Smoking Gun on yet another potential CPC breach of the Elections Finance Act.

Nearly broke a major story

I really really enjoy reading the Hill Times. It is informative, and I have learned much about how Parliament, and indeed politics works in Canada through their site. I just read an article there about some very aggressive Conservative Party activities, which I believe may constitute a breach of the Elections Act, and should be investigated.

The crux of the story is about how a number of very rich Conservative Party EDA’s (Electoral District Associations), channelled significant resources towards swing ridings in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. So far so good. There’s nothing wrong with transferring a pot of money to a ‘poor relation’. It makes a lot of sense for the CPC to ensure that every EDA where they have a chance gets every penny they can legally spend, and then go about spening it to win their local contest. The money gets properly recorded by the recipient, whose financial agent carefully records and reports the spending, and the spending limit is approached, but not quite exceeded. The really meaty bit of the story wasn`t picked up on by Tim Naumetz, the author. I feel kind of sorry for him, because he could have had a really great story here. It`s not too late for him though.

So here`s the smoking gun:

“Prime Minister Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) riding association, along with those of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Alta.) and Conservative MP Rob Anders (Calgary West, Alta.) in Calgary, also set up massive phone banks with hundreds of volunteers in an attempt to sway voters in swing ridings in central Canada, Mr. Anders and his former riding association president say.”

Do you respond, ‘Big Deal’? Well, it almost certainly IS a big deal if the facts line up the way I suspect. First off, these massive phone banks, with hundreds of volunteers cost money to set up. Actually, quite a lot of money. Even if every volunteer is on a crappy old computer, with VOIP service, the computer has to be recorded on the campaign books at the cost to purchase it. Then there’s the costs per call. Then there’s the proportion of campaign office expenses dedicated to NON-LOCAL election expenses. I had the opportunity to study Accounting as part of my MBA program. I’ve also been a businessman for several decades, so basic accounting principles are not strange turf to me. Based on the principle of materiality, if some casual calls were made, that amounted to a few dollars being spent in the wrong place, because the amount is insignificant, no true breach of anything has occurred. That’s why, if you expense a cup of coffee that wasn’t actually business related, you aren’t guilty of anything inappropriate. You are only guilty of something if you systematically went about expensing thousands of cups of coffee, because at some point the error becomes a material breach. Do you see where I am going here yet?

I see at least 3 potential breaches of the act that will require investigation by EC auditors.

First problem: Did Rob Anders, Steven Harper, and Jason Kenney file for, and recieve a 60% rebate on these local election expenses? If so, they should give the damned money back, at a minimum, because these were clearly NOT local election expenses, and thus do not qualify. This is the flip side of the in-and-out scheme wherby the CPC appeared to bilk taxpayers out of large sums of money. The CPC allegedly took advantage of poor language in the act to create local expenses in ridings where the spending limit would not be reached by the local campaign. That way, the Party could spend money above and beyond the legally mandated national elections expense limit, and the local EDA’s that participated would receive a 60% bonus on the backs of the taxpayers. Based on Rob Anders quote, the very purpose of these phone banks was to direct resources at other electoral districts, and I am betting that the $ amounts were non-trivial.

Second Problem: In which of the ridings targetted in this way did the local campaign spend right up to the legally mandated maximum? Let us make a guess, and say that $40,000 worth of phone bank was equally divided up between 10 out-of-riding campaigns. That works out to $4,000 per recipient riding. I will guess that this would put at least half of the recipients over their legal spending limit. What, I wonder, are the penalties for buying an election?

Third Problem: The spending was either authorised by the Financial Agent for the recipient campaign, or it was illegal. That’s it, plain and simple. If the recipient were unwitting, which is theoretically possible, then the offense was committed by the donor campaign. Hey, wait a minute! That was our beloved Prime Minister’s campaign wasn’t it? Third Party advertising rules could apply if the donor wasn’t a political campaign, but the donors were, so that’s not much of an escape hatch. The Financial Agents for the donor campaign may already be on the hook for claiming the rebate, but there are a bunch of counterparties to be called to account too.

I know that many would say it`s too hard to quantify, and that allocating the funds will be impossible. Well, I`m happy to say that any CA, or CMA can easily conduct the audits that will NAIL the contributors to the wall. Whether the phone banks were voip, or landlines, or whatever, there will be electronic records of exactly which phone calls were made to where. Once it`s established how much of the office spaces, and expense were dedicated to these non-local campaigns, it will be a simple matter to allocate the spending proportionally to the recipients. They will argue like hell in the courts, over a few hundreds of dollars, but the basic facts will be inescapable.

