While most of you watch the World Cup, there is a nasty little spat breaking out between the Conservatives and just about everyone else over delegate fees for conventions and political contributions.
When Liberals pay $995 each to attend this fall’s leadership convention, they will get a tax receipt for part or all of that amount and it will be officially recognized as a political donation — meaning the donor’s name will be publicly released and that delegate fee will count towards the annual $1,000 contribution limit. Same thing with the NDP. Delegates will pay $195 to attend their convention in Quebec City this fall and will get a tax receipt and have it noted as an official contribution.
But the Conservatives do it different. When 2,900 paid around $600 to attend last spring’s Conservative policy convention in Montreal, no tax receipt was issued because the Conservatives say there was no political contribution as the convention was run on a cost-recovery basis. Hence there was no disclosure of donors.
Liberal Party national director Steve MacKinnon says: “That means Canadians don't know about millions of dollars in unreported donations to the Conservative party which goes to the heart of our election law, which goes to the heart of public disclosure, which goes to the heart of the accountability Mr. Harper pretends to care about.”
The NDP think the Conservatives aren’t playing by the rules and complained to Elections Canada and, apparently, Elections Canada listened.
Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley had this to say late Thursday:
The public has the right to know exactly what happened in this case.
The Chief Electoral Officer requests the Conservative Party of Canada to provide him with the necessary documents and supporting information to allow the public to know that the law has been respected.
The Tories, furious at what they see as a partisan intervention by an independent officer of Parliament, are taking it out on the Liberals — asking Canada’s tax authorities to look at the Liberal books.
June 30, 2006
Canada Revenue Agency
Enforcement and Investigation Section
To Whom it may concern:
Re: Improper Issuance of Political Contribution Tax Receipts
We wish to bring to your attention that the Liberal Party of Canada has publicly acknowledged that it has apparently been issuing political contribution tax receipts for 100% of the price of admission to Liberal Party functions where the ticket buyer receives significant personal benefits – for meals, drink, entertainment and the like. This information was conveyed yesterday to the media by the Executive Director of the Liberal Party of Canada, Steve MacKinnon.
As you are well aware, receipts for political contributions can confer significant tax benefits for the donor. It would therefore appear that the Liberal Party of Canada has been using Canadian taxpayers to subsidize its supporters to attend Liberal Party events.
We would therefore ask you to investigate the legitimacy of tax receipting practices by the Liberal Party of Canada.
Executive Director, Conservative Party of Canada
And if you really want to get geeky on this topic, the Canada Elections Act talks about contribution in sections 404 and 405 of the Act. Meanwhile, the helpful folks at Canada Revenue Agency put out an information circular in 2004 which addresses the issue of political contributions at fundraisers.