Monday, April 21, 2008

Elections Canada More (and Less) Transparent Than it Would Like

Little substance to "in and out" scheme, and too many unanswered questions

As more and more details begin to emerge about the recent RCMP raid of the Conservative Party headquarters, the more and more it seems to be a simple rehashing of the same old story: another manufactured scandal with little or no substance behind it.

Logically, the charges by Elections Canada are actually fairly difficult to support. The claim is that the offending ads, paid for by the party which was then reimbursed by local candidates with funds provided by the party in the first place, were actually intended to support the party, as opposed to the candidates.

The ads in question were reportedly mostly identical to the federal party's ads, except with portions endorsing local candidates added to them.

While the back-and-forth transfer of funds -- hence the "in and out" label -- appears at its basest level to be rather suspicious, the charges thin out considerably once one realizes that the charges basically amount to the ads produced for local candidates being too similar to the federal party's ads. Given that the ads, in the end, supported the candidate, Elections Canada's complaints seem to have little substance to them at all.

Furthermore, Elections Canada seems to be overlooking a few intracies about Canadian politics: most importantly, creating an artificial distinction between supporting local candidates and supporting the parties they run for.

A simple fact regarding Canadian politics is that election campaigns tend to be very leader-centered, and thus party-centered. While local candidates inevitably benefit from such partisan consideration, it doesn't change the limited amount of influence many candidates have over their own election.

Certainly, some candidates do have the good fortune to overcome partisanship -- consider the cases of Belinda Stronach and Scott Brison, who have been elected as both Liberals and Conservatives. But the severe glut of so-called "stronghold ridings" where partisan is so entrenched as to ensure the election and reelection of candidates from certain parties suggests that these ridings are fewer and further between than we'd like to think.

Elections Canada's ruling may reflect what many Canadians could be argued to theoretically prefer politically, but preferences do not necessarily constitute reality.

For example, Elections Canada may prefer that local candidates produce their own advertising, in its entirety, but nothing in the law demands that they do this.

Elections Canada's own preferences don't necessarily constitute reality.

Of course, there may be more to Elections Canada's actions than their own publicity suggests. Whether more (or less) cynically-minded observers want to give the presence of Liberal party photographers at the site of the raid the attention it warrants or not, one also has to consider the fact that Elections Canada has, to date, declined to investigate an obvious example of the Ontario Liberal party (another organization awash in cash).

After all, there's little question that "No Gun, No Funeral", considering it's evident purpose, was as much a violation of Election law as anything the Conservative party has done.

The more details of this story emerge, the more one wonders whether or not this really isn't just some Elections Canada bureaucrats trying to enforce their own preferences on Canadian politics.

It is, however, interesting to see how selectively they're doing it.


  1. Anonymous7:57 AM

    This is not about any fight with Elections Canada, nor is it about Liberal criminality. The issue is that a ton of public money got kicked back to cover expenses that were fraudulent. Creative accounting is just another term for stealing. I haven't voted Tory all these years just to elect crooks the dress better than the Liberal crooks.
    The Rinocerous Party has just picked up anothers vote.

  2. I can certainly understand your line of thinking. I don't agree with you on it, but I can see how you reached that conclusion.

    It's a matter of opinion, and we just don't share one another's opinions on this particular matter.


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