There are many twists and turns that add interest to this story. There is the fact that EC ‘lost’ their chief the last time EC tried to challenge this kind of sleazy shafting of the taxpayer, and manipulation of the Elctions Act. (In-and-Out scandal, appropriately so named because the appearance that the taxpayers were screwed). There is the fact that the CPC so very loudly screamed and hollered about the clear and transparent per vote subsidy, whilst at the same time they manipulated and schemed to screw the taxpayers wholesale with these kind of sleight of hand tricks. And then there’s the interesting fact that even when caught overspending, nobody ever seems to lose their seat over it. I mean, w.t.f. is the point of spending limits, and a finance act if Rob Anders can publicly crow about it? Has the culture of corruption spread so far, and so quickly that the CPC believes they are immune to the law?

Anyhow, I suggest that, like myself, you get on the phone to elections Canada, and ask them if they are going to dare to beard their Tory masters? I feel sorry for EC if they actually attempt to enforce the law. They are legally bound to try, but oh the consequences! More careers will be abruptly terminated, and obviously the CPC will immediately sue them. Still, we must use the tools at our disposal, or else the contempt of our political masters for the law will remain unchecked, and these kinds of sleazy practices will continue to be rewarded by electoral success.

Authors note: I just made a few judicious edits. A little heavy on the hyperbole, as I was all steamed up. Sorry if it morphed into something a little softer.

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Green Party Riding Executives: What do you think of revising the Revenue Sharing Agreement?

Follow the Money...

I just read a blog post over at Dave Baglers’ blog. Given that of late, Dave has been unashamedly defending the Central Party status quo against all comers, I have drawn the conclusion that this is a trial balloon being floated by centralising forces, (read: The current Leadership), at the hollowed out Ottawa head office. Dave, if it ain’t so, then by all means respond in the comments.

Here’s a copy of the RSA as enacted. (Thanks Dave): Revenue_Sharing_Implementation_Plan_as_adopted_Nov-20-2005_formatted

I’ll get to my meat and potatoes argument about the viability of the RSA in a minute, but first a little background. The Green Party of Canada is in a financial pickle. In my humble opinion, this is a self-inflicted wound. The GPC has extremely predictable revenues. There is the federal per-vote subsidy, which is shared with Electoral Districts, and Provincial Divisions according to a predictable formulae. There are pretty stable revenues from the central Party’s fundraising. (yes, I’m referring to those emails you get once or twice per month). There are election expense refunds, which are one time shots to re-imburse funds after a general election. That’s it on the Revenue side. On the expenses side of the equation, there are payrolls, rent heat and lights, Insurance, some travel for council purposes, and a plethora of other, predictable period expenses. Then there’s discretionary spending.

A well managed organisation would look at an extremely predictable revenue flow, and then allocate their resources according to a priotised list of things-to-do-that-cost-money. Mandatory processes, like reporting and compliance would be top priority. Why? Because they are legal obligations. Other totally predictable obligations would be funded in descending order of priority. Council would be there to argue with staff over priorities, and to make sure that priorities like team building trips to the Bahama’s don’t get off the ground. Once you get to the point in your list where the money has all been allocated, you have a budget. When you want to argue about additional priorities, you either craft a plan to enhance your’ resources, or you bump something off the list to make way for the new priority.

This process isn’t rocket science. It’s something that the Prussian Civil Service excelled in back in the 1600’s, and it’s called budgeting. The Prussians did it well, which is why they rose from obscurity, and became a Great Power. Now if you fail to follow a process something like this, it doesn’t change the resources you have to dispose of. It doesn’t change the obligitory expenses either. By itself, what it does do is ensure that you don’t have many unexpected surprises.

Last month, the Green Party membership was surprised to discover that there was a fiscal emergency. Organisers had to be sacked, Catherine Johansen ‘resigned’ from the Election Readiness Committee, and a whole bunch of panic started in the Ottawa office. All of a sudden, the election debt had to be retired, and as if by magic, there just isn’t enough money in the darned bank. Now the terms and conditions of the election loans were clear and explicit. The payroll costs were 100% predictable. The discretionary spending? A total grab bag of unprioritised spending. Jobs for friends in Nova Scotia. Toss a whack of money to Adrian Carr’s Provincial Division in BC. Let’s toss $50 grand to the SGI Campaign for Elizabeth. Yes, I know that the last item was supposedly the top priority for the Party, but where were the cuts to the budget to accomodate it? Did council even consider that this brand new top priority meant that organisers had to be fired? Were YOU aware that you were going to lose your’ Provincial organiser because of it?

