Spending leads to suspending?

Tories face off with Elections Canada; ‘Not being fair or reasonable’: Bezan


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OTTAWA — Manitoba Conservative MPs Shelly Glover and James Bezan could be forced out of the House of Commons in a dispute with Elections Canada over their expense claims from the 2011 election.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/06/2013 (3523 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — Manitoba Conservative MPs Shelly Glover and James Bezan could be forced out of the House of Commons in a dispute with Elections Canada over their expense claims from the 2011 election.

Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand wrote to the Speaker of the House Andrew Scheer last month asking both politicians be suspended from sitting and voting until the dispute is cleared up.

Both Glover and Bezan have filed motions in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Manitoba to fight the allegations. Scheer is not acting on the suspension request until the court hearings are complete. Glover’s case is set for a hearing on June 21, while Bezan’s hearing is slated for Sept. 12.

Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press archives Conservative MP Shelly Glover

In a statement, Glover said her 2011 expenses all comply with the law.

“Elections Canada has ordered that I claim expenses that my campaign did not incur, which is not consistent with the act’s provisions,” she said.

Bezan said in a statement his expenses also comply with the law and Elections Canada has changed its interpretation of the rules regarding campaign returns.

“Elections Canada is not being fair or reasonable in their application of the act,” he said.

Neither the candidates nor Elections Canada would get into details of the dispute. David Skwark, the lawyer representing both Glover and Bezan, declined to comment Tuesday.

From the court documents filed by Glover and Bezan, it appears the dispute surrounds how the candidates claimed or didn’t claim certain costs related to things such as bus-bench ads and lawn signs.

In Bezan’s case, he wants Mayrand to admit he misinterpreted the requirements for claiming permanent signage, which could include, for example, a bus bench or billboard Bezan had up as an MP that was not removed during the election. The documents also suggest the dispute dates back to both the 2008 and 2006 elections as well.

Glover wants Mayrand to acknowledge Elections Canada doesn’t permit a campaign to claim expenses for inherited signage, which would include lawn signs that were used and paid for in previous elections. There is also a dispute over how Glover claimed some staff wages. Manitoba NDP MP Pat Martin, however, said he’s aware if he has a bus-bench ad during an election or uses old lawn signs, he has to claim them as expenses using current market value costs.

He said without that, he would have another $10,000 to spend and would have an unfair advantage over opponents who likely don’t have existing signage to use.

Glover’s final expense claims were $660 under her spending limit, so having to add additional expenses to her claim would likely put her over the limit, triggering a whole new set of issues.

Bezan was more than $16,000 under his spending limit so it’s not clear whether the disputed expenses would put him over.

Martin said it is “extraordinary and unprecedented” for Mayrand to take such a step, adding the Speaker should suspend both MPs until this issue is concluded.

“The chief electoral officer would not do this lightly,” said Martin.

He said it seems Glover and Bezan want the courts to say they know the Elections Act better than the chief electoral officer.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre defended Bezan and Glover twice during question period.

“Mr. Speaker, the reason these two members are in the House of Commons is because they were democratically elected by their constituents,” he said. “They acted in good faith. Due to legitimate differences of opinion with Elections Canada, the agency’s interpretation is now before the court.”

Elections Canada spokesman John Enright said after the election all candidates must file financial claims for both donations and expenses. Those claims are audited and any problems are raised with the candidate and are usually cleared up.

If the candidate does not respond fully to problems raised, the chief electoral officer gets involved and issues an order for the candidate to file the corrected claims within a time period.

If that isn’t done, he then must go to the Speaker to request the MPs be prevented from sitting and voting as MPs until the issue is cleared up.

Enright said it’s rare the process goes that far.

“I’ve been here 25 years and I don’t recall it ever happening,” he said.


mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca PARLIAMENT PUSH / A10


‘The chief electoral officer would not do this lightly’ — Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin

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