You can’t ask that here

On the requirement that questions concern the “administrative responsibility” of government, the Speaker now seems to be taking a strict stance. Yesterday, for instance, he ruled the following, from Liberal MP Geoff Regan, out of order.

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have admitted the phone campaign of lies to the citizens of Mount Royal. The government House leader has actually said he is proud of these unsavoury tactics that seem to be straight from the era of Watergate. Would the Prime Minister heed the calls of commentators, even Conservatives, apologize for this outrage against democracy, shut down his dirty tricks team and call on Elections Canada to investigate?

Mr. Regan challenged the Speaker after Question Period and the Speaker duly promised to get back to the House with clarification of the rules. As Mr. Regan noted, questions about the in-and-out scheme were not ruled out of order and so it will be interesting to see where Mr. Scheer intends to draw the line here.




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You can’t ask that here

  1. Questions about what the government will do, especially in a majority government situation, are *always* about the administrative responsibility of government.

    Questions about what the opposition might do or think in a majority government situation, simply can not be about the administrative responsibility of government.

    In a minority government situation, then things can be a little more grey. But here? This seems pretty obvious to me.

  2. Has taxpayers’ money been used in any way - including that which is provided to the parties from the now-defunct vote subsidy, or tax exemptions?  If so, it would be the administrative responsibility of EC and the government of Canada.  Both would have a responsiblity to make sure that taxpayers’ money or taxation advantages are not used to prejudice the work of a member of the HoC.

  3. If you cut out some of the preamble in the question, one can isolate the question as:

    ‘Would the Prime Minister call on Elections Canada to investigate?”

    That is most definitely within the administration of the government to comment on.  From there I don’t know how the Speaker can say “I did not hear ANYTHING in that question that fell under the administration of government.” (my all-caps).

    Hopefully his investigation leads him to reverse his decision.

  4. First of all, I don`t know how useful those phone calls would be for the CPC and if I were a contributor to the CPC then I would question their purpose.

    I suspect the reason the Speaker ruled the question out of order was because, this was CPC money used to fund this operation–not public money which is why Reagan used the in and out operation as a comparable and not Adscam.

    And that appears to be the big difference between CPC operations and Liberal operations.
    Conservatives are happy to use the contributions of individual members to fund these electionering schemes while it appears Liberals like to use the involuntary contributions ( taxes ) of all of us to help themselves.

    • All donations to political parties are implicitly public money.

    • Conservatives are happy to use the contributions of individual members (involuntarily matched by taxpayers at a rate of 3 to 1 for the first $100) to fund these electionering schemes…

      • No, no.  Well, okay, yes, but the real scoop was the rebate bit, so since this doesn’t get 3 to 1 PLUS 40%, its perfectly acceptable.  Or, hell, it isn’t and we didn’t do it, or, double hell, yeah, we did that but so what?

        • I’m getting this feeling that I’m somehow conflating election expenses (which are rebatable, up to certain limits) and other party expenses, is that correct?

          So, where does money spent in an election come from if not from donations or the recently killed vote subsidy?

          And if those funds are different, what are the parties allowed to spend the individual donations (the donations that are matched via the up to 75% rebate) for?

          And since we aren’t in an election right now, presumably the phone calls that are being made in Cotler’s riding are not being paid for under the guise of election funds, which are apparently rebatable at 40%?

          Serious questions, btw, I am interested in knowing the details.  Thanks!

          • Really putting my Financial Agent status to the test, huh?  I’m not looking this up :)

            If you get more than 10% (?) of the votes in your riding, you qualify for a 40% (?) rebate of election expenses.  Election expenses are expenses exclusively of the campaign.  Such as advertising, campaign office rent and utilities, furniture and equipment rentals, and so on.   There is a separate entity for a Campaign.  In my riding I was not the Campaign Agent and know very little about what went on.  So the campaign is a separate audited financial statement from the association.

            You can accept donations (up to the maximum per individual) throughout the year whether in an election campaign or not.  You can spend the donations pretty much in any way your riding association deems fit.  You have to account for the donations, and you have to account for the expenses but you don’t get a rebate for anything as an association.  The donor, of course, gets the tax credit of 75% on the first $400, and whatever lesser amounts it is after that.  So if the Conservatives wish to spend $500,000 per riding per year on call centres, they can do so–presuming they have either the donations to cover it, or they might take out a loan.

          • OK, thanks for that…I think that I mostly had it right after all.  For reference, here is what Wiki has to say about financing of political parties in Canada.

            Note that in 2009 the CPC received about $8 million net from donors, which was matched by about $16 million from taxpayers, so the actual/blended ratio was 2 to 1.

            Also, if I’m interprteting the article correctly, theoretically a person could make a $100 net donation in a non-election year, which would then attract the $300 matching, involuntary donation from taxpayers.  That $400 could be held over into an election year, then spent on valid election expenses at the local level, which would then be eligible for a 60% rebate ($240).  So that intial private contribution of $100 attracts $300 involuntarily from taxpayers if spent outside of an election period, but $540 involuntarily from taxpayers if spent inside of an election period – NICE!!

            As to the validity of the question via the Speaker to the PM, the answer is probably “Not Valid” – the funds that are being used to execute this campaign have already legitimately received there matching taxpayer contribution, and now can be spent in any way the CPC sees fit, without any further overview from Elections Canada.

            Btw, (from the Wiki link) it seems that donations to political parties have the same problem as donations to charities – a significant portion of the funds never actually makes it to the real cause, but is spent financing the fundraising efforts.

          • @PhilCP:disqus 
            Absolutely!  The idea is supposed to be that you DO amass funds during the non-election years to cover your campaign when the time comes.  In many ridings, the constant round of elections put a real crunch on that, such that they hadn’t paid their loans off before the next one.  Which I think is the only good thing about a Harper majority, and with apologies to those ridings, I’d much prefer we hadn’t done that.

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