Elections watchdog clears New Democrats
OTTAWA - Elections Canada says New Democrat MPs did nothing wrong when they used their free parliamentary mailing privileges to send partisan flyers into several ridings involved in byelection campaigns last fall.
Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand says as long as the flyers were mailed before the byelections were called — as NDP Leader Tom Mulcair insists they were — they do not constitute an election expense.
Mulcair has acknowledged some flyers arrived in mailboxes after the byelections had been called.
Conservatives and Liberals have accused the NDP of improperly using taxpayer-funded parliamentary resources for overtly partisan purposes.
The all-party board of internal economy, which oversees the financial affairs of the House of Commons, is continuing to review that matter.
And it may yet rewrite the rules for bulk mailings by MPs into ridings where byelections are imminent.
The board last week asked Elections Canada to determine whether the flyers constituted a campaign expense — one that may have pushed the NDP over its spending limit for the byelections.
At issue were flyers sent by various New Democrat MPs into Toronto Centre, the Montreal riding of Bourassa and the Manitoba riding of Provencher.
The Conservatives have also complained of similar flyers arriving in a fourth riding, Manitoba's Brandon-Souris, where a byelection was held at the same time.
Mayrand responded to the internal economy board's request in a letter to Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer, who chairs the board.
"In the case of mailings sent by a member of Parliament, Elections Canada's long-standing position is that when a mailing is issued prior to the writ, or when the mailing is in transit when the election is called and the member is unable to stop the delivery, the mailing is not a regulated expense," Mayrand said.
The internal economy board is also examining the NDP's use of parliamentary resources to staff satellite offices in Quebec and Saskatchewan. The party says the offices are intended to help MPs with outreach to their constitutents.
However, the party has not explained why such an office would be needed in Saskatchewan, where there are no NDP MPs.