EDMONTON — Conservative leadership contender Kevin O’Leary’s plan to use private planes while expensing only the price of a commercial ticket would be a breach of Elections Canada rules, The Huffington Post Canada has learned.
O’Leary told The Globe and Mail Monday that he has been using private aircraft to fly to more campaign events in a shorter period of time but isn’t charging the full cost of the travel to his campaign.
“Yeah, I do use private planes as I do in business, but I can’t charge that to the campaign. I can only charge the price of a ticket. Sometimes I have to be in four cities at once. Why wouldn’t I use a private plane?”
An O’Leary spokesperson told CTV News Tuesday that the candidate has only used a private aircraft once since jumping into the race last month. But O’Leary told CTV the same thing he told The Globe — he uses private planes.
"I make use of private planes all the time in business because I need to be sometimes [in] five cities in one day. That's exactly what's going on in this campaign — I'm jumping all over the place and occasionally I do use a private plane. But we are going by the rules," he said.
While the Conservative party has set a $5-million spending limit for the leadership race, spokesman Cory Hann told HuffPost the party abides by Elections Canada’s specific reporting requirements related to spending and expenses.
“Our rules state candidates shall follow the Elections Canada guidelines on that, as they’re the ones who have to file,” Hann said. He noted, however, that no candidate has filed expenses yet.
Leadership campaign expenses, including a contestant’s personal expenses incurred as an incidence of the race, “must be paid using campaign funds,” Elections Canada spokesman John Enright told HuffPost.
"If a private plane was used exclusively for the purpose of the leadership campaign, the entire cost of the use of the plane would be a leadership campaign expense."
These include, for example, the commercial value of donated property and services and travel and living expenses.
“In the case of a leadership contestant using a private plane, any incremental expenses incurred to use the private plane are leadership campaign expenses that must be paid using campaign funds or accepted as a non-monetary contribution subject to the contributor’s contribution limit,” Enright said.
“If a private plane was used exclusively for the purpose of the leadership campaign, the entire cost of the use of the plane would be a leadership campaign expense. However, if the trip was taken for other purposes and included some leadership campaign activities, only the incremental cost related to the leadership campaign stop would be a leadership campaign expense,” he said.
O’Leary’s press secretary, Ari Laskin, did not immediately return requests for comment.
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