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And now, a few very pointed questions from the audience: Liveblogging the Ethics committee’s afternoon session


 

1:54:11 PM
… And we’re back, or at least on the verge of it – that two hour lunchbreak just flew by, although I did manage to wolf down a balanced and nutritious lunch of — black cherry ice cream. Two scoops. Which I hope answers the question of whether I’m some sort of health nut somewhat definitively.

Marc Mayrand is already in his seat, along with Francois Bernier, his — co-election thingy; I’ve forgotten his title, but he’s a senior staffer at Elections Canada.

They’re only scheduled to do two more hours of questioning — the last two will be spent on committee business, which will mean dealing with David Tilson’s trio of motions, and finalizing the witness list. That could get very interesting indeed, as the chair wants to hold in public, rather than in camera, which is how these things are usually done.

2:04:14 PM
Lights, camera, Szabo!

Apparently there were some questions from the media during the break – not me, I was busy stuffing my face with ice cream – on what the possible outcomes could be, both of the application for judicial review instigated by the party, and the ongoing investigation by the Commissioner.

I think most of that was covered in the ITQ FAQ, but if he says anything new, I’ll pass it on. Basically, judicial review could ultimately lead to his decision not to refund the expenses being overruled; the investigation may, eventually, lead to charges under the Elections Act.

2:09:08 PM
Back to the Q&A, and Sukh Dhaliwal is up: He wants to know the role played by the Director of Public Prosecutions in the investigation so far – the real one, not the fantasy magical all-seeing detective at large that some MPs seem to think he is. At this point, his only involvement has been representing Elections Canada in seeking the warrant.

That seems to satisfy Dhaliwal for now.

2:14:57 PM
Over to Poilievre, who gets right back to the *real* issue here: the raid on Conservative headquarters, and whether Elections Canada is in league with the CBC and/or the Liberals (like there’s a difference, you can see him thinking). Mayrand tells him that five people knew, not three – and he questioned most, but not all of them. Mayrand tries to be reasonable – mistake number one – and explains to Poilievre that there was no investigation, per se – there were allegations, so he asked around, and found no evidence of any leak.

Poilievre wants to know if he’d be open to an independent investigation – by who, exactly? The RCMP took part in the raid, so wouldn’t they be co-conspirators under thio particular conspirascenario? Yes, provided there was a good reason to do so.

2:18:23 PM
Poilievre then goes into attack mode, and accuses Mayrand – or at least his office – of being “obsessed” with media coverage, and he quite reasonably points out that *of course* he’s concerned – any media coverage that questions the impartiality of Elections Canada is important.

Poilievre then makes me giggle by referring to the “visit” by the RCMP. It’s odd – sometimes it’s a raid by the jackbooted thugs of Elections Canada, sometimes it’s just a visit.

2:21:35 PM
Charles Hubbard grumbles that Poilievre should table the emails he’s brandishing so energetically at Mayrand; the chair tells him that the contents have been reported in the press, but I think Poilievre has the full emails, not just the bits that were quoted.

2:25:09 PM
Richard Nadeau gets his moment in the spotlight, thereby depriving the audience of more Carole Lavallee, and he sticks to the technical details. Mayrand once again explains how he determines expenses, as opposed to transfers. Short version: You can transfer money. You can’t transfer expenss.

2:28:15 PM
Back to — Poilievre? Really? It feels like it was just minutes ago that he was up. He’s finally gotten to the notorious Liberal Camera Crew (tm pending) that turned up at the raid. Does Mayrand worry that his personnel might become “participants” in the next election, should the Liberals use the footage in ads during the next election?

Sighing wearily, Mayrand tells him – once again – that the cameras didn’t arrive until two and a half hours after the raid team was in place.

2:30:36 PM
The audience is laughing at Pierre Poilievre for wondering what might happen if voters “saw these theoretical ads” and came to the conclusion that Elections Canada had “put on a jersey” and joined the team. Because they’re just that slow-witted, I guess. Oh, Canadians. When will you learn?

