Tuesday, December 26, 2006

CPC: Harper Broke the Law

The Cons have tried to quietly reverse their implausible position that convention fees couldn't be considered donations under the Canada Elections Act. And in the process, they've effectively admitted that Stephen Harper himself violated the Canada Elections Act:
Having been forced to count convention fees as donations, the report indicates the Conservative party then discovered three delegates - including Prime Minister Stephen Harper - had exceeded their $5,400 annual limit for political contributions. As a result, the party refunded $456 each to Harper and the other two delegates.
Just in case there's any doubt, the contribution limits within the Canada Elections Act apply to individuals attempting to make donations, as well as parties who receive them:
405. (1) No individual shall make contributions that exceed

(a) $5,000 in total in any calendar year to a particular registered party and its registered associations, nomination contestants and candidates;
The $5,000 number has changed due to an inflation adjustment, which accounts for the $5,400 current limit.

And the offence for breaching this section is as follows:
497(3) Every person is guilty of an offence who

(f.13) being an individual, wilfully contravenes subsection 405(1) (exceeding contribution limit);

500(5) Every person who is guilty of an offence under any of subsections 480(1) and (2), sections 481 to 483, subsections 484(3), 485(2), 486(3), 487(2), 488(2) and 489(3), section 490, subsections 491(3) and 492(2), section 494, subsections 495(5), 496(2) and 497(3), section 498 and subsection 499(2) is liable

(a) on summary conviction, to a fine of not more than $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than one year, or to both; or

(b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine of not more than $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years, or to both.
Note that the offence is taken seriously enough to be dual-procedure (giving the Crown to proceed by indictment, which in turn provides for penalties as high as the five years imprisonment provided for in s. 500(5)(b)). That said, it seems unlikely that any prosecutor would pursue that option for a one-time violation.

Regardless of what punishment Harper faces under the Canada Elections Act, though, it's the political outcome which seems to be more significant. It surely won't take long for Con MPs to be tested on their commitment to law and order, as Canadians see how quickly they look the other way when it's their leader who's acted illegally. And now that the Cons have admitted their wrongdoing, it looks like PMS will have the choice of either trying to fight against his own party in addition to Elections Canada to try to clear his name, or admitting his own offence and losing any remaining shred of credibility on the subject of clean and ethical government.

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