FINAL UPDATE: Amended Glover return shows cabinet hopeful overspent in 2011
Shelly Glover's amended financial return from the 2011 general election has now been posted on the Elections Canada website, and it reports over spending of 2.76% of the expense ceiling for her Saint Boniface, MB riding in that campaign.
[Click on image to open a full-sized version]
UPDATE: Actually Glen McGregor & Stephen Maher of the Ottawa Citizen and Postmedia first reported the Glover-Bezan disputes, while Laura Payton of CBC first reported the Watson case. My apologies to the storied, award-winning journos.
FURTHER UPDATE: And they update the story themselves now here.
the CBC's Laura Payton it was first reported that Glover, along with Conservative MPs James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake, MB) and later Jeff Watson (Essex, ON) were involved in a dispute with Elections Canada finance officials over their costing of used signs on their campaign returns, and that Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand had taken the unprecedented step of writing to the Commons Speaker about Glover and Bezan's unwillingness to file amended returns, pressure had been building in the Commons for the Speaker to table this CEO's letters, and decide what action to take in response.
When Speaker Andrew Scheer finally ruled on the Liberals' point of privilege Tuesday before the Commons rose, he also revealed that Glover had filed the amended return as requested, and had withdrawn her court proceedings against Elections Canada, slated for a court date yesterday.
However, Glover's amended return did not appear on the Elections Canada website for several days. It's there now, though.
At issue between Elections Canada and the MPs was their campaigns' decision to account for used signs at a discounted cost, rather than at their replacement cost. The latter is being insisted on by Elections Canada, because the purpose of an expense ceiling is to level the playing field between candidates by costing goods and services at the market value – i.e., the same price anyone else would pay for an equivalent value to the campaign.
The definition of an "Election Expense" is contained in s.407 of the Elections Act:
s.407 – (1) An election expense includes any cost incurred, or non-monetary contribution received, by a registered party or a candidate, to the extent that the property or service for which the cost was incurred, or the non-monetary contribution received, is used to directly promote or oppose a registered party, its leader or a candidate during an election period.
Exclusions – certain fund-raising and nominations
(2) Expenses for a fund-raising activity and expenses to directly promote the nomination of a person as a candidate or as leader of a registered party, other than expenses referred to in paragraph (3)(a) that are related to such fund-raising and promotional activities, are not election expenses under subsection (1).
(3) An election expense referred to in subsection (1) includes a cost incurred for, or a non-monetary contribution in relation to,
- (a) the production of advertising or promotional material and its distribution, broadcast or publication in any media or by any other means;
- (b) the payment of remuneration and expenses to or on behalf of a person for their services as an official agent, registered agent or in any other capacity;
- (c) securing a meeting space or the supply of light refreshments at meetings;
- (d) any product or service provided by a government, a Crown corporation or any other public agency; and
- (e) the conduct of election surveys or other surveys or research during an election period.
Definition of "cost incurred"
(4) In subsection (1), "cost incurred" means an expense that is incurred by a registered party or a candidate, whether it is paid or unpaid.
Here's how the Political Financing Handbook for Candidates and Official Agents describes the procedure for recording election expenses:
- amounts paid
- liabilities incurred
- the commercial value of donated property and services (other than volunteer labour)
- the difference between an amount paid or liability incurred and the commercial value of the property or services (when they are provided at less than their commercial value)
The official agent has to report the amount charged to the campaign for an electoral campaign expense. Generally this amount is the commercial value of the property or service received.
Commercial value is the lowest amount charged at the time that it was provided for the same kind and quantity of property or service or for the same use of property or money by:
- the person who provided it (if the person who made the contribution is in that business)
- another person who provides that property or service on a commercial basis in the area (if the person who made the contribution is not in that business)
Commercial value is generally the amount charged in a store for an item or a service.
If the campaign purchases a property or service from an individual for less than the commercial value, the official agent has to report the difference as a non-monetary contribution from the individual.
A closer look at the declaration of Election Expenses on Part 3a of Glover's amended financial return shows that, indeed, two discounts (see red boxes in the graphic above) for the value of "Other Advertising" have now been recorded:
- one in the amount of $2,195.53 from the riding association (all good), and
- a second in the amount of $1,049.04 from Glover personally, which could have created a whole new problem for her, if that contribution put her over her own contribution ceiling to ridings and candidates for the year.
But candidates are allowed to contribution an additional $1,000 + inflation factor ($1,200 now) to their own campaign over and on top of that ceiling, and since Glover did not, she's in the clear on that one at least.
With the total discounts of $3,243.57 added to the previously reported spending of $81,426.71, that brings her return up to $84,670.28 – $315.68 in declared election campaign expenses that were found NOT to be under the ceiling (see blue boxes in graphic above), for a revised total of $84,354.60 in election expenses covered by the ceiling — and exceeding that $82,086.99 ceiling by $2,267.61 or 2.76%.
So, what happens now? That's up to the Commissioner of Elections and if he so decides to refer the case, the Director of Public Prosecutions. Exceeding the campaign expense ceiling can be (for either the candidate or the official agent):
- a simple matter of a compliance agreement or exchange of correspondence, if done unwittingly and in good faith,
- a strict liability offence under s.497(1) of the Elections Act subject to a summary conviction and a fine of up to $1,000 or up to three months in jail or both,
- an offence requiring intent under s.497(3) subject to a summary conviction and a fine of up to $2,000 or up to one year in jail or both, or
- an offence requiring intent under s.497(3), but subject to an indictment, and therefore a fine of up to $5,000 or up to five years in jail or both
The issue for Bezan and Watson now is that, with Glover's campaign having accepted the ruling from the Chief Electoral Officer, it may be harder for them to make their own cases in court in July and September respectively. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, as former Mulroney-era PMO chief of staff David McLaughlin noted on Twitter, Glover was probably in some hurry to clean up the outstanding issue, in order to qualify for consideration in the upcoming cabinet shuffle. A pretty good incentive, one might say, so long as it was clear which of the above four options the Commissioner of Elections intended to pursue.