Ooh! Excitement already, and the meeting hasn’t even begun: Steve Halicki are here, despite ITQ’s grim prognosticatons – which means this is going to be even more exciting than we expected, because last time he spoke out about the in-and-out scheme (which is Perfectly Legal), he defended it vigorously, and sniped at cheapskate local candidates for their parasitic ways.
But a crushing blow to my faith – really, all of our faith – we have just received word that Patrick Muttart will not be here this afternoon – something about wanting sub judice protection for a legal matter which is, oddly, not specified. He is not party to the judicial review, so – I don’t know, but the point is, he’s not going to show up unless he is accorded the Mayrand Accommodation.
Cynthia Downey has a lot riding on her shoulders as far as making this afternoon worthwhile for Camp In and Out.
Szabo gets things started with the traditional anti-roll call: the official agents for Jay Hill, Stockwell Day and Jim Abbott will not be joining us today, which is a crushing disappointment, but after learning of the Muttart non-appearance, seems but a pinprick on a broken leg.
First, a little housekeeping – the Elections Canada documents are here, and will soon be made available; everything else on the laundry list of demand delivered yesterday by Gary Goodyear is in process, and someone realized that they can, in fact, release the clerk’s letter without fear of privacy violations.
Gary Goodyear is pleased, but wants to make sure that he also has the proofs of service for the summonsings, and then accuses Szabo of making “slanderous comments” when he doesn’t even know if the no-show witnesses managed to avoid service. The nerve!
Szabo explains that the summonses were, in fact, issued – and that the “reputable” firm of Kilrea Inc. has not yet reported back.
That’s not good enough for Gary Goodyear, though. He wants an admission of error, of making unproveable allegations. “You were caught in a dirty deed,” he j’accuses, “And ..”
Yeah, that was enough for Pat Martin, who starts snarling off mic. According to Goodyear, he – Martin – called him “one of the seven human orifices” – cue reporters counting – and Szabo points out that he said the summonses were issued. He never said that they were served.
And that’s that. Oh, right. Like that is ever that with this committee.
Somehow, we’ve made it to questions in an astonishing fourteen minutes. That’s a committee best, I believe.
Karen Redman starts with Halicki, and wonders if he was asked to take part in the in and out scheme during the 2004 campaign, and he was not — although he agreed to participate during the following campaign.
Oh, he doesn’t like to hear it characterized as a scheme, but he doesn’t seem to have a better term. After a long, long pause, he suggests “arrangement” — “creative”, even. Which walks right into her next point — his official agent called it “a little too creative.”
It all came down to unused expense headroom, according to Halicki, who seems to be under the impression that the limits should be considered in total, and not riding by riding, which is – not precisely the traditional interpretation, as far as I know.
At no point did he have control of one cent of the money, he says – the candidate never becomes involved in the finances. No, not you, Redman clarifies – his campaign. It’s not really clear, from his answer — the money ‘sat in the account’ for ‘a period of time’ – at which point anything could have been done with it. His agent could have taken it and gone to Mexico, he jokes.
Onto Newfoundland, and Darren Roberts – the official agent for Cynthia Downey, who ran for the Conservatives in Random-Burin-St. George, which is probably my second favourite riding name ever. He explains how he knew nothing about the money – where it went, what it was for – all he knows is that it came in, and went out. In and out. In and out. Where *is* Pierre Poilievre these days?
Didn’t he find it curious that the party sent him $7700, and then asked him to return it, she wonders. “I mistakenly assumed that we would be receiving election materials – posters, buttons.” Instead of, you know, nothing.
Pat Martin starts off by thanking the witnesses for coming – two of whom did so without even needing to be summonsed, and how sad is it that this now merits praise?
He then asks why Downey fell away from the party, and she tells him it was when the present leader – that would be Stephen Harper – went back on his word on the Atlantic Accord.
Halicki claims that he “researched” the law before accepting the offer, and discovered that parties were allowed to move money around — money, but not expenses, as Martin reminds him.
Martin goads Halicki, noting that it’s “surprising” to hear a Conservative say that the best way to raise funds was to “bilk the taxpayer” which – unsurprisingly – doesn’t go over well. This puts Halicki into a tizzy, and he goes into a tirade over “freeloading” MPs.
