The case of the union sponsorships

Joanna Smith reports that the NDP returned $344,468 after the Conservatives complained about union sponsorships at the NDP’s 2011 convention in Vancouver.

An NDP insider familiar with the issue said that in 2003, when the Liberal government under Jean Chrétien moved to limit donations from unions and corporations, the party sought an opinion from Elections Canada as to whether money obtained through selling advertising would be considered a political contribution. “Where a person or entity purchases goods or services from a registered party with the intention of economically benefitting the party, the payment for goods and services will not constitute contributions to the extent that the payment reflects the fair market value of the goods and services purchased. Any amount of the payment above the fair market value will constitute a contribution if the person purchasing the good and service intended to benefit the party,” says a document obtained by the Star outlining Election Canada’s response to the NDP’s question on the matter.

Three years later, the Conservative government banned donations from unions and corporations altogether. The party insider said the NDP also sought legal opinion and hired a third-party company to assess what fair market value for advertising would be in advance of each of the three policy conventions in question and followed those recommendations.

The Conservatives have duly congratulated the NDP on its big victory.

Alice Funke explains what happened here and laments for the current pursuit of gotchas.

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