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Tories ask Elections Canada to investigate NDP

The Conservatives are asking Elections Canada to investigate whether the NDP broke political financing laws during its spring convention.

The Conservative party sent a letter to the chief electoral officer last week outlining its concerns.

The Tories say that signs were posted during the NDP’s policy convention last June that indicated unions were sponsoring various events.

The Canada Elections Act prohibits unions from making contributions of any kind in the Canadian political system.

“In the circumstances… it appears the NDP has received what the Commissioner of Elections Canada has deemed to be contributions in contravention of the Elections Act,” Conservative party lawyer Arthur Hamilton wrote Aug. 31.

“The Conservative Party of Canada would therefore request that your office take the steps it deems necessary to review this matter fully and identify any contributions which must be returned…”

Hamilton attached several photos taken of signs and flyers from the convention.

One of the events that included a union sponsorship was a dinner featuring late NDP leader Jack Layton and Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter. The sign for the event included the symbol for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

A flyer for another $300-per-ticket “intimate reception” with Layton featured the logo for the United Steelworkers union.

Heather Wilson, the NDP’s director of Fundraising and Membership for the NDP, advertisements and sponsorships at “fair market value” are allowed by law and Elections Canada is aware of the practice.

“This is a bit rich coming from the In-and-Out party,” Wilson said, referring to a longstanding battle between Elections Canada and the Tories over political financing rules.

“All rules and regulations have been followed by the NDP. And unlike the Conservatives, we stay within both the spirit and letter of the law.”

Earlier this year, four Conservative officials were charged with regulatory violations of the Canada Elections Act related to electoral overspending.

Under the so-called “In and Out” scheme, the party had transferred funds to dozens of riding associations and then directed them to send the money right back in order to pay for radio and TV advertising during the 2006 election.

Elections Canada argued the advertising was national in nature and resulted in the party exceeding its spending limits. The Conservatives disagree, and have been fighting Elections Canada in court. Earlier this year, the Federal Court of Appeals sided with the Commissioner of Canada Elections, and the Tories filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.