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Ex-Chief Electoral Officer: There was no oversight on secret PMO fund

The former head of Elections Canada says the agency had no authority to probe the PMO's secret fund and cannot probe the $90,172 cheque from former chief of staff Nigel Wright to former Conservative Senator Mike Duffy. The secret fund was first revealed by CBC but within 18 hours after acknowledging its existence, the Conservatives launched a sharp attack claiming it never existed and the CBC committed "shotty" journalism.

Former Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley said Elections Canada has absolutely no way of knowing the financial status of political parties in non-writ periods.

"There is nothing that Elections Canada imposes on political parties concerning their expenditures between elections," Kingsley says.

The Conservatives maintain they had nothing to do with the $90,172 deal which ultimately led to the whitewashing of the initial Deloitte Audit. 

The only oversight Elections Canada sees of political parties is an annual report which breaks down the year's spending and incomes. Political parties use general and vague descriptions as classifications and "There is no verification whatsoever."

Last month, current Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand told a Commons committee, "I don't have a way of verifying specific expenditures. I don't have access to receipts or invoices."

However, Conservative MP Chris Alexander who defended the Conservatives and initially admitted there was a secret PMO fund for partisan spending said Elections Canada limits party spending.

"There are absolutely rules," Alexander said. "It has to be an event that relates to party activities. Elections Canada has very meticulous, very detailed rules."

However, Kingsley says that isn't true.

"There are no rules of any kind," Kingsley says. "There is nothing in the Canada Elections Act that prevents a party from spending money as it wishes."

We've seen this with the relentless Conservative ad campaigns in non-writ periods that aim to complete their campaigning before any writ is dropped.

It is time the government push for stricter rules on party finances outside writ periods. One solution would be to have election spending limits imposed outside of the writ period and redefined to span from the end of one campaign to the end of the next. What do you think of the untouchable secret PMO fund? Was Duffy's payout directly or indirectly drawn from that account? Share this article and join the discussion and let us know what you think: Facebook, Twitter, Google+.

Stephen Harper on Integrity: The Duffy Affair

What started as a $90,172 claim of inappropriate expenses seen as an outrage as part of abusive senate behaviour quickly escalated to a scandal with many more questions than answers. Get up to date with the full timeline.
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