In response to a question in the House of Commons on April 16th, Mr. Van Loan stated: “In terms of our spending practices, I would like to quote Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch, who was on CTV today. He said, “The Conservatives did something in the last election that all parties have done for years. That’s legal, and parties can donate as much as they want to a local candidate and often do to candidates that don’t have a lot of local support and can’t raise money on their own. And then what happens is those candidates use some of that money to buy materials for national headquarters, like pamphlets, signs, platforms to hand out to people. That’s all–“
Group Calls on Federal Minister Peter Van Loan To Apologize for Lying About Democracy Watch’s Position on Conservatives’ Election Spending Scheme — Files Complaint Calling on Prime Minister Harper To Penalize Van Loan’s Blatant Dishonesty
And later the same day, also in response to a question, Mr. Van Loan stated:”Mr. Speaker, let us remember that this was a dispute initiated in the courts by the Conservative Party of Canada because of the unequal treatment of the Conservative Party compared with other parties, including the NDP, which engages in the transfer of funds between riding associations from its central party to assist in local targeted ridings. It has been going on for years. Duff Conacher said that on television. He said it is legal.”
In fact, this is half of what Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch, said on CTV’s Canada AM show on April 16th. He went on to say very clearly that he believes the Conservatives’ scheme violated the Canada Elections Act because the TV ads only contained a small-print message at the end mentioning the local Conservative candidate.
Duff Conacher also stated during the same Canada AM interview that he believes the court will rule that the Conservatives’ local candidates can only claim 10-20 percent of the TV ad cost as local campaign spending, and that therefore the Conservative Party will be found to have spent about $900,000 more on its national campaign than the legal election spending limit allowed under the Act.
“Peter Van Loan lied when he claimed that I said the Conservatives’ TV ad spending scheme during the last election was legal — in fact I said very clearly that I believe the scheme was illegal,” said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch.
“Mr. Van Loan owes me and Democracy Watch an apology for so blatantly abusing our good name in trying to excuse the Conservatives’ dangerously undemocratic activities.”
Democracy Watch also sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling on him to find Mr. Van Loan guilty of violating the “Ethical Guidelines for Public Office Holders” that require ministers to be honest and are contained in Annex G of “Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and Secretaries of State-2007”. Democracy Watch called on Prime Minister Harper to penalize Mr. Van Loan’s blatant dishonesty by removing him from either the position of Government House Leader or Minister of Democratic Reform.
Section V.1. “Ministerial Conduct” of the Guide states:
“Ministers and Secretaries of State must act with honesty and must uphold the highest ethical standards so that public confidence and trust in the integrity, objectivity and impartiality of government are maintained and enhanced. As public office holders, Ministers and Secretaries of State are subject to the Ethical Guidelines for Public Office Holders and Guidelines for the Political Activities of Public Office Holders, set out in Annexes G and H. Moreover, they have an obligation to perform their official duties and arrange their private affairs in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny. This obligation is not fully discharged merely by acting within the law.”
The first guideline in the Annex G Ethical Guidelines is as follows:
“Ethical Standards: Public office holders shall act with honesty and uphold the highest ethical standards so that public confidence and trust in the integrity, objectivity and impartiality of the government are conserved and enhanced.”
Prime Minister Harper writes in his “Message to Ministers and Secretaries of State” at the beginning of the Guide:
“I cannot stress enough that implementation of the Federal Accountability Act and associated Action Plan is not simply a matter of compliance. At least as important is our commitment to a culture of accountability in everything we do – that is, to uphold the highest standards of probity and ethical conduct in recognition of the fact that it is a privilege and a trust to participate in the process through which Canadians govern themselves.”
“Ministers and Secretaries of State must act with integrity. To ensure public trust and confidence, not only in our Government but in government generally, Ministers and Secretaries of State must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality. Both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny.”
As well, under section V “Standards of Conduct” of the Guide, is the following statement:
“Full accountability to Canadians is a central objective of the government. The Prime Minister holds Ministers and Secretaries of State to the highest standards of conduct for all their actions, including those that are not directly related to their official functions.”
Democracy Watch would have filed its complaint with the federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, but the Conservatives removed the rule requiring Ministers and other public office holders to be honest when they changed their ethics code last July into the new Conflict of Interest Act, and as a result complaints about such blatant dishonesty can no longer be filed with the Commissioner.
“If Prime Minister Harper does nothing to penalize Minister Van Loan for being dishonest, it will be yet another example showing clearly that he believes lying to advance the Conservative Party’s interests is fine with him, and that Cabinet ministers still can’t be held accountable for wrongdoing,” said Conacher.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179