So last Sunday, CBC asked Pierre Poilievre to come on the air and explain his party’s opinion of the in-and-out controversy. I missed it. But can only assume he said much of the same stuff he’s dutifully argued inside and outside the House over the last two weeks.
After Poilievre was through, the CBC hosts interviewed Heather MacIvor, a professor at the University of Windsor, who, unlike approximately 98.7% of us, has a working knowledge of electoral law and the rules of Canadian democracy. I missed this too. But I’ve now been provided with a transcript of her appearance. And it almost makes me think I should be getting up earlier on Sundays.
MacIvor: I didn’t hear any new information, Carole. I heard a great deal of old spin. And frankly, there is very little that Mr. Poilievre said that conforms to the facts as laid out in the affidavit to get the search warrant.
I’ll quote what he said. He said “Local candidates will continue to decide what they put in their ads.”
In fact, part of the evidence in the affidavit is that the local candidates had no input whatsoever into the ads. this whole in-out scheme was completely controlled by Conservative Fund Canada, which is the official agent for the Conservative Party of Canada.
Much of what Mr. Poilievre said was beyond spun. He said for example that New Brunswick Liberal candidates pooled their funds to buy ads. That was perfectly legal. That’s right. But it was their funds. It was not funds provided by the Liberal Party of Canada to create the appearance of local spending on advertising.
Carole McNeil: And what about the issue of the pre-condition that that money come back. That’s not been proven yet, but is that the significant point here?
MacIvor: That is a very significant point. Because before a single penny of money was transferred by Conservative Fund Canada to any of these campaigns, the official agent for the candidate first had to prearrange a wire transfer of that money straight back to the bank account of the Conservative Fund Canada. So that money never ever left the effectove control of Conservative Fund Canada, based on the evidence in that affidavit.
Evan Solomon: Heather, one last question to you on this. Talk about campaign spending limits. Did this allegedly violate campaign spending laws, and what are the implications of that?
MacIvor: You know, if this were just an innocent mistake, if it really were just a case of misinterpretation of the law, which I think the Conservatives are going to have to prove that—because among other things they dissuaded their ad-buying company from seeking a ruling from the Broadcasting Arbitrator on the legality of this up front. But if this were an innocent mistake, then what the Conservative Party should have done when it finalled its campaign return at the end of 2006 was to say, “Look, you know what, we screwed up. We overspent and we’ll take our lumps for that.” Because the worst thing that would have happened to them was a $1,000 fine for Conservative Fund Canada. And possibly a $25,000 fine for the Party. Drop in the bucket! Buy by allegedly filing a false or misleading campaign return—in other words, not acknowledging this was federal money that was spent, and again this is based on allegations in the affidavit for the search warrant—the party has now put itself in a position where it could be charged for an offence that could get it de-registered…. Very unlikely…. If all those allegations turn out to be true, if charges are laid and if they’re proven in court.
(A full slate of Weekend Notes to come. Oh, and you can now leave comments below. Go forth and impugn.)