Friday, June 09, 2006

A continuing culture

So much for the Libs trying to clean up the party after the sponsorship scandal, as the CP reports that multiple Lib leadership candidates are using their publicly-funded MP offices for the leadership race:
Supporters of at least eight of the 11 leadership candidates have used MPs' offices on Parliament Hill to distribute partisan campaign material, according to e-mails obtained by The Canadian Press.

During parliamentary business hours, offices have churned out invitations on campaign letterhead to meet candidates, attend leadership launches, or get together with campaign staff.

One Liberal MP called the practice unethical and said it runs deeper than just e-mails.

"This is the tip of the iceberg," he said. "There are interns being used to do (campaign) work, there's the odd phone call to twist a colleague's arm.

"But that's not traceable."...

A spokeswoman for Elections Canada said MPs' staffers are ineligible to work on campaigns while being paid for their time from the public purse...

"If a member of an MP's staff engages in leadership campaign work for the MP or for any other leadership contestants during normal working hours, then a proportionate share of that person's salary . . . must be included as a leadership campaign expense," she said.

"The same applies to the use of the member's office facilities or supplies."
In fairness, an MP could theoretically comply with the Elections Canada requirements by tracking all use of the office and reimbursing the public purse for the difference. But given last week's report that leadership candidates appear to be anticipating that Elections Canada won't enforce provisions requiring repayment of candidate loans, it seems all too likely that the same type of attitude will prevail when it comes to the use of MP offices for the leadership race. And even if the plan is to try to fix matters later, it's hard to see how any advantages to using public resources outweigh the damaging perception that the Libs haven't changed a bit.

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