03/12/2012 07:07 EDT | Updated 05/12/2012 05:12 EDT

Elections Canada Powers Broadened As Conservatives Join Opposition To Give Elections Watchdog New Bite


OTTAWA - Elections Canada will get new investigative powers to ensure political parties can prove their financial claims — providing the governing Conservatives back up their support for the move with real legislation.

The Tory majority joined to help unanimously pass a non-binding NDP motion Monday that will give the chief electoral officer the power to compel parties to give him documentary evidence, such as receipts.

The government had refused to agree to a similar request by the elections watchdog over the past two years, but reconsidered in the context of the public outcry over fraudulent election robocalls.

The Conservatives not only voted for the NDP motion — which calls for legislative changes within six months — but also supported an NDP amendment which makes the new powers for Elections Canada retroactive to previous campaigns.

The vote in the House of Commons was recorded as 283-0.

However the motion is not binding on the government, and New Democrats have been pressing the Conservative front bench for days to explicitly state on the record that they will honour their vote with binding legislation.

The Conservative cabinet, up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, have only said they support the motion but refuse to be pinned down on when or whether they'll back it up with action.

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