Remember folks, within ten minutes of the electoral returns being publicised, our Leader and her council knew within 5% what their resources would be. If they knew what one was, they could have created a Schedule of Receipts and Disbursements that nailed cash flows by date, within a very narrow band. Did they do so? NO. Did they prioritise and exercise their fiduciary duty to the membership? NO. This so-called crisis was created by our Federal Council, and it was created by Elizabeth May, plain and simple. Now some will accuse me of a biased, and unbalanced attack, because I have posted this blog. That is untrue. I would lambaste anybody who mismanaged my Party’s operations so badly. Some people would encourage me to refrain from public criticism, because it may spoil the electoral chances of Elizabeth May in SGI. My response is, don’t shoot the messenger. Our finances are pretty public, and there are opposition researchers eagerly awaiting our next public accounting. Better a trickle of negative reporting now to turn it into yesterdays news that much quicker. If we wait until the ‘AHA!’ moment when the finances are public, then timing is outside our control.

So what’s this got to do with the title of this post? By now that’s becoming obvious, no? If council is truly planning to revoke the ‘Sharing’ part of the Revenue Sharing Agreement, then I would like to be on the record before the bunfight begins. Revoking the RSA will be promoted as an ‘Emergency Measure’. The emergency was a product of fiscal incompetence. I would personally prefer to revoke council, and the Leadership, and I suspect that, were the truth known, a substantial portion of the Green Party membership would be upset enough to share this opinion. The root cause of the problem is that our Leadership is not competent to manage our money. The RSA was created out of a huge bruhaha back in the day. It was argued over, negotiated, brokered, debated by the membership, work-shopped, voted on by the membership at large, and finally, grudgingly enacted by Council. Dumping it to grab some more resources will not fix the incompetence in Ottawa. It will simply paper over the cracks. It’s absolutely guaranteed that the Leadership will continue to fritter, and fail to set priorities, so we’ll be back in the hole again immediately. In the meantime, the EDA’s will be boiling mad, and out for the Leaderships blood. Can you spell: Recall Motion? Not very good politics, eh?

The RSA was predicated on several motions passed by the membership in years gone by. It was intended to promote the formation of EDA’s, while still allowing for the Party Hub in Ottawa to have predictable cash flows. There are arguments that could be made that not all EDA’s use the money wisely. There are arguments that could be made that the RSA was created by council, therefore it can be revoked by council. There are also arguments that could be made that Provincial Divisions are really problematic under the Elections Act. While these arguments may have lot of merit, it’s moot. Why? Because the membership has spoken, council was fulfilling their mandated role when they enacted the RSA. The EDA share has definitely promoted EDA formation, and endurance. Even in the lamest EDA, there is a degree of continuity because they don’t want to abandon their bank account, and revenue sharing cheque. Who cares if some of them aren’t picture perfect organisations? The membership mandated that they get a share, this mandate has proven very effective at achieving it’s stated purpose. Just take a look at the last elections results. A growing number of local campaigns are breaking the 10% threshold, and surprise, surprise, they all have EDA’s in place to back them up.

Provincial Divisions are another kettle of fish. The membership, and RSA mandated that Provincial Division formation be promoted as well. That was before it became abundantly clear that the revisions to the Election Finances Act had rendered PD’s obsolete in Canada. Because Provincial Divisions are not legally seperated from the National Party accounts, it is problematic to ask the Party’s financial agent to be responsable for the books and spending decisions, unless thay are as directly under the Agents control as the National Party is. Why go through the cumbersome exercise of transferring money, and then scrutinising it seperately?

So now we have come full circle. As usual, I have digressed, and tread a tortuous path to my conclusion. We have a Leadership race coming up. Our current Leadership has demonstrated that they are not competent to fulfil their fiduciary, and governance duties. Draw your’ own conclusions, but perhaps you should consider a new Leader? One who can actually demonstrate some competence in the real world? Stay tuned, and soon I’ll be able to table another option for you, and I think you’re gonna like her and her team!

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More detailed analysis of the relationship between spending and the Green Party of Canada vote.