Oh, and he also says he had no idea that otherriding associations were involved in the transactions. Wait, what? What did he think a regional media buy entailed?
Ooh, Halicki just took a direct – and oddly coordinated with Goodyear’s complaint – shot at Szabo – he claims he was not summonsed, and if someone told Martin he was, “they were lying to you.”
Wait. Is he saying the summons was never issued, or served?
After a very long preamble about how Perfectly Legal this arrangement was – “You did nothing wrong” – and how Elections Canada has no right to tell him what to put on his ads, or whether to put a farmer on his brochure, or a picture of Stephen Harper, and – wait, haven’t we heard this before? I think we have. I’ll skip the rest, and wait for Halicki’s reply to Lemieux’ question, which is whether he had any control over the decision.
To which, somewhat hilariously, Halicki says no, but that’s because the candidate doesn’t have any involvement with the money. His agent, however, was told that it was for “advertising” and agreed to let the party do everything else.
Charlie Hubbard wants to pin down dates, y’all – when the money arrived, when the decision was made and what, exactly, was in the contract he implied that he had with the party to send the money back.
It was a bank transfer, Roberts – the official agent for Cynthia Downey, in case you’ve forgotten. Hubbard is very interested in that agreement – does Roberts happen to have a copy? He does, right outside. How convenient!
Dean del Mastro wants to take us on a trip down memory lane – electoral financing memory lane, to be specific, and the Bloc Quebecois. Wait, I remember this from the filibusters. The Bloc did Exactly The Same Thing, which was Perfectly Legal.
The key memes of the day from the Conservative side: calling the opposition the “jury” and the chair “changing the rules”, withholding information and not playing fair.
Okay, turns out that Dean del Mastro has looked into this whole “illegal” thing, and has concluded that – you’ll never guess – the party and its candidates have done nothing wrong! Someone want to let the Commissioner of Elections know? This will save him so much time and bother on that investigation he thinks he has to conduct.
Oh, and Halicki – who agrees completely – says that he “checked and doublechecked and triplechecked” the rules to make sure this “arrangement” was allowed. Does that mean he called Patrick Muttart three times?
Richard Nadeau is quizzing Roberts about the ads purchased in his area, and the same basic theme emerges — he didn’t know anything about it.
Pat Martin does recap duty, and explains what it is that he thinks the Conservative Party did, and criticizes the “pretzel logic” of Del Mastro before vowing to get to the bottom of any conspiracy to defraud Elections Canada. You can take that to the bank – and don’t even think about making a wire transfer.
Cynthia Downey finally gets to speak, and she tells the committee that if that $77,000 had been spent on her campaign, or had done a thing to support her, “there would be a different member there right now.” Although I have to wonder if that member would still be a Conservative, given her feelings towards the current PM and the Atlantic Accord. The Bill Casey Party might have doubled in size!
You know, Halicki has a shocking lack of faith in his own, and his fellow candidates’ basic common sense. He was happy to let the party make all those complicated decisions – in fact, he seems to feel bad about being such a drain on the party in the past. It’s almost as tragic as Lowry.
Karen Redman wonders who, exactly, Halicki thought he was participating in the media buy *with* – and apologies for that dangled preposition.
Halicki insists that he was very careful to get assurances … from the party. Susan MacArthur, to be precise. Did he ever consult someone outside the party? Apparently not.
“Creative is not necessarily a negative word,” observes Halicki. Except when applied to, oh, say, accounting.
Cynthia Downey says that she never saw one of those ads that was ostensibly ran on her behalf, and neither did Roberts. As for Halicki, his campaign was so poor, there was no television in the office.
I think Dean del Maestro missed his calling as a lawyer. His skill at leading the witness gently, but firmly, to the responses that he wants to elicit is remarkable, although he needn’t yell quite so loudly.
And – wow, is that it? It may be – at least, as far as these witnesses goes.
A final statement from Steve Halicki – there was no funny business going on, but there may be a loophole in the law.
As for Cynthia Downey, she says there are a lot of questions left to answer about what happened in these ridings, and she’s glad someone is looking into it. Wow, a rare word of praise for the kangaroo circus
Witnesses released – and the session is suspended for ten minutes — at least, when Gary Goodyear – who suddenly rematerialized after vanishing during the last hour – stops whining about his point of order.
Moving to the other thread for the duration – see you there in ten.