In and out and settled?

by Aaron Wherry

(This post last updated at 8:24pm.)

Both the Ottawa Citizen and CTV are reporting word of a settlement in the in-and-out case, possibly in relation to the charges against four Conservative party officials. Full history of the in-and-out controversy here.

Update 1:18pm. Canadian Press has details.

The party is set to agree to what a caucus source called “administrative imperfection” for the way it handled advertising spending during the 2006 federal election. As a result, sources say charges against four senior Conservative officials – including two senators – for breaking the Elections Act are being dropped.

Update 1:24pm. Glen McGregor’s FAQ is probably the easiest way to get up to speed. Last March, the House passed a motion deeming the financing scheme to be “an act of electoral fraud.” Three years ago, chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand explained his view in detail before a parliamentary committee.

Update 2:46pm. The Globe confirms.

In return, the Conservative Party of Canada and its fundraising arm are pleading guilty to lesser charges that characterize what took place as a mere error instead of intentional misconduct. At the same time, the charges against four Conservative officials – two sitting senators – are being dropped.

CTV reports the party has been fined $50,000. The Supreme Court will still apparently hear the separate dispute between the Conservative party and Elections Canada.

Update 3:24pm. A statement from Elections Canada.

Elections Canada notes that the prosecution reinforces the importance of the spending limits for ensuring the fairness of our electoral system, including the distinct election spending limits for candidates and political parties. It also confirms that there can be no transfer of expenses.

Update 3:48pm. The four charges are here. The agreed statement of facts is here.

The Party and the Fund’s position is that the regional media buy program was intended to be, and was in principle, in compliance with the Act but that the flaws in its implementation mean that a number of expenses assumed by some candidates, (such as those attributed to candidates before those candidates or their official agents were formally in place), were properly attributable to the Party as its incurred expenses. By adding those incurred expenses to those of the Party, the Party exceeded its cap. In particular, the Party and the Fund admit that all of the office expenses referred to in this agreed statement of facts totalling $116,250, and, in 29 instances, the media expenses attributed to candidates totalling $563,329.51 were, instead, appropriately attributable to the Party.

Update 4:20pm. A statement from the Conservative party.

This is a big victory for the Conservative Party of Canada. Every single Conservative accused of wrongdoing has been cleared today. The Regional Media Buy was always intended to comply with the Elections Act. After five years the other side has finally determined that they could not or should not prove otherwise. This has been a long-standing administrative dispute with Elections Canada over whether certain campaign expenses should be counted as local or national.

The Conservative Party of Canada plays by the same rules as everyone else; we acted under the law as it was understood by Elections Canada at that time. When it was clear that Elections Canada had changed its interpretation of the law, the Conservative Party adjusted its practices for the 2008 and 2011 election campaigns. Ultimately, Conservative candidates spent Conservative dollars on Conservative ads.

Update 4:54pm. A note from the NDP.

After five years, the Harper Conservatives today pleaded guilty to breaking Canada’s election laws. While four Conservative insiders escaped accountability, NDP leader Nycole Turmel says that Stephen Harper cannot. She called on him to explain his party’s illegal actions.

“After five years putting Canadians through the ringer, the Conservatives misled Canadians, claiming there was no wrongdoing on their part. Today, forced to face the music, they finally admitted that they broke the law. Now it’s time for Stephen Harper to apologize to Canadians for Conservative actions during the 2006 election campaign and take responsibility for breaking election laws.”

Update 5:23pm. Glen McGregor summarizes the day’s developments.

The party and the Conservative Fund of Canada each entered guilty pleas in an Ottawa courtroom Thursday to two Elections Act offences as part of an agreement with Crown prosecutors. The Tories admitted to exceeding the $18.3-million spending limit imposed by law during the 2006 campaign and filing an election return that did not report all the expenses incurred…

In court, lawyer Mark Sandler, who represented the party and the fund, claimed this reflects that the party’s “non-compliance” was inadvertent. He said no one had intended to break the law. The party, he said, “inadvertently fell short of compliance” in cases where money was transferred to local campaign before the candidate had been selected. But the party and the officials believed the “regional media buy” or RMB program, was entirely legal.

Update 8:24pm. CP wraps the day, including comment from Bob Rae.

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said the extra money the Tories spent on advertising in the close-fought campaign “may have helped them to buy the election.”

“They still broke the rules and paid a fine but, listening to their crowing (about the plea bargain being a big victory), it doesn’t sound as if they’ve learned anything,” he said, adding that Conservatives “should accept responsibility and say they’re sorry. Period.”

In and out and settled?

  1. omg

  2. Isn’t there a mandatory minimum for this?

    • Yes there is. Canada is sentenced to another four years of Conservative rule.

  3. An “administrative imperfection” eh?
     
    That’s like a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ I guess.