2:32:07 PM
Oh, this is interesting: Mayrand was less than thrilled with the timing of the raid – on the eve of cross-examination in the civil case. If he had his druthers, it would have happened before, or long after that took place. That — doesn’t do much to bolster the elaborate conspiracy theory.

Also, Poilievre needs to never use the word “gratuitous” again.

2:36:00 PM
Pat Martin is up, and he wants to know about a specific example of advertising expenses, and you can see the look of discomfort on Mayrand’s face; he does not want to talk about individual cases. Martin wants to know how he determines whether the amount spent on a regional buy is appropriate or not, but the CEO isn’t going to bite.

Over to Mulcair, who asks the same question as Poilievre – did Mayrand agree with the decision to raid the headquarters on the eve of the hearing in the civil case – and Mayrand reiterates that he was “surprised and disappointed.” Did the Commisisoner attempt to justify the timing? Not really – he just gave the office a heads up.

2:40:17 PM
Someone’s BlackBerry alarm just went off. Why would anyone set an alarm for 2:40pm? Another mystery ne’er to be solved, I fear.

Meanwhile, Charlie Hubbard is up, and he’s “rather taken aback” by the Conservative tactic of attacking Elections Canada, which has gone around the world showing other countries how to run elections. Were there any complaints? Oh, come on, what do you think he’s going to say?

2:43:31 PM
Slowly but surely, Hubbard is circling the question of public office holders, and how they signed off on their respective returns within a few months of the election.

2:44:31 PM
Charlie Hubbard admits that he’s never seen a raid, or participated in one, but isn’t there usually someone barring the door? Yes – which leads Hubbard to note that this was a public building; anyone could come by and watch the raid — *raises hand — including the media. Was there a question? Not really, but it was a good ramble, so he gets off easy.

2:46:26 PM
David Tilson huffs and puffs and cranks and – asks if Elections Canada has shared the super secret documents – some of which discuss election strategy! – seized during the “visit” with the Liberal Party of Canada. Everyone but Mayrand is snickering at this point, but he assures Tilson that the documents are under lock and key.

2:49:53 PM
Tilson barks a series of questions on transferring money between party and candidates as though he’s just arrived from a Howard Hawkes movie; unfortunately, his dialogue isn’t quite as sparkling, and seems to be going over the very well-tilled ground. Transferring money? Fine by Elections Canada. Transferring expenses? Not so fast, Charlie. Not Hubbard, to be clear.

2:53:36 PM
Karen Redman wonders what steps have been taken to ensure that everything would go smoothly during a snap election – hey, this is minority government territory; it could happen. Mayrand assures her that they’ve held training sessions, and put out a “do’s and don’ts” pamphlet, and I so hope someone requests that he table that. And that it has pictures. Goofus and Gallant take on the electoral system!

2:55:45 PM
A fascinating question from Redman – why are the ten public office holders involved in the scheme allowed to continue sitting in the House? Mayrand doesn’t seem to know exactly what she means, but points out that provisions to remove an MP only kick in if they fail to file a return.

2:57:47 PM
Gary Goodyear has a few deeply technical questions about broadcasting costs and expenses, and eventually allows that there’s no requirement for the candidate to actually *see* the ad before it runs. It’s just — kind of how it usually works out, what with most candidates having some involvement in planning their campaign.

Now he’s on about the party acting as a supplier to a candidate, which is allowed, although again it sounds like a bit of an accounting kludge.

3:06:31 PM
Carole Lavallee has questions about some of the documents that turned up in the application for the search warrant, and Mayrand reminds her that the Commissioner probably has considerably more information than he does, as he’s been investigating for more than a year.

3:07:38 PM
Russ Hiebert and Gary Goodyear seem to be lost in their respective laptops, paying no heed to the testimony going on before them. I wonder if they’ve found a wifi signal – I’ve never had any luck. The walls are just too thick.

