything from lunch receipts to buying photocopy paper is sent to Elections Canada to verify the accuracy of the expense statements.

So why is the CEO demanding that his office be given powers his staff already have?  If the CEO does not feel his employees are doing their work properly it falls to his leadership to make the appropriate adjustments.  This is nothing more than a request by the CEO that has blown up in the political arena into something it totally is not.

But you’ll never hear that in the media.  To them this is just another “issue” to add to “the Harper is scary file.”