Two staffers from Conservative MP Shelly Glover's office returned part of their campaign salaries after Elections Canada asked for changes that would have put the campaign over its spending limit, documents show.
Records released from Elections Canada show Patricia Rondeau and Lisa Rowson had been paid salaries "based on [the] regular MP staff pay rate" for work they did for the Manitoba MP during the 2011 election campaign. A government of Canada directory says Rondeau is currently Glover's constituency assistant in Ottawa, and Rowson is currently her executive assistant.
Rowson had been paid $15.54 an hour for a total of $1,515.55 for the campaign. Rondeau received $25.64 an hour and $2,692.20 for the campaign.
The two women gave up some of those salaries in 2013 in the middle of a fight between Glover and Elections Canada over changes the agency ordered the campaign to make to its election return. Rowson returned $540.15 and Rondeau gave back $1,642.20.
Elections Canada wanted changes to the spending file that put Glover's campaign over her spending limit. It's illegal under the Canada Elections Act to spend more than the mandated limit.
Glover's campaign last week accepted the changes, which also included a change to the cost of her campaign signs.
She had filed for judicial review in the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench so that she wouldn't have to make the changes, but dropped the case last week.
Since accepting the changes, Glover's campaign is now $2,867.61 over its $82,086.99 limit. The maximum penalty for unknowingly going over the limit is a $1,000 fine and three months in jail. For knowingly breaking the limit, the maximum penalty is a $5,000 fine and, five years in prison.
'Overvalued and in fact overpaid'
Glover's campaign was told on March 15, 2013, that her election return — the file detailing the campaign's spending — needed changes that would increase the amount it had spent in 2011. Arthur Hamilton, a lawyer for the Conservative Party, responded the next month that it was possible "there are further calculations which should be considered" for the campaign.
On May 5, 2013, Hamilton wrote back to Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand, saying that the return had been corrected "to reflect the commercial value of the ... labour provided" by Rondeau, Rowson and another staffer, Myrrhanda Novak.
"The campaign, as an honest mistake of fact, overvalued and in fact overpaid for their services," Hamilton wrote.
Hamilton later rescinded the correction he'd made for Novak's salary in a letter to Mayrand dated May 21. But he said Rondeau and Rowson spent the campaign door-knocking for Glover, and said they had given the money to his law firm in trust.
"Ms. Rowson and Ms. Rondeau agree that they were overpaid compared to the commercial value of other individuals doing the same scope of work," Hamilton wrote, attaching an appendix showing campaign workers for the provincial PCs made $10 an hour in 2011.
Mayrand responded on May 24 with the staffers' initial contracts.
"You have also indicated that Ms. Rowson and Ms. Rondeau, who I understand were, and perhaps continue to be, employed at Ms. Glover's MP office, have agreed that the compensation was excessive and have in fact returned the overpayments to your office," Mayrand wrote.
"I should also note that your assertion that these two individuals were engaged in "door-knocking" does not agree with the attached employment contracts that were provided by the official agent."
Staffers took partial leave
Contracts provided to Elections Canada by the campaign show Rowson listed her duties as "media content, volunteer coordination, [election]-day" and Rondeau listed "office administrator, volunteer co-ordination, [election]-day." Neither listed door-knocking.
The file also shows Rondeau and Rowson filed paperwork with the House of Commons to go on leaves from their regular jobs in Glover's MP office. Political staffers aren't allowed to do campaign work on House of Commons salaries.
Rondeau and Rowson were both contracted to do 22 hours of work every week for Glover's re-election campaign. The paperwork filed with the House of Commons shows Rondeau dropped from 37.5 hours per week in Glover's MP office to 18 hours per week during the campaign, with the May 2 election day entirely on leave. Rowson dropped to 15 hours per week in the MP office and took full leave for "election day only."
Glover's updated return, which CBC viewed on Monday, shows the staffers paid at the original rate.
Conservative MPs Jeff Watson and James Bezan are also fighting Elections Canada over changes that would put them over their spending limits. Watson and Bezan have both filed in court to fight the agency.
The agency says it enforces spending limits and the rules on how expenses are calculated to provide a more even playing field for candidates.
Asked to explain why the staffers offered to return part of their salaries, Glover's spokeswoman referred CBC News to a June 18 statement on her website and said the staffers didn't want to be interviewed.
"I continue to work in good faith with Elections Canada to resolve this issue as I have always done," Glover's statement says.
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