  4. I’m taking note of this one – useful if they catch me cheating on my income tax.

  5. Any one know what happens to the Supreme court hearings on the matter? Will they still go on?

  6. As Democracy Watch always predicted, the conclusion of the Conservatives in-out election advertising spending scheme from the 2006 election would be that part of the spending was illegal and exceeded the spending limit.

    See details at:
    http://www.dwatch.ca/camp/RelsJul1708.html

    The plea deal today on the criminal case confirms the conclusion that at least some of the federal Conservatives’ 2006 election advertising spending was illegal, and is a victory, however small, for democracy.

    The Elections Act needs to be changed to strengthen penalties so that the cost of violating election spending rules outweigh the benefits that parties and candidates can reap by violating the rules.

    Hopefully, the Supreme Court of Canada will confirm the conclusion that the Conservatives illegally overspent in the 2006 election when it rules on the issue of Elections Canada’s decision not issue reimbursement cheques for the advertising expenses of some Conservative candidates who participated in the scheme.

    Sincerely,
    Duff Conacher, Founding Director of Democracy Watch
    http://democracywatch.ca

    • Maybe mandatory sentences..

      • Funny, I wonder what mandatory sentence would be approriate.  Given the shameful and tragic happenings at Penn State, I decided to check out some of Canada’s “mandatory sentences”.  The minimum mandatory sentence for sexual exploitation of a child under 14 years old by a person in a position in trust is 45 days incarceration.  If the child happens to be 14 years old, the person only has to serve 14 days.  Now if a parent sells their child into prostitution, they have to serve a whole 6 months….

        • Trying to change the channel?

          • No, you guys brought up mandatory sentences.  I am just wondering in a country like ours with the kind of sentences we have, what kind of sentence would you levy that would be considered “fair” if a person who molests a child can serve only 45 days?

          • The point about plea bargains is that the Cons are against them.  And I believe there is a longer sentence now for growing marijuana plants than there is for abusing a child (in the new crime bill).

          • My mandatory minimum would be repayment of the entire amount overspent, all court costs, a $5 million fine, and 200 hours of community service for each & every participant in the fraud, including those who only lied about it afterwords. Accessories after the fact – so to speak.

            That’s the minimum only of course, additional penalties cheerfully endorsed depending on the discretion of the courts.

          • P.S.

            The existence of child molesters – and their treatment by the courts – is the reddest of red herring. You oughta be embarassed for even trying to peddle that stinky thing.

  7. All the overblown rhetoric that surrounded the in-and-out case just popped like an overinflated balloon.  ”Administrative imperfection”, no charges, and a paltry settlement.

    • Isn’t “Administrative Imperfection” really an admission that incompetent people were put in charge?

      • That’s certainly how I interpret it.

        • Was the incompetence of these persons the reason why they were elevated to the Senate to review government legislation and budgets? 

      • That would be the four people who just plead guilty to lesser charges.

        • In fact, no inividuals pled guilty to anything. The Conservative Party and the Conservative Party Fund (separate entities) pled guilty to a) overspending the limit and b) filing a false statement of expenses.

          “WINNING!!”

          • You’re right, I didn’t see that in the initial reporting.  This has given me acid indigestion. 

    • Nice try, the good Senators said were going to kick Elections Canada to the curb.  They chickened out because they knew they had broken the rules.  This is not Winning!

      • If it’s not winning, it’s pretty close.  No charges, an agreement that it was an administrative error, and a small fine that is a tiny fraction of the legal bills that both sides have racked up.

        • A plea bargain: down from Vehicular Homicide to Careless Driving.

          • Careless Driving is still a criminal charge. A better analogy would be where charges for intentional misconduct were replaced with fines for accidentally breaking rules.

          • I’m not sure that’s right. I don’t think the Party (or their Chief Agent) were ever charged with anything more serious than they plead guilty to today. They were charged with spending above the election spending limit, and filing incomplete returns. They plead guilty to overspending the spending limit, and filing incomplete returns. Maybe I’m missing something, but I think the “deal” was just dropping the charges against the named individuals, and maybe some sort of a deal on the amount of the fine if they plead guilty.

          • It’s an intent argument also. They didn’t really mean to kill the victim (Vehicular Homicide) , but it happened anyway because they were incompetent (Careless Driving).

        • “No charges”???

          They plead guilty to several charges, didn’t they?

          ETA: Yup. The INDIVIDUALS have avoided charges as a result of the plea bargain, but the CPC and the Conservative Fund have plead guilty to a total of four charges of violating the Elections Act. The Fund plead guilty to charges of exceeding the spending limit, and providing a return that did not set out all expenses incurred during the election, and the Party plead guilty to charges related to the fact that they are a party who’s “Chief Agent” (the Fund) committed offences under those sections of the Act.