In March, I published a post on the correlation between campaign spending and vote outcomes for the Green Party of Canada. I gathered together the Green Party of Canada Campaign spending data and votes results for 102 Ontario Ridings. Recently, Michael Moreau, a Green Party activist from Winnipeg commented on my basic correlation numbers, and pointed out that correlation is a poor analytic tool by itself. Since Mike is a mathematician, and knows what he’s doing, I sent him the raw data I compiled, and he produced some very interesting analysis. Mike’s blog is the Don Street Blog. What follows here is paraphrased from his reply to me, with some judicous cropping and editing.

 Mike ran a non-linear and linear regression analysis of the 102 ridings for which we have data. The non-linear graph tells us that there may be differing sensitivity of vote% gain to extra dollars – that in fact an extra $1 is worth more for the smallest of campaigns. However, there is little correlation improvement between the non-linear and linear, so we can use the linear model.

All reported Ontario campaigns: Linear

All reported Ontario campaigns: Linear

 

The linear model of the 102 reported ridings is the most important graph. It tells us that there is a massive correlation between the two variables. In fact, given a degree of freedom of 100, we can be more than 99.999% certain of the correlation existing! Now, the regression line tells us a lot, too. It predicts that for every $1000 in increased spending, we will get 0.1836% more vote total. In other words, it predicts that we will gain 18.36% over a base total by spending $100,000 in the riding. Unfortunately, at some max $100,000 in spending, the model predicts only 24% of the vote share for the Greens in an average riding. That means that at base support levels in 2008 for the GPC, no Green could be elected by only pumping in money. But, the money gets us closer.

Under $5,000 spending

Under $5,000 spending

Now, the other graphs zoom in on certain money ranges and tell us that the relationship between spending and vote% is fairly consistent at any level. The lowest range ($0-$5000 in spending) is a bit of a dog’s breakfast, though, since there are so many other factors at play in those locations. There is some evidence that extra dollars at that level are more effective – but not too much evidence. We cannot be statistically certain that an extra dollar spent is more effective in a riding with little money versus in a riding with more money – just that a dollar is effective. In other words, we can’t say that the GPC should funnel money to smaller EDAs to help kick-start their campaigns – but, we suspect that this is money is more efficient in those ridings than in the ridings with $40,000 already in play.

 

Finally, there is a 95% confidence interval to deal with. No one much cares about this at this stage, but for $10,000 spending in a randomly selected GPC

Ontario Over $5,000 spent

Ontario Over $5,000 spent

race in Ontario in 2008, the model predicts that vote total would be 7.723% plus or minus about 4%. That is to say that we can be 95% confident that with $10,000 spent, you would receive between 3.7% and 11.7% of the vote share. Such a wide range reflects the fact that there are many other factors at play. So, using the regression analysis to predict a vote share result entirely based on spending is faulty. However, we can say for certain that increased dollars equals increased vote % in a particular riding – and $10,000 gives us 1.836% more vote share.

 

STRATEGICALLY:

 

If the goal of GPC is to increase vote share overall, money can be sent anywhere, but we suspect (and have a little evidence) that “seed money” in small ridings can be the best use of resources. This money should only go to ridings where there is someone organized enough to spend it effectively and efficiently, though.

 

If the goal of the GPC is to gain “beach-heads”, then GPC should fully fund EDA’s where the Greens have a solid base of support, many volunteers, and a credible candidate. However, there should be some caution here. Only 4 green campaigns spent more than $42,000 in 2008, so we cannot be certain that the linear relationship between vote share and spending continues at higher spending levels. There could be any number of results.

Finally, regardless of the strategy, money should only be sent to ridings which meet certain criteria for federal funds. Those criteria should include – but not be limited to – number of members, vote gap between green vote and riding winner, organized EDA, evidence of past effective use of funds, and intangibles such as the candidate nominated.

This ends the first in (hopefully) a series of data crunchings from GPC Ontario 2008 and Canada 2008.  

The above is largely Michael’s analysis. The conclusions are his, and are certainly subject to discussion. The Data is what it is, and at least subsequent discussion will be based on honest to goodness data, instead of conjecture, and plausible but untested intuition and opinion. I for one will be revisting my past conclusions about beachhead vs. rising tide national strategy. I think that more than ever our strategy needs to be more sophisticated, looking at both rising tide, and targetted efforts. The better we can understand both the limitations, and opportunities that face us, the better decisions we may make in the runup to the coming election.