3:09:08 PM
Russ Hiebert starts out by assuring Mayrand that the Conservatives have respect for Elections Canada, and the work it does – but notes that it can also make mistakes. Mayrand agrees – that’s why they have the court of law. Now that they’ve established the lowest possible common denominator, as far as their respective positons, Hiebert wants to know about the “five factors” that led to his decision to deny the expenses, which leads into the most astonishingly minute discussion of when he came up with said factors, and how, and why, and is it printed anywhere, and … You get the idea. Eventually, Szabo shuts him down for going over his time, but Hiebert vows to return to the issue when he gets the chance.

3:15:49 PM
Oh man, Pat Martin *loves* this whole lose-your-seat rule — he wants to know why these public office holders aren’t being marched out of the House, and seems almost disappointed when Mayrand reminds him that it doesn’t apply in this case. Well, what about if they’re convicted of violating the Act? Then – and only then – the maximum penalty would be $5,000 and five years in prison. “So Maxime Bernier, Stockwell Day, Lawrence Cannon …” Martin muses. Yes, they could all potentially end up in jail, although it seems awfully unlikely, and really, hasn’t Bernier suffered enough?

3:20:55 PM
Mulcair really wants to understand what Mayrand’s reaction was when he learned of the imminent raid — or visit, if you prefer, and he once again tries to make it clear that it had very little to do with his office, as far as the planning.

3:22:28 PM
Dominic LeBlanc gets a gold star for noticing something that hasn’t really been pointed out thus far: the Director of Public Prosecutions has already weighed in, at least administratively, on the legitimacy of the investigation by arguing in support of a search warrant. That’s — actually a pretty good point, although for all I know, he rubberstamps every request he gets. Which would be – how many? I have no idea, but at least I don’t think he can conduct investigations all willy nilly.

Gary Goodyear is fanning himself with a sheet of paper. Okay, former Procedure and House Affairs Chairman Drama Queen, it’s not *that* stuffy in here.

3:26:24 PM
Onto the infamous infamous from Retail Media – and the apparent “falsification of documents” that resulted when the party submitted photocopies of an original invoice for multiple candidates. Mayrand notes that this only came out as a result of the search warrant, so there’s not much he can say.

3:28:11 PM
A few questions from Szabo on the judicial review, and whether the decision would apply to all the candidates whose expenses were denied, and not just the two who have launched the appeal. It’s not clear what the answer is, actually — it’s speculative, as Mayrand explains.

3:30:23 PM
Russ Hiebert has more questions – oh yes he does – and a metaphor too, that involves a pizza, and toppings, and how the campaign might order a pizza but the party won’t know what the toppings will be. Carole Lavallee’s cat would probably sneak away with all the cheese the second they took their eyes off it.

Oh, the point is that the Act fails to require detailed explanation of expenses, and then there’s the bit about inadequate documentation, and – do you think maybe he’s nostalgic for the Five Priorities? Life seemed so much simpler then. Apparently, there’s also a house of cards and a five legged stool, and I’m sure he’s just doing this to outmetaphor Carole Lavallee and snare the ITQ award, but hah! No meow!

Question! It appears to be something along the lines of, “Will you admit that you are very, very wrong about everything?” Surprisingly, Mayrand will not; he notes that this will eventually be decided in federal court.

And that’s it for testimony – just for the day, Mayrand will be back tomorrow for more. Now it’s onto committee business. That’s where Szabo is a viking!

Mayrand asks if he’s dismissed, and he is.

Oh, now Goodyear is whining that there are still twenty more minutes to question Mayrand, and his party, at least, has more questions, and what about the truth? What of truth? Again, dude – dial down the drama; he’ll be back tomorrow morning. This isn’t your last chance to grill him over pizza and cats.

Szabo reminds him that there are multiple Tilson motions on the table that deserve to be considered, and – eventually seems to just wave off the complaints. Not so fast – Tilson, too, wants to go straight to 4pm as well. Why? I just don’t know, but Szabo throws up his hands and gives them one more five minute round.

Szabo promises that the committee can go as long as necessary tomorrow – if they have to go overtime, they will. Every single member will have the chance to ask every question he or she might have. Pinky swear. (I may have imagined that last bit.)

3:45:57 PM
Well, they’re down to fifteen minutes for the last round, and Sukh Dhaliwal is taking the first one — I think he’s just free associating at this point, but that’s okay. It’s been a long day.

