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NDP Leader Jack Layton takes to the stage to deliver his keynote speech to the party's 50th anniversary convention in Vancouver on June 19, 2011. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
NDP Leader Jack Layton takes to the stage to deliver his keynote speech to the party's 50th anniversary convention in Vancouver on June 19, 2011. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Ethics watchdog clears NDP in convention dispute Add to ...

The parliamentary ethics watchdog has rejected a complaint lodged by the Conservatives over union advertising and sponsorship at the NDP's national convention.

The Tories had written Mary Dawson, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, over the summer, alleging that advertising by several unions helped defray the costs of the NDP convention last June. They also said the ads directly targeted party members.

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In short, the Tories said union sponsorship of different events, including a dinner with the late leader Jack Layton, constituted a gift or benefit to New Democrat parliamentarians.

But Ms. Dawson wrote in a letter Wednesday to Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel and Dean Del Mastro, parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, saying she was unable to get further evidence from the Conservatives on their allegations.

She did hear from Ms. Turmel and an NDP official, who said the unions paid market value for the advertisements and that all the transactions were undertaken through party headquarters.

“In my view, based on the information before me, the sponsorship described by Mr. Del Mastro involved a commercial exchange and was not a gift or benefit as defined in the code,” Ms. Dawson said.

“I have at this time no reasonable grounds to believe that any member of the NDP caucus has not complied with his or her obligations under the Code in connection with these sponsorships and, therefore, I will not pursue the matter further at this time.”

Mr. Del Mastro had also filed a complaint with Elections Canada, alleging the party had accepted what effectively were illegal donations from unions.

Earlier this month Marc Mayrand, the chief electoral officer, noted that he had also seen no evidence that a contribution had been made. He underlined that advertising and sponsorships are okay, as long as fair market value is paid and a legitimate clientele exists.

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