April 28, 2008 by Joseph Krohn
The possibility of a federal election will be looming as MPs return to Ottawa on Monday after a week-long break. When MPs left the House of Commons on April 18, debate was just beginning to swirl about news of an RCMP raid on Conservative Party headquarters and allegations that the Tories had exceeded their campaign spending limit by more than $1 million during the 2006 election.
Some insiders say the scandal could be the incentive the Opposition Liberals need to pull the plug on the minority Conservative government. But on Sunday, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion disagreed with the notion that a spring election could be near, telling CTV News that he is not “clamouring for an election.”
Not all in his party agree. Garth Turner, a former Conservative who joined the Liberals in 2007, has said he will urge Dion to rethink his stance, given the election spending scandal. “Clearly, we need an election,” Turner wrote on his website on Thursday. “I will tell Mr. Dion this upon my return Monday.”
Elections Canada asked the RCMP to execute a search warrant on April 15 at the Conservative Party’s Ottawa offices. According to search warrants and a sworn affidavit, Elections Canada accuses the Conservatives of exceeding their campaign spending limit and making “false and misleading” statements in their financial returns. Elections Canada alleges the Conservatives engaged in a so-called “in-and-out” scheme — directing money to local candidates, who then transferred the funds back to the party to spend on more advertising for the national campaign. The elaborate plan involved the participation of 67 candidates, including four cabinet ministers, Elections Canada alleges.
None of the allegations has been proven in court and Prime Minister Stephen Harper has insisted his party followed the law in the last federal election.
Here is what the Conservaitve Party has to say to Mr. Dion:
“The former executive director of the Liberal Party’s Quebec wing, Benoit Corbeil, has been arrested and charged with fraud. The serious criminal charges Mr. Corbeil faces are part of the fallout of the Sponsorship Scandal where, under the watch of the previous Liberal government, millions of taxpayer dollars disappeared, with much of this money later turning up to fund the partisan activities of the Liberal Party itself. Mr. Corbeil’s arrest is a reminder to Canadians that the Liberal Party continues to operate under a dark ethical cloud. This does not stop the Liberal Party from chasing headlines and manufacturing outrage about the Conservative Government. If the Stéphane Dion Liberals were serious about wanting clean government, they would turn their attention to their own ranks. Mr. Dion has conceded that he is open to re-admitting key Sponsorship Scandal figure Marc-Yvan Côté into the Liberal Party. And the Stéphane Dion Liberals refuse to open their books and come clean about the missing Sponsorship Scandal money. The Stéphane Dion Liberals have no new ideas or policies, no plans for the future and no leadership. Now it is clearer than ever that they have no interest in providing answers about what really happened during one of the darkest chapters in Canadian political history. Stéphane Dion. Not a leader. Not worth the risk.“