Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'It's basically cheating': ex-MP

Liberal who lost seat in Saint Boniface says election scandal smears all politicians

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MP Shelly Glover's ads have got her in trouble with Elections Canada. She's fighting the agency in court.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

MP Shelly Glover's ads have got her in trouble with Elections Canada. She's fighting the agency in court. Photo Store

Gary McRae is pretty sure what would happen to him if he were caught making the same kind of errors on expenses allegedly made by MPs James Bezan and Shelly Glover.

"I'd be in jail right now," said the resident of St. Andrews.

Glover and Bezan, Conservative MPs who represent Saint Boniface and Selkirk-Interlake respectively, are feuding with Elections Canada over advertising on bus benches and highway billboards that were erected while they were MPs, but which remained in place during the 2011 election.

They are challenging the agency's ruling that they must claim the full commercial value of such advertisements. Including those expenses would put both of them over their spending limits for the campaign -- Glover by about $3,300 and Bezan by around $3,500. This offence carries a fine and possible jail time.

Glover's court case is set for June 21 and Bezan's for September.

Despite opposition calls for them to be suspended, both will be allowed to sit and vote, at least until the court makes a decision.

Raymond Simard, who ran unsuccessfully against Glover in 2011, said the rules are meant to be applied equally to all candidates.

"If you're spending thousands more than the other person, it's basically cheating. It's unfair," he said.

Simard represented Saint Boniface for the Liberals from 2002 to 2008.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that an expenses scandal has made its way to Winnipeg, said Riki Komyshyn, who works in a floral shop in Glover's riding.

"They're crooked. Of course it happens here, just nobody knows about it. It's not just Parliament, it's big corporations, too. The rich get richer and the poor work to make them richer," she said.

The fact Glover is a former police officer is a delicious irony, she said.

"So then it's everywhere (if a police officer is involved). What did she do when she was a cop?" she said. "Why do we let people like this be in charge instead of electing (representatives) who will help people instead of helping themselves?"

Komyshyn said Glover isn't known for spending a lot of time in the riding but she's not sure if the expenses issue will be enough to push her, or the Tories, from office in the next election.

McRae doubts that. He said while he and other residents of Selkirk-Interlake are upset at Bezan's actions, it's not likely going to change the riding's colours in the next election.

"If there's a Conservative running, that's who they vote for. (Bezan) is well thought of but maybe this will change some of their minds," he said.

"Somebody has to do something about it. The prime minister isn't doing anything about it, he's just denying everything. Boot the whole works out next time, that would be fine by me."

Selkirk resident Anthony Kacperski said he's disappointed his MP is at the centre of the controversy.

He believes the parliamentary system needs to "straighten itself out."

"(Prime Minister Steve) Harper says he doesn't know anything about it but I think he's lying. Harper is on his way out. I think (the Conservatives) are going to be gone in the next election," he said just outside Bezan's constituency office.

Simard said stories about the Conservatives playing fast and loose with expenses whether they're in the House of Commons or the Senate is giving politicians of all stripes a bad name. That's going to make the political gene pool that much shallower in the future, he said. "Good people don't want to run (for office) anymore."

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 7, 2013 A3

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Updated on Friday, June 7, 2013 at 6:32 AM CDT: replaces photo

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