UPDATE JUNE 23: Alice Funke at “The Pundit’s Guide” published a post on the relationship between spending and voter outcomes last month. For those of my readers who are involved in planning the next GPC campaign, they should read this post, and draw the appropriate conclusions regarding the likelihood of NOT earning a financial return on a rising tide strategy. (There are some good reasons to broaden the target, but nort broaden it to 308 target ridings.)

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Green Party Canada: Municipal Elections and the Opportunity to grow the EDA

Tip O'Neill   "All Politics are Local"

Tip O'Neill "All Politics are Local"

A great many people who join the GPC have a limited involvement in municipal politics, and don’t see the relevance of the municipal election to the Federal scene. If this attitude holds sway in your’ EDA, then I’m afraid that you are missing a great opportunity to organize at the grass roots level. Municipal politics is almost always the poor sister of the Federal and Provincial scene. Municipal campaigns are typically poorly funded, have very few volunteers, and are often characterized by poor organization. This represents a great opportunity for the EDA.

In my opinion, the EDA should be researching the candidates, getting involved in local organizations like the residents associations, and Business groups well prior to the local election. If the EDA is in a position to offer a valuable endorsement, and some volunteers to a good clean local campaign, it will fulfil a number of useful functions.

First off, the local candidate ought to be grateful for the help, win or lose. Most serious local candidates have roots in one or more local grassroots organizations. Whether it be a ratepayers association, or environmental group, there will be some kind of an organization which will be in a position to return the favour when the next Federal election comes around. That should translate to volunteers, endorsements, and donations come the time.

Second payoff is when the time comes to be recruiting a candidate for the Federal election. Many great candidates get their start in municipal politics. It pays to have a candidate with name recognition, and the network of local contacts that get things done in an election. Whether your candidate(s) wins locally, or fails to win their municipal race, it will be useful for them to establish themselves further as environmentalists, and real political activists by standing Federally for the GPC.

Third payoff is from sharing the political data that accrues to a municipal campaign. Provided the municipal campaign issues have been very GPC friendly, then the identified voter base from the

Get 'em out quick

Get 'em out quick

municipal campaign are likely to be very good prospects to vote GPC federally. When the federal canvas rolls out, the endorsement of the candidate will be very useful when canvassing his/her ID’d supporters to vote GPC. The sign takers from the municipal campaign are obviously the first, (well, second anyways), place to hit with your sign canvas when the Federal writ is dropped. Very quick placement of arterial signs is useful in establishing momentum for your campaign. The more potential sign takers you have for a lightning fast sign canvas, the quicker you can establish your federal campaign as a ‘contender’ in the eyes of the local electorate.

For those GPC campaigners who are a little foggy about the why’s and how’s of a canvas with endorsement in hand, it goes like this; ‘Hi I’m canvassing for the Green Party of Canada. Your local alderman/councillor candidate Judy X has endorsed our campaign, and she suggested I get in touch with you for permission to put up a sign. Can we drop by and put one up tonight?’. 30 seconds on the phone, get the sign placed, and move to the next phone number/front door.

A word of advice, be honest about your motives when offering an endorsement to a candidate. Offer your’ EDA’s help, but ask for the explicit quid pro quo that the candidate will endorse your candidate back again, and will provide the canvas results, volunteer lists etc. Your EDA cannot lose, and if the Candidate is a good one, then you could win with real home run, like a local politician with paid staffers and volunteers plugging hard to return the favour.

If you are interested in politics, whether local, provincial, or federal, why not join the most exciting Political Party in Canada Today?

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Green Party of Canada: Guaranteed 250,000 more votes if..

For my next trick, 250,00 votes and $5,000,000

For my next trick, 250,00 votes and $5,000,000

I know this is a provocative title, and no doubt many Green Party of Canada sceptics are chuckling up their sleeves as they read this bold claim. How is this magical number to be achieved they ask themselves? My response is simple. Data driven decision making, and resource allocation. The practice is not so simple. It requires skilled people that exist in the Party, but who will need to be coaxed to the backrooms with a budget, and some patience.

What I am referring to is detailed statistical/geographical analysis of Green Party of Canada voters, members, and donors. In theory it is simple. Start by acquiring the 2006 Census results for Canada. The census data is collected by location, includes all kinds of really detailed information, far beyond age, income, sex, education, and the stuff you kind of recall filling in on your census form in 2006. This data is ultimately keyed to postal codes. This is, indirectly how Elections Canada distributes voting data, in their poll by poll electronic database, which in turn is keyed to poll maps. When you have acquired appropriate mapping software, you have the basic tools to create and distribute a totally kick ass poll targeting tool for every EDA in the country. Competent Geographers, and Statisticians can use this data to analyse precisely what kind of people voted for the Green party of Canada in past elections, and can then output poll by poll maps of areas where people are very likely to vote green, but for some reason have not done so in past elections.

