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MP Glover files new version of disputed 2011 election expenses

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Conservative MP Shelly Glover

SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Conservative MP Shelly Glover

OTTAWA – St. Boniface MP Shelly Glover has filed a new version of her 2011 election expenses to Elections Canada.

House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer dropped the news today at the end of a ruling on whether he or the House of Commons should decide if Glover and Selkirk-Interlake MP James Bezan can continue to sit and vote in the House while their 2011 election expenses are in question.

Subsequently, a spokeswoman for Elections Canada confirmed the agency had received the documents.

Diane Benson said Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand wrote to Scheer June 17 to inform him "Ms. Glover had subsequently provided a corrected return as required."

Elections Canada would provide no other information on the corrected return nor would they provide access to the file Tuesday.

The details of any particular candidate’s election file are public but only by making an appointment and going in person to Elections Canada's offices in Ottawa.

Glover’s corrected return will likely end any question she could be suspended from the House of Commons, but it could now shift to a question of possible charges for overspending her 2011 elections spending limit by around $3,300.

Both Glover and Bezan were facing possible suspension under the Elections Act for not filing 2011 election expense claims that were deemed acceptable to Elections Canada.

Both argued the issue was a dispute between Elections Canada and their campaigns over how to interpret requirements for claiming certain advertisements.

Glover dispute over advertisements, wages

Glover’s dispute centred around $2,072.94 in advertisements she put up as an MP on bus benches and sidewalk recycling bins, including her photo and a link to her MP website. Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton said in a letter to Elections Canada the signs were not election signs and therefore she wasn’t going to claim them.

Mayrand disagreed, saying the "signs were used during the election period and directly promoted the candidate." He noted the signs were even modified during the campaign with stickers saying they were authorized by Glover’s official agent, which is "additional evidence that this advertising constituted election expenses."

Not claiming the signs would give Glover a financial advantage over opponents by allowing her to have more signs advertising her than an opponent, who didn’t have such signs up prior to a campaign.

There was also a question about salaries paid to two campaign employees, which Glover later wanted to claw back.

Originally, Glover's campaign claimed wages of $1,515.55 ($15.54 per hour) paid to Lisa Rowson, whose duties, according to an employment contract submitted to Elections Canada, involved media content, co-ordinating volunteers and election-day work. Patricia Rondeau was hired as an office administrator, volunteer co-ordinator and election-day worker, to be paid at $25.64 per hour for a total of $2,692.20.

However, in a May 5 letter to Mayrand, Hamilton said this was a mistake, and that Rowson and Rondeau performed door-knocking duties and should have only been paid $10 an hour. He said they had returned the overpayments, which were being held in trust until the campaign determined where the money should go.

Mayrand rejected that request, saying the employment contracts contradict the idea the two were hired only for door-knocking.

If Glover’s corrected return responded to all of Mayrand’s concerns, her total spending for the 2011 campaign would be $85,408.39, or $3,321.40 over her limit of $82,086.99.

Spending more than the allowed amount is an offence under the Elections Act. Either Glover, her official agent or both could be charged and, if convicted, face a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000, a jail term of three months to five years, or both. The higher penalties are reserved for people who are deemed to have "willfully" exceeded the spending limit.

Glover was scheduled to go to court Friday in Manitoba to argue against Elections Canada’s demands. Her office would not say whether that case has now been withdrawn.

"I continue to work in good faith with Elections Canada to resolve this issue as I have always done," Glover said in a statement released by her office Tuesday.

Bezan case may wait until fall

It does not appear Bezan has filed any changes to his documents yet and is therefore still at risk of being suspended from the House until he does so. In his case, the dispute surrounds 19 permanent highway billboards he had erected over time starting in 2005, which advertised him as the MP for the riding and gave contact information or directions to his constituency office. Elections Canada argued Bezan needed to claim the full amounts as an election expense, for 2011, as well as going back to 2008 and 2006.

Hamilton said since Elections Canada ruled in 2008 the billboards must be claimed as an election expense, Bezan modified them to use them as election advertising. However, he said the campaign shouldn't have to claim the full cost of the billboards because Bezan would not have bought such pricey ads during an election.

"No reasonable campaign would incur the extraordinary costs of constructing a permanent sign during a writ period," Hamilton wrote to Mayrand on May 5.

It would be reasonable to make Bezan claim the commercial cost of the kind of temporary sign he might have installed during a campaign, which Hamilton said is about $518 per sign.

Elections Canada says the correct amount would be $1,900 per sign, the commercial value of erecting them.

"Using the commercial value of an inferior sign is the equivalent of reporting the campaign's office rental expense using the rental value of a different office," Mayrand wrote.

With just days, maybe even hours, left before the House of Commons rises for the summer, it does not appear Bezan’s issue will be dealt with by the House before the fall. He has a court date for September to fight Elections Canada’s requests, which would put him about $3,500 over his spending limit.

Initially, Scheer said he would wait until the outcome of the court case to decide what to do with Bezan and Glover, but after the Liberals complained in a point of privilege, Scheer ruled Tuesday the House of Commons should get to decide how to proceed.

However, Scheer also noted the situation is unprecedented and there were no rules to guide how to go forward. He suggested the matter be referred to a House committee for further study.

The NDP said Bezan should volunteer to step aside until the matter is closed.

Mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 6:39 PM CDT: minor edit

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