Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

MPs spit in wind over ads

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Manitoba Conservative MPs James Bezan and Shelly Glover seem to be spitting into the wind to keep 2011 election expenses within legal limits.

A reasonable reading of the Canada Elections Act describes what is an expense -- all other candidates and MPs acknowledge bus benches and billboards constitute advertising during a writ -- and the MPs ought to comply appropriately.

Mr. Bezan long argued his year-round MP signage should not be treated as campaign expense, which defies logic given it advertises his face and name to voters. He now accepts that point, but insists he should expense it at a cut rate.

Ms. Glover, though, continues to insist her bench and sidewalk bin signs are not advertising, even though she altered them for the writ period to note they were authorized by her campaign.

Voters would be justified in wondering what's in the Ottawa air that has played havoc with the heads of their elected representatives. The principle of election expensing is fairly simple: An opponent trying to even the playing field would have to pay precisely what Mr. Bezan and Ms. Glover did for the same exposure. A spade's a spade.

But principle is a bit player in this fight. It is clear if either MP accounts fully for the expenses, they'll blow the campaign spending limits, and that can lead to Elections Act charges.

Both MPs are taking the fight to court and Speaker Andrew Scheer says he sees no reason to suspend them from sitting as MPs while that plays itself out.

Mr. Bezan and Ms. Glover are fighting a losing battle. They should take note of the fate of former Tory MP Peter Penashue, who fought a similar battle over expenses, lost the argument and then the byelection that was called after he resigned voluntarily.

Mr. Bezan and Ms. Glover should deal forthrightly with Elections Canada. Drawing their tortured logic out in court forces unnecessary costs on taxpayers and their constituents will take notice of that.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 7, 2013 A12

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