          • Ah, gotcha. Lesser charges, no intentional misconduct, but still a fine for the mistake.

            Thanks, LKO

          • You mean you can be fine $50,000 in Canada when you are found to be innocent?

          • The charges were dropped against the INDIVIDUALS.  That was part of the plea bargain.  The Party and their Fund plead guilty to two charges each.

          • Were they “lesser charges”??? They were charged with overspending the spending limit and filing incomplete returns.  They plead guilty to overspending the spending limit, and filing incomplete returns.  I thought the plea deal part was just letting the individuals named off the hook, and maybe some negotiations that kept the fines down.

          • It’s like the opposite of adscam, which had guilty individuals but the party was innocent. 

          • LOL

          • I thought the Cons were into personal responsibility?

          • @Lord_Kitcheners_Own:disqus 

            I just said “lesser charges” because that’s what was reported in the Globe and Mail.  I haven’t taken the time to read the Agreed Statement of Facts or any other details.

          • To be clear, I haven’t looked too closely at this stuff yet either. “Lesser charges” could well be accurate, it’s just that it seemed to me that they plead guilty to overspending and improper filing, and I’m not sure what else they ever faced beyond over spending and improper filing.

          • Basically a switch in liability. There was a possible jail sentence with the original changes.  Good day for the 4 amigos.

          • Well if jail sentences are avoided, then surely it is a good day for everyone who thinks the conservatives are too tough on crime as well.  This is a win-win situation…..

        • It is a hell of a deal – $50,000 charge for being able to spend $1.3 million on election advertising. 

      • JanBC “This is not Winning!”… it is if you use the Charlie Sheen definition. Up next: Stephen Harper credits his success to Tiger Blood. 

        • They’re claiming this as a huge victory – hoping nobody reads the fine print I guess.

          • They are just continuing to act as they have all along: Cheat, lie, cut corners, smear and sneer… and then award yourself a medal for virtue. The truth of this situation – or any other – is a matter of complete indifference to these moral champions, the “truth” is whatever they can sell to the rubes.

    • Alternately, their defence is, “Hey. we’re only human!”

      • This apparently means innocent in Conese. 

    • In and Out…Canada’s journalism stimulus program

      • Somewhere on Bay Street, Ted Betts is weeping.

    • I do agree with your assessment, but I wonder if you are comfortable with this outcome?  Its clearly a good day for the CPC, but is this is a good day for Canada?

      Personally I won’t lose any sleep over this outcome, but I do believe that it sets a horrible example for individuals or political parties or any group of people to follow.

      This incident suggests that we should not strive to lead squeaky clean lives, its not that important to aim for the highest standard of conduct, and I find that kind of disappointing behaviour from folks that want to lead our conntry.

      • We’re not even talking about squeaky clean lives.  Fairness in elections should be a standard all parties should strive for, not laugh about when they think they got off scott free. 

      • I’d guess that lessons really have been learned here. I’m sure if Finley et al. could turn back the clock to 2006, “In and out” never would have happened.  Look at all the trouble it caused the CPC: A scandal with massive media attention, plenty of fodder for Opposition attacks, even the “act of electoral fraud” passed by the Opposition in the House.  The damages far exceeded any ephemeral benefits.

        Had the CPC campaign staff strived to aim for the highest code of conduct, instead of trying to game the system by finding a “loophole” that let them exceed national spending limits by 7%, the whole ordeal could have been avoided.  Let’s hope the governing party takes this lesson to heart.

        • What strikes me in your ‘reasoning’ is how much trouble Finley et al and the Conservatives had to endure.  Not a word, not an excuse, regarding the obviously baseless attacks that the Cons on Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Mr. Mayrand, his character and his competence. Typical Con, I guess.

          • Not sure what you’re talking about.  Do you have a link?

          • You missed how he was treated in committee – he was practically called a traitor, just for following the law and doing his job.  There should be a public apology to him, but I’m not holding my breath.

        • trying to game the system by finding a “loophole” that let them exceed national spending limits by 7%

          You know, this doesn’t sound quite so innocent when it’s framed as “The Tories spent more than $1.2 million more on election advertising than they were legally allowed to spend”.

          • This used to be called election fraud. 

        • I think you miss the underlying fraud on the Canadian Taxpayer. The Cons shuffled money back and forth between the national headquarters and individual ridings for two reasons; 1) to exceed their national spending limit and 2) to claim the 60% expense rebate, at the local level, which they were clearly not entitled to do. The local ridings did not spend the money and the rebates claimed were fraudulent by definition.

          Well, number 1) has been settled today, guilty as charged. But 2) continues apace and is now headed to the Supreme Court. What’s the outstanding issue? The Conservatives are trying to force Elections Canada to pay that 60% rebate even though they have just admitted that the expense claims were fraudulent. Talk about chutzpah!

