With a Canadian election likely in 2009, and the recent spotlight on pay per vote subsidy, I decided to do some background research on the Conservative Party’s so called in and out cash grab from the taxpayers pocket. Yes, I know it’s old news, but the fact is that it is hard to get at the local details of this boondoggle using Election Canada’s electronic database, so I wanted to track the cash flows riding by riding.
My premise is that the Conservatives will camapaign on revoking the $1.95 per vote subsidy to Political Party’s labeling it as welfare, and a greedy grab for the taxpayers money. It’s no surprise that everybody loves to catch a hypocrite, so I decided to document the Conservatives apparent past abuses in all their grisly details, in a nice easy to refer to spreadsheet format. I’m sure that all my fellow bloggers would be delighted to have some specific details on their local CPC candidate, and I thought this effort would be a good public service.
So here I am, 12 hours later, and I’ve only manged to completely document the Provinces of BC, and Alberta. The Elections Canada site has lots of data, but the dowloads aren’t exactly in a user friendly format. Still, I’m getting my cut and paste routines down pretty well by now, and within another couple of weeks, I will be able to put a downloadable spreadsheet up here for the world to borrow.
As usual, the devil lies in the details. The gross numbers are, well, boring. The Conservative Party transferred about $2.358 mm to various campaigns during the course of the election return period. Individual campaigns appeared to transfer approximately $496,000 back to the CPC. So what?
Well, lets look at a representative example. The David Matta campaign in Surrey North, BC., recognised a payment of $15,000 to the Conservative Party of Canada, dated May 8, 2006. This payable was an election expense, and so eligible for a taxpayer subsidy. The Conservative Party made a transfer to the Surrey North Campaign on May 31, 2006 for $15,000. The CPC recognised a non-monetary transfer of $15,000 from the Surrey North Campaign, back to the CPC in 2006. The actual transfer date is withheld. In plain English, several months after the election, the CPC and the Campaign decided that the Campaign owed $15,000 to the CPC for unspecified election services. They obligingly switched the money in and out of the Campaign, which entitled the Campaign to receive a $9,000 cheque, courtesy of the Taxpayer. If the same analysis holds true for the rest of Canada, ( And CPC transfers in Quebec were really enormous) then the taxpayers forked out almost $300,000 because of an accounting sleight of hand.
I have a lot more checking to do, but there were over $2 million in transfers to play with, so you can imagine just how much of the Taxpayers money was funneled to Conservative Campaigns all over the country. Since surplus funds are then transferred back to the Riding association, and the Riding association can transfer funds back and forth with the Party in between elections, the scope, and opportunity for self dealing, and squeezing the maximum from the public purse are a Lawyers, or an auditors dream come true. If you check back here in the new year, you will find exactly how much money your’ local Conservatives received from the taxpayer from this tidy little arrangement. Actually, we’ll never find that out exactly, because it would take a full blown forensic audit, but I’ll at least have what they have not shrouded in obscure accounts.
The Conservatives have run into a number of problems with Elections Canada, including the improperly treated convention fees at their 2005 Convention, that some people say might have been the cause of the mysterious, and sudden resignation of the Elections Canada Chief, Jean-Pierre Kingsley. His surprise resignation was announced the day after the Conservatives re-submitted their financial statements to reflect the changes made to bring them into compliance with the law.
As you may have gathered by now, I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about Election Finance. I’ve read “An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act (political financing)“, AKA; Bill C-24 end to end, (Yes, I have masochistic tendencies). There are just so many loopholes in spending limits, so many ways to circumvent the intent of the law, and even the letter of the law. It is pretty fundamental to a free society to keep dirty money, and improper influence out of the electoral system. Really, it’s about time we eliminated private donations, and made elections 100% publicly funded, with Criminal sanctions against those who break the law. That’s a whole other post though.
And don’t forget, Politics can be fun, and it’s part of your civic duty to pay attention. Please, join the Green Party of Canada, and do your bit!