Elections Canada vs. The Liberals: In and out! In and out! In and - no, looks like it's actually just "out".

Canadian Press reveals the latest Liberal funding woes:

OTTAWA–Elections Canada is scrutinizing almost $800,000 worth of expenses filed by Liberal candidates in last fall’s election campaign, The Canadian Press has learned.

The elections watchdog has asked the Liberal party to produce detailed invoices and documentation to prove that a mandatory riding services package was actually worth the $2,500 each candidate was required to pay for it .

Until Elections Canada is satisfied that the packages aren’t really a thinly-veiled donation to party headquarters, the candidates won’t receive their election expenses rebates, worth a total of about $3.5 million to the cash-hungry party. […]

Elections Canada spokesman John Enright said the agency is on track for distributing rebates, which it hopes to have completed by the end of August. The rate of reimbursements for last fall’s election is so far comparable to that after the 2006 campaign, he said.

As for the request for full documentation about the cost of the Liberals’ riding services package, Enright said that’s “not at all unusual.” And he said all parties were warned before and during the campaign that all expense claims, including transactions between local and central campaigns, would have to be supported with documentation.

“This information is required to ensure that all expenses are fully detailed and also to properly establish the commercial value of the transactions.”

Okay, first off, three cheers for Elections Canada for doing its job, and ITQ hopes this will finally put a stake through the heart of the persistent – and, frankly, downright pernicious – claim heard in certain Conservative quarters that the federal agency is swarming with Liberals and Liberal sympathizers. I’m sure that some of the more outspoken advocates of that particular conspiracy theory will be falling all over themselves to undo some of the damage that may have been done to the agency’s reputation for fairness and impartiality, not to mention the confidence that Canadians quite rightly have in their electoral system.

Secondly,  can we please – pretty, pretty please with sugar and a cherry on top – make a point of not referring to this as a “Liberal in-and-out scandal”? Because it just isn’t — I mean, it may turn out to be a “Liberal election financing scandal“,  but it has nothing to do with inning and outing — the money flowed one way, from local campaigns to the national party, ostensibly to pay for a “riding service package”, but which Elections Canada wants to ensure wasn’t “a thinly veiled donation” to the national campaign.

Which would make this  pretty much the exact opposite of what the Conservatives are accused of having done in 2006, when the party allegedly funneled national ad expenses through local campaigns in order to get around the spending limits. If the concerns expressed by Elections Canada turn out to be true in both cases, the Conservatives simply had too much money to spend on their national campaign in 2006; the 2008 Liberals, meanwhile, just didn’t have enough.

Which doesn’t make it better, of course — I mean, it’s still breaking the rules — but it’s just plain inaccurate to call it “in and out”; if the allegations are borne out, ITQ suggests the “Green Shift Shakedown” as an alternative, or perhaps “The Permanent $2500 Tax on Liberal Candidates”, but feel free to come up with your own in the comments.

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