POLITICS
10/17/2011 01:12 EDT | Updated 12/17/2011 05:12 EST

Jack Layton Donations: NDP Refunds Money As Family Faces Scrutiny Over Air Canada Upgrades

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The NDP and Jack Layton's family are facing scrutiny over the period following the late-leader's death.

The NDP is returning money donated in memory of Jack Layton amid news members of his family accepted free seat upgrades on Air Canada for his funeral.

On Friday, an email was sent to those who made in memoriam donations informing them the funds were being refunded, according to a piece on Ottawa Citizen reporter Glen McGregor's blog.

The party initially ran afoul of the Elections Act by telling donors they would receive political tax credits for donations made through the NDP to the nascent Broadbent Institute, a left-wing think tank. The NDP encouraged the donations rather than sending flowers.

The Election Act makes it illegal to use a political party's tax status to solicit donations for another entity.

The NDP then moved to have the donations funneled to the Broadbent Institute through another charitable foundation, the Douglas-Coldwell Foundation. However, that plan seems to have encountered difficulties as well. According to a letter sent by the party's national director, Chantal Vallerand, the NDP is refunding the initial donations and asking those who gave to re-donate directly through Douglas-Coldwell (read the full letter here). The donation link is available on the NDP website.

The moves comes as the NDP and Layton's family are facing examination over Air Canada seat upgrades for the funeral.

NDP officials asked Air Canada for the upgrades, according to The Globe and Mail. It remains unclear whether the upgrades were exclusively for family or whether staff were included as well.

This news comes after the NDP asked the Ethics Commissioner to investigate an allegation that Labour Minister Lisa Raitt accepted a free seat upgrade from Air Canada while managing the labour dispute between the airline and its flight attendants. Raitt and Air Canada both deny there was a free upgrade.

The NDP has faced criticism that it has used Layton's death for political gain. The funeral had the tone of a political rally, a move criticized in light of the fact it was paid for with taxpayers' dollars.

During the Ontario election campaign, NDP leader Andrea Horwath moved to bar candidates from invoking Layton's name while campaigning after some hopefuls incorporated references to his death into automated phone messages.

The party has also faced criticism for asking for postal codes from those signing the online condolence book for Layton. The argument being that the party was using his death in an attempt to expand its database.