Oh, somehow, the taxpayers are on the hook for this – how much does Mayrand reckon it has cost to defend the agency against the judicial application thus far? Mayrand doesn’t really have an answer, and the Conservatives grump that it’s out of bounds, as the committee is not supposed to deal with the civil case. Really? I could have sworn it’s come up in the past.

3:50:02 PM
Ryan Sparrow seems absolutely fascinated by Sukh Dhaliwal’s latest line of questioning, which deals with the invoices of unclear provenance (is that sufficiently couched to avoid unpleasant accusations of libel?) He’s leaning forward, agog and rapt. Raptagogo! Okay, I really need a break.

3:53:20 PM
Gary Goodyear wants to talk manuals – specifically, the election handbook that was in circulation during the 2006 election, and – did he just sent his staffer up to Mayrand with a copy of the document, just like they do it on Law and Order? Reader, he did.

Ooh, and apparently, one of these documents has “disappeared from the web.” Sneaky! But not sneaky enough to evade the Conservative Party’s superior search skills. Anyway, basically, he wants to know why the language was changed between 2006 and 2007, and Mayrand notes that most of the changes resulted from the implementation of the Federal Accountability Act. That’s not good enough for Goodyear, but he’ll have to wait til tomorrow to pick up on that theme; his round is over.

4:03:14 PM
I’m just not sure if my mind is still sufficiently nimble to process this line of questioning from Scott Reid: It involves the Five Factors, and various weaknesses in how he applied them, but I just can’t quite follow the intricacies. Mayrand explains again that some transfers are *legal*, and others are *not legal*. Isn’t that where I came in?

4:07:32 PM
Aha – a motion from the Conservatives to have the committee order a full independent investigation into The Leak, and Whodunnit, Presuming It Was, In Fact, Done. Szabo seems bemused, but inclined to allow it. Pat Martin wonders why the motion is allowed now, rather than having to wait 24 hours, and Szabo explains why that isn’t the case.

Okay, what’s interesting here is that the Conservatives clearly think they can convince the NDP to vote in favour of the motion, presumably by dangling the prospect of possible embarrassment of the Liberals and/or the CBC in front of Pat Martin. I’m betting it won’t work, but I’ve been wrong before.

4:13:16 PM
Somehow, another round has happened – we’re never going to make it out of here, are we? This is truly the meeting of the damned.

Anyway, Pat Martin thanks Mayrand and Elections Canada for the good work they’ve done, and hands the floor over to Mulcair, who sort of sums up what he knows – or thinks he knows – so far. That’s it – no questions, just praise.

4:17:32 PM
Charlie Hubbard thinks It almost seems like there was a *scheme* to use local candidates to move money around. Really? My goodness! This should be investigated on the double!

Oh, I kid. He’s actually a great everyman, is Charlie Hubbard – he focuses on the oddest things, but sometimes he just comes out with a burst of pure common sense.

4:23:55 PM
One of my fellow reporter-hostages who shall remain nameless just pointed out that Scott Reid is, by the way, looking awfully dapper – if you go for that pre-Castro Cuba style, and you know that I do.

Also, Gary Goodyear is still going on about the handbook, but it’s all pretty much going the same way as last time, so just scroll up and relive the magic.

4:29:50 PM
And finally, Mayrand and Bernier are set free – for the night – and the committee moves onto the all important business of the proposals for witnesses, which should be submitted by tomorrow morning. I think they’re going to put off the rest of the business until tomorrow, but I’m not packing up my stuff until the gavel goes down. I’ve been burned before, you know.

4:33:12 PM
Remember that tie Dimitri had on at the cabinet technically-a-shuffle that I was — less than kind in describing? Compared to what Ryan Sparrow is wearing right now, it’s the most stylish, flattering tie that I’ve ever seen. I’d take a picture, but that would seem creepy, since he’s sitting over there all unaware.

4:34:48 PM
And that’s it. Man, my fingers are totally out of shape. I’ll have to pack them in ice to get ready for tomorrow.


 

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