OTTAWA -- Two Manitoba Conservative MPs are fighting a request by Elections Canada that they be suspended from their positions.
Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons last month, seeking Shelly Glover and James Bezan to be suspended because they have not complied with an order to file complete election returns from the 2011 election.
The order comes after both failed to file the corrected returns requested by Mayrand within the time frame allotted, and is a process called for under section 463(2) of the Canada Elections Act.
NDP democratic reform critic Craig Scott asked about the issue in question period this afternoon, noting Prime Minister Stephen Harper once said if you break the rules you will be punished, and wondering why Bezan and Glover are not being punished.
Pierre Poilievre, parliamentary secretary to the minister of transport, stood to answer saying Elections Canada’s interpretation of the Elections Act is now being questioned in court.
"These members acted in good faith due to legitimate differences of opinion," he said.
In a statement released by her office, Glover said she has done nothing wrong.
"My campaign in 2011 complied fully with the Elections Act," she said. "Elections Canada has ordered that I claim expenses that my campaign did not incur, which is not consistent with the Act's provisions. We will be challenging Elections Canada's interpretation in court."
Glover filed a challenge to the order in Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench on May 24. Bezan filed a challenge May 27.
In a statement, Bezan said Elections Canada has changed their interpretation of the rules regarding campaign returns.
"My campaign has complied with the Elections Canada Act. This is an accounting dispute between the campaign and Elections Canada. Elections Canada approved my campaign returns for the 2006 and 2008 elections but have now changed their interpretation, which is not consistent with the Act’s provisions. Elections Canada is not being fair or reasonable in their application of the Act."
Heather Bradley, spokeswoman for Speaker Andrew Scheer, said Scheer is awaiting the court decisions before taking any action.
John Enright, a spokesman for Elections Canada, said the request for an MP to be suspended is very rare.
"I've been here 25 years and I don't remember it happening before," he said.
Manitoba NDP MP Pat Martin said he is "flabbergasted" Mayrand felt he had to take this move.
"Good grief," he said. "This is extraordinary and unprecedented."
Martin said clearly Mayrand would not take this step lightly and he said Speaker Scheer should take the advice and suspend Glover and Bezan pending the outcome.
"I’m disappointed in the speaker’s reaction," said Martin. "It could be years in the courts. I guarantee you (the Conservative Party) will drag this out until the next election."