With a very detailed, and complete picture of what kinds of people voted for the Green Party, and exactly where they are located in Canada, you can now target your message poll by poll to the people who actually live there. You can do so with a degree of certainty that your message is what they will be interested in. Our Party has a broad platform, and we DO appeal to all kinds of people, so why shouldn’t we tell people the thing they are most likely to like about us? Why shouldn’t we find out what people on a certain block want to hear about, and tell them, truthfully, what we want to do for them?

Once this big, but important job is complete, there are a few simple things to do, that are totally awesome in their implications. First off, by feeding the Green Party of Canada’s donor, membership, and volunteer lists into the picture, it is possible to predict with incredible precision where potential new donors live, where potential new members live, and where potential new volunteers live. Combine this data with commercially available telephone number lists, and basic Canada Post goodies, and you can start a really awesome fundraising, membership, and volunteer drive.

I hope by now that intelligent Green Party readers of this blog are starting to get excited at the possibilities. The 250,00 votes I bragged about in my title above is the pure dumb simple worst case outcome from this endeavor. Those are the phantom votes that pollsters tell us are ours, but who then evaporate on election day. With a little smarts, work, and organizing, there is no reason why the Green Party of Canada wouldn’t beat the crap out of the Conservative fundraising machine. All this could be achieved on less than $50,000, so mull that over a little, and give me your comments!

As usual, I implore you, if you want to get involved in an exciting political Party, that is really going to change you, and your’ childrens lives for the better, then Join the Green Party Today!

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Green Party of Canada So Long Jim Harris – For Now.

Jim Harris  -  Leading Light of the GPC

Jim Harris - Leading Light of the GPC

The recent announcement by Jim Harris, longtime leader of the Green Party of Canada, that he is taking a ‘sabbatical’ from the GPC has garnered little attention in the media, and Green Party circles. I will try not to make this post sound like an obituary, because I am convinced that we haven’t seen the last of Jim.

Jim Harris served as Leader of the Green Party of Canada, after years of activism with the Green Party that started many years ago when he was employed as a staffer with the Green Party in the UK. I first met Jim at a garden party at his house in East York, in the days after the 2004 election. He was always a bit of an odd bird, and his strength was derived from superior organizing, and fundraising ability, less than from a magnetic personality. All Greens acknowledge the hard work, and his, (at the time), extraordinary ability to induce supporters to part with their money. Fewer Greens, (and I am amongst them), credit Jim with a fundamental breakthrough. He single handedly changed the image of the Green Party of Canada from that of a looney left wing Party, to a party was ‘neither left, nor right, BUT forward’. By espousing fiscal conservatism, social progressivism, and environmental sustainability, he broadened the appeal of the GPC to welcome in throngs of disaffected Red Tories, and Liberals.

Having known Jim for 5 years, I can tell you there is more to his departure than can be read in his gentlemanly ‘sabbatical’ announcement. He has served recently as the chair of the 18 member Federal Campaign Committee. It is interesting to note that in the wake of the recent election this committee has suffered a rash of resignations, that some have characterized as a coup. The resignation of 7 members left a clear majority of 100% Elizabeth May loyalists. It seems that responsibility for the organizational problems in the last election is not to be laid at the Leaders

Sharon Labchuk. Is she up to the job?

Sharon Labchuk. Is she up to the job?

door, but on the small number of experienced Campaigners on the committee. I will not point fingers, but some of the people on the committee are, frankly, not competent to plan a campaign, while some of those resigning are amongst the best campaigners who stuck around after David Chernushenko’s defeat, and subsequent retreat from GPC politics.

This development is not a good sign for the future of the GPC. I will suspend judgement until we see if the new and improved committee is able to start marshaling the resources of the GPC. I frankly do not care what they want to blame the failures in the last election on. I will reserve judgement for a few months. Until I start seeing them recruiting quality candidates, reaching out and teaching the EDA’s how to campaign, and driving membership numbers back up, I will assume that this housecleaning had nothing to do with Election readiness, and everything to do with???

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Political Welfare and Taxpayer abuse.

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.

Here's the Transfer

Here's the Transfer

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.

Aha! A Clue!

Aha! A Clue!

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!

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