Cheryl Gallant was almost a political genius - Macleans.ca

Cheryl Gallant was almost a political genius

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Jonathan Hayward/CP

“If you’re raising money for a political party, you should be saying you’re raising money for a political party. Otherwise, it’s false advertising.” —NDP MP Charlie Angus

Cheryl Gallant was a political genius. The longtime parliamentarian from a rural riding west of Ottawa perfected political fundraising. She’d found a way to sap untold amounts of money from willing constituents, and she’d unfurled her scheme in broad daylight. She came so close to changing the game—so close, but so far.

Gallant opposes, utterly vehemently, the federal government’s plan to ban the incandescent light bulb. The bulb, beloved if ever a light source could be thanks to its romantic glow, is inefficient and burns out relatively quickly. The feds banned the manufacture and import of incandescents, effective this year, requiring consumers to turn to compact fluorescent lights or light-emitting diodes—CFLs or LEDs, as they’re known in common parlance.

Ever the staunch traditionalist, Gallant launched a campaign to save the incandescent at stopthelightbulbban.ca. She heralded the old ways of lighting homes as “safe and affordable,” and encouraged letter writing and, notably, political donations. Write a letter to three cabinet ministers with the power to stop the ban, and maybe they’ll listen. Donate to the cause, and the cause will endure.

None of this is objectionable, so far. An MP happens to be the advocate for a last-chance campaign. So what?

Glen McGregor, an Ottawa Citizen reporter who’s reported frequently on ethics and money in politics, started asking some questions. He discovered, after the newspaper made a tiny donation, that the campaign funds didn’t land in just any old pot of cash: they ended up in Conservative coffers. The money ended up in the hands of the Conservative riding association in Timmins, Ont.

Gallant, presumably, from time to time, convinces donors to support her campaign and her party. At the same time, she somehow managed to solicit funds from people opposed to the bulb ban, her own party’s policy. What a trick. Support the ban? Donate to the party. Oppose the ban? Donate to the party.

Perfection. Except, well, not so much. McGregor pointed out that Gallant’s website had promised a tax receipt to donors, as is standard for political donations, but that “donations to public-interest campaigns … would not typically qualify for a tax receipt unless the money goes to a registered charity.”  Gallant’s people initially defended the website, but something seems to have changed.

Today, stopthelightbulbban.ca redirects to Gallant’s own website. So much for an act of political genius.

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