THE BLOG

Conservative Disregard for the Law

03/22/2013 11:52 EDT | Updated 05/22/2013 05:12 EDT

Peter Penashue's forced resignation from office over accepting 28 separate illegal contributions during the 2011 campaign that led the Conservative Party to repay $48,000 to the federal Receiver General is just the latest example of the low ethical standard the Harper Conservatives feel comfortable adhering to.

Bit by bit, we are starting to piece together how this powerful blue political machine has pulled all the dirty tricks in the book over the years, which ultimately resulted in their majority government.

But with questions lingering over several inappropriate and illegal manoeuvres in past elections, it's time voters question the legitimacy of this government.

As Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair stated in the House, "they never show respect for our institutions and they don't show respect for electoral laws in our country." Muclair is correct in his assessment, and this certainly isn't the first time the Conservatives have broken election rules in an effort to win seats.

It all started during the highly contested 2006 election with their infamous 'in and out' scandal -- a scheme of gaining additional income while avoiding limitations on campaign spending at the national level. Having reached their $18.3 million campaign spending limit, the party transferred $1.3 million dollars to local riding offices that had not yet reached their own campaign limits

Charges under the Canada Elections Act against senior campaign officials were dropped once the Conservatives plead guilty and were fined $230,198 in March of 2012 for their role in the scheme. More recently, details have emerged on the robocall scandal where voters in various ridings were misled about the locations of their voting booths in an effort to suppress them. With the national media spotlight on the file, a number of the calls were traced back to a computer in a Conservative campaign office in Guelph, ON.

This led voters in ridings across the country to come forward and share their own local robocall stories, which resulted in a series of protests last year in more than 20 cities against concerns over election fraud.

Considering it took years to resolve the in and out scandal, the final outcome on the wide spread robocall investigation will likely take even more time to complete.

And now we hear that Elections Canada has forced Mr. Penashue out of office for overspending during the 2011 election. To add insult to injury the government plans on scrapping the per vote subsidy, which is the most democratic form of financial political contribution. Instead, they want to finance political campaigns through their big corporate contacts as they have in Labrador and other ridings across the country -- opening the doors to even more irregularities and corruption during elections.

Given this worrisome pattern the Conservatives seem to be running with, one must wonder how many other political shenanigans happened during the last election and in how many ridings that Canadians still don't know about?

The reason we have an Elections Act is to offer a level playing field to all potential candidates who want to do an honourable thing by running for office and representing their communities. If the Conservatives can't respect the laws, what should our collective tolerance as a democratic nation be for the corrupt political machinery behind this government? We should have zero tolerance for it.

The government has let the nation down with its disregard for our democratic system.

If Harper has any respect for Canadians, he should as a baby step move swiftly to ban Mr. Penashue from running in the by election until his name is cleared and the investigation completed.

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