Elections Canada has racked up a hefty legal bill as a result of the Conservatives, with matters related to the party in power eating up more than a third of its legal budget.
New figures tabled in Parliament Friday – the day the House of Commons voted no-confidence in the government – reveal Elections Canada has spent approximately $1.3-million on legal counsel and legal advice related to the Conservative Party since 2005.
That is more than a third of the $3-million spent overall by Elections Canada during that period on legal matters.
Legal services break down into two categories: the enforcement of the Canada Elections Act and areas not related to the enforcement of the Act. The government’s figures do not detail how much was spent in both categories related to the Conservatives. They also do not clarify how much of the $1.3-million is related to Elections Canada’s 2006 “in-and-out” investigation.
In February, Elections Canada charged four Conservatives who played senior roles in the 2006 campaign – including sitting senators Doug Finley and Irving Gerstein – with breaching the Elections Act. The allegations against the party officials include submitting false or misleading documents in an effort to get around spending limits for the national campaign.
NDP Leader Jack Layton is expected to raise questions Monday as to why the two senators have not been fired by the Conservatives, given they face possible jail time should they be found guilty of the allegations against them.
A week before the charges were laid, Mr. Finley used his position as a member of the Senate finance committee to suggest Elections Canada does a poor job of managing its budget.
During a review of the government’s Supplementary Estimates, the Tory Senator said Elections Canada seems to regularly ask for more money during the year to cover the cost of by-elections, even though such costs should be assumed every year.
“Since I have been involved in politics, there have been by-elections pretty well every single year. I know my party budgets accordingly, because I did the budgeting, and I am pretty sure that my friends on the other side of the table also recognize that there will be by-elections in any given year, anywhere from one to four normally,” he said in questioning government officials. “Why does Elections Canada seem incapable of doing this?”