Weekly MP Report from Jay Hill

Here’s a court battle involving Elections Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada that you likely haven’t heard about.

No, I’m not referring to the much-publicized court challenge between Elections Canada and a number of Conservative MPs, including myself, over the interpretation of election advertising rules in the 2006 federal election.

That issue is still before the courts. I’m talking about a court action by the Conservative Party against Elections Canada to prevent Rebate Double-Dipping. Rebate Double-Dipping occurs when a political party collects BOTH a GST rebate and an Elections Canada campaign rebate for the same expenses.

Imagine you, as a taxpayer, being able to claim the same expense twice!

The Conservative Party opposes Rebate Double-Dipping while Elections Canada has defended it. For 16 months, the Conservative Party has been trying to return our double rebate to Elections Canada but they wouldn’t take the money. We refused to use the double rebate and placed it in trust. This may be the first time in history that a political party went to court to try to give money back to Elections Canada.

On December 31st, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice accepted the Party’s position. This means that the Conservative Party’s 2004 and 2006 election returns will now reflect the GST rebates it received. This is good news for taxpayers who should not be burdened with supporting political parties twice for the same expenditures.

The court victory for taxpayers made little news and there’s no word yet on whether the other political parties will be returning their doubled-dipping rebates. Another piece of Elections Canada news within that same week was that six Members of Parliament who ran for the Liberal Leadership in 2006 have missed the year-end deadline to repay loans made to their campaigns, even after Elections Canada granted them an 18-month extension to pay their debts.

The extensions for Stéphane Dion, Gerard Kennedy, Martha Hall-Findlay, Maurizio Bevilacqua, Joe Volpe and Hedy Fry came and went on December 31st. A Liberal Party spokesperson blamed the constant need to be prepared for an election in this minority Parliament for the former leadership hopefuls’ inability to to pay off their loans.

I’m left to wonder if this was a suggestion that the Liberals are choosing to focus fundraising efforts on future election campaigns rather than complying with the law. Regardless, the Conservative Party’s position remains unchanged. We simply want consistency in the application and interpretation of electoral law for all political parties and we will continue to make our case both in and out of the courts.

On another note, a typical Parliament is comprised of several sessions and therefore several Throne Speeches. Prorogation has previously occurred 104 times in order to launch a new Throne Speech in the same Parliament. On average, a session has lasted about 109 House of Commons sitting days…this last session of Canada’s 40th Parliament lasted 128 days.

To prorogue Parliament is routine and right now it’s important as Canada enters the next phase of our Economic Action Plan that maintains economic stimulus while working towards a return to balanced budgets as quickly as possible.