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Glover quits quarrel over election costs

MP submits a 'corrected' report

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Elections Canada considers St. Boniface Conservative MP Shelly Glover's promotional signs such as this a campaign expense.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Elections Canada considers St. Boniface Conservative MP Shelly Glover's promotional signs such as this a campaign expense. Photo Store

OTTAWA -- St. Boniface MP Shelly Glover may have sidestepped a suspension from the House of Commons by filing the 2011 campaign documents requested by Elections Canada.

House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer dropped the news Tuesday 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 while their 2011 election expenses are in question.

Elections Canada spokesperson Diane Benson confirmed 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 what the corrected return said, nor would it provide access to the file Tuesday.

Glover's corrected return appears to end any question she could be suspended from the House of Commons, but it could now shift to a question of possible charges for exceeding her 2011 election-campaign spending limit by around $3,300.

Glover's dispute centred on $2,072.94 in advertisements she put up as an MP on bus benches and sidewalk recycling bins. 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."

There was also a question about salaries paid to two campaign employees. According to contracts submitted to Elections Canada, the two were paid $15.54 an hour and $25.64 an hour for work including office administration, media content, volunteer co-ordination and election-day work.

However, in a May 5 letter to Mayrand, Hamilton said they only went door-knocking and should only have been paid $10 an hour. He said they had returned the overpayments and that money was 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 as submitted responded to all 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 allowed 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 "wilfully" 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.

Bezan's dispute with Elections Canada is over 19 permanent highway billboards he erected over time, starting in 2005, which advertised him as the MP for the riding. Elections Canada argued Bezan needed to claim the full amount as an election expense -- about $1,900 a sign -- for 2011, as well as for the 2008 and 2006 campaigns.

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. Instead, he says Bezan should only have to 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.

Mayrand rejected that argument, saying that would be akin to claiming the cost of renting a different office.

Bezan has a court date for September to fight Elections Canada's requests.

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 decide how to proceed.

However, Scheer also noted the situation is unprecedented and there are no rules to guide how to go forward.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Should an 11th-hour mea culpa let a politician off the hook politically? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 19, 2013 A4

History

Updated on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 6:20 AM CDT: replaces photo, adds question for discussion

9:22 AM: corrects typos

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