11/14/2011 03:55 EST | Updated 01/14/2012 05:12 EST

Jack Layton: NDP's Memorial Fund Violates Elections Act


OTTAWA - The federal NDP has acknowledged it broke the rules when it launched a Jack Layton memorial fundraising campaign on behalf of the Broadbent Institute.

The Canada Elections Act prohibits political parties from soliciting donations on behalf of any entity other than the party itself, one of its candidates, a leadership contestant or a district association.

The New Democrats started the online campaign after Layton died of cancer in August.

The party avoided court proceedings and potential fines by entering into a so-called "compliance agreement" with the commissioner of elections, William Corbett.

The party admitted it broke the rules, returned the money to all contributors and set up an alternative means of raising money for the left-leaning think-tank.

Corbett said that in letting the party off so easily, he took into account that it acknowledged and accepted responsibility for its breaches, co-operated with his office and took corrective action within days of starting the campaign.

The deal came just days after the federal Conservative party was ordered to pay fines totalling $52,000 after pleading guilty to several charges related to its so-called "in-and-out" election-financing scheme.

Charges against four Tory party officials were dropped in exchange for the guilty pleas. That prompted Conservative officials to claim a victory.

The two cases prompted testy exchanges in the House of Commons period.

New Democrat Pierre-Luc Dusseault said there's a double standard at work.

"For any other Canadian, the rules are clear: if one does the crime, one does the time," he said in the Commons. "However, if the person is a Conservative insider, the person does the crime and the Conservatives pay the fine. It is shameful.

Jack Harris, a Newfoundland New Democrat called the Tory claim of victory "contemptible.

"Plea bargaining and paying the maximum possible fines so that Conservative party operatives do not get thrown into prison is not vindication," he said.

But Tory MP Pierre Poilievre carefully read out the terms of the NDP deal with the elections commissioner.

"The contracting party in this Elections Canada document is the New Democratic Party of Canada," he said, to desk-thumping applause from the Tory side of the Commons.

He said he heard no NDP apology for the violation.

"It was the New Democratic Party that had to admit that it violated the act," he said.