           

        • Totally off topic, but the comment that I wanted to ‘reply’ to is closed to commenting…

          Here is a link to a chat this morning on CBC about CWB…it’s the most balanced thing I’ve heard on the topic….

          http://www.cbc.ca/podcasting/includes/sundayedition.xml

          From there you will have to download either the Windows Media file or the podcast. In the Windows file the relevant section starts near the end, at about the 1:43:00 mark.

  8. 2004 Stephen Harper would be furious.

  9. I’m not sure how this comment ended up down here, please disregard.

  10. So, my two (somewhat obvious) questions are 1) “When was the last time a federal political party was found guilty of violating the Elections Act”, and 2) “How does this fine of $52,000 compare to the punishment other parties have received in the past for violating the Canada Elections Act”?

    Kinda pressed for time at the moment.  Anyone have any idea?

  11. Oh gawd, they’ve dragged  Poilievre out – again – with his ‘Conservatives spent Conservative money on Conservative candidates’  crap.  Not helpful, guys.

  12. Hahahahahahahaha! It’s funny, because even with this so-called “scandal” the CPC won a resounding majority. I know all the Liberals and Dippers here thought that this was going to somehow return in 2020 and doom the CPC, but even that wishful thinking is exposed as dubious now. Again, HA!

    • Party above country, Harper supporters. Forever and always.

    • A political party illegally spending over $1.2 million on advertising above the legal election spending limit, and then winning the election.

      That IS hilarious.

    • 2020?  Do you know something about when the next election is that the rest of don’t?

  13. John Ivison at NP nails it.
     
    “So farewell then, the “in and out scandal.” One Liberal blogger called you “the largest political scandal in Canadian history that could result in the the de-registration of the Conservative Party of Canada and the liquidation of its assets.”
     
    In the event, you were only one-tenth as interesting as you sounded and, instead of leading the governing party to ruin you have instead compelled it to fork over the cost of a 30-second prime time attack ad — not including the millions and millions of dollars both sides have spent in legal fees down the years, obviously.
     
    Elections Canada has long claimed the Conservatives breached the $18.3-million national advertising limit during the election by transferring an additional $1.3-million to 67 riding associations who had not reached their own $80,000 limit. The ridings then returned the money to the party and claimed their eligible 60% rebate in campaign expenses from the elections agency. The money was used to buy advertising promoting the party, rather than the local candidate, which Elections Canada later claimed was in breach of the Elections Act. When the scheme came to light, the elections agency refused to pay the refunds and the Conservatives sued to get the money back.
     
    What followed did not reflect well on either party. Elections Canada and the RCMP raided the Conservative Party’s offices — but only after tipping off the television networks and other political parties. Meanwhile, the Tories bullied the House committee on Procedures and House Affairs when it tried to look into the matter and the decline of committees into procedural anarchy was one of the main reasons Stephen Harper called an election in early fall 2008.
     
    Yet, much to the Liberal Party’s chagrin, this was not another sponsorship scandal and the Conservatives did not bilk the taxpayer for millions of dollars, as then leader Stéphane Dion alleged in 2008.
     
    Journalists will be happy not to have to lead readers through a legal maze that would tax students of Byzantium; top Tories will be glad they’re not going to jail and have got off with a slap on the wrists; the Chief Electoral Officer will be overjoyed to have slammed shut a spending loophole and to have flexed his muscles as the enforcer of the elections rules. Most of all, lawyers on both sides will relish their success in stringing the whole thing out for nearly five years, like cats who have tired of playing with a mouse and finally put it out of its misery.”
     
     
    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/11/10/john-ivison-farewell-in-and-out-scandal-you-were-far-less-interesting-than-you-sounded/

    • John Ivison at NP nails nothing.

      Two cases going on. This one was about whether it was illegal for them to transfer the money over. The CPC has now agreed that, “yes, yes it was, but it was unintentional” and will pay a small fine, in return for which they don’t get their unelected senators dragged through the courts.

      The second, and more telling case, will be the one where the CPC is claiming that Elections Canada owes them refunds for their expenses.  And for which they successfully argued that until the case was settled, those refunds could not be denied.. so they were paid out.  If the Supreme Court’s ruling now comes down that those expenses were illegal so the candidates should not be refunded (and given that the CPC has now admitted they were, it becomes a much harder case to argue) that’s when we see the real dollar signs come out.

  14. Most criminals either deny their criminal actions or rationalize their behaviour, even after they’ve been found guilty of an offence in court.

    It’s been a while since I worked in the justice system, but I think parole boards still require an admission of guilt and/or a statement of responsibility before they consider parole for an offender.  Too bad voters aren’t as demanding.

    CPC – tough on everybody else’s crime.

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