Ed Clark, CEO of TD Bank, is Ignatieff’s economic czar?

Bill Curry and Tara Perkins have the byline on a Globe story today that reports on the politics that are going back and forth between Ignatieff and the Conservatives over recent statements by Ed Clark, the CEO of TD bank regarding the deficit and raising taxes.

Here’s an excerpt,

Last week at a conference in Florida, TD Bank CEO Ed Clark said Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn’t listening to the overwhelming view of Canadian CEOs that tax increases are the best way to reduce a record deficit.

He told the conference that almost every person at a recent meeting of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives said “raise my taxes” to erase it.

The Conservatives then fired off an internal e-mail titled “Millionaire Ignatieff Economic Czar Calls for Higher Taxes.”

Mr. Ignatieff on Thursday demanded that the Prime Minister apologize to the senior banker. He said in a statement that the e-mail is the latest Conservative attack on non-partisan citizens who challenge the government’s direction, citing former deputy finance minister Scott Clark, former Nuclear Safety Commission president Linda Keen, Peter Tinsley, former Military Police Complaints Commission chair, and former RCMP complaints commissioner Paul Kennedy.

Where do the Conservatives get off labeling the CEO of TD bank an “Ignatieff economic czar”?

A review of Elections Canada financial contributions indicate that Edmund Clark gave $2000 to Ignatieff and $2000 to Rae during their runs for Liberal leadership in 2006. Clark has also given $10,857.56 to the Liberal Party since 2005. (and no others An Edmund Clark also gave a $1,100 to the Vaudreuil–Soulanges Conservative EDA in 2007).

It has been revealed that Clark had earned the nickname “Red Ed” for helping to craft the National Energy Program as an ADM in the Trudeau government in 1980. When Mulroney’s government was elected, Clark was sent walking and started his career on Bay street.

This is the first time Clark seems to have popped up in a political skirmish as reported by the mainstream press, so we’re still putting together the pieces of his partisan background.

Further, for names such as Amir Attaran and Errol Mendes which have been heavily bandied about as non-partisan experts for too long, let’s start providing some broader context shall we?

Have the Conservatives erred in labeling Clark as a died-in-the-wool Grit partisan? Digging a little deeper, we find that Clark’s full name is William Edmund Clark, and that “William E Clark” has donated roughly $11,000 to the Conservatives since 2005, whereas “Edmund Clark” (both names of the same postal code) has donated roughly $11,000 to the Liberal Party! Is Clark an equal opportunity donor to Grits and Tories but uses a more igconito name given name when donating to Tories? Inquiring minds would like to know! If true, then we cannot definitively say that Clark has acted as a Liberal agent recently despite his Ottawa tenure under Trudeau three decades ago. Are the Conservative right to label Clark Ignatieff’s czar? At this point, based solely upon donor data, we here at stephentaylor.ca cannot support this conclusion.

Is Red Ed still red? The Tories say yes, the Liberals say no.

Significance of this week’s in-and-out decision

On Monday, the federal court decided in favour of the Conservatives against Elections Canada when the regulator’s chief electoral officer (CEO) Marc Mayrand decided to withhold reimbursements to two candidates because they similar ads used by other candidates with the “tagline” of the ads changed.

Justice Martineau decided that Mayrand was wrong to do so and ordered Elections Canada to reimburse. This litigation only involved two candidates out of dozens because it was a test case for the Conservatives. It was decided Mayrand cannot withhold from all since the judge has decided in favour of the two. Paragraph 178 of the decision explicitly states this,

[178] For the reasons below, having considered the totality of the evidence on record, the Court finds that the claimed advertising expenses were actually incurred by the applicants. That said, the amounts reported by each applicant must be corrected to have the difference between the commercial value of the claimed advertising expenses and the amount actually invoiced by the Fund reported as a non-monetary contribution. Ultimately however, the Court finds that the impugned decisions are unreasonable and must be set aside.

Most significantly, this decision should deflate any investigation by Elections Canada into Conservative Party expenses regarding the in-and-out scheme.

Also significant, Martineau decided how it is that a campaign incurs an expense. The CEO and commissioner were of the opinion that the Conservative Regional Media Buy was a sham. The CEO had argued that it didn’t see a contract for the regional media buy and therefore costs were not incurred by the campaigns. However, as the judge indicated, incurring an expense simply means to take liability upon oneself, therefore no written contract would be required. Paragraphs 121-124 of the decision reflect this. Further, Martineau decided that,

“[124] Accordingly, the Court finds that the respondent, or Elections Canada’s representatives, erred in law in requiring that there be actual written contracts between the candidates or their official agents and the supplier of the advertising services that were provided in December 2005 and January 2006. Payment for these advertising services in January 2006, by the official agents of participating candidates, is proof that these services were duly authorized. Moreover, as illustrated below, the requirement to have actual written contracts appears to be contrary to Elections Canada’s and the CEO’s past practices with regard to RMBs.”

It appears that the CEO has misinterpreted the statute.

Furthermore, the court accepts evidence provided by the party that describes how expenses are incurred in paragraph 151 as it describes the Donald Affidavit,

[151] Moreover, the evidence on record, including the practices of other registered parties as set out in the exhibits to Geoff Donald’s affidavit (a political operations officer with the Conservative Party), illustrates that there is a presumption that a candidate has incurred an advertising expense if said expense has been paid from the candidate’s campaign account.

The Chief Electoral Officer changed the Elections Handbook in 2007 for candidates and official agents. The handbook is the CEO’s interpretation of the Elections Act distilled in a more readable form. Paragraph 142 of the decision describes this concept,

[142] Over the years, the CEO has published various handbooks that articulate his interpretation of the Act. Among these publications is the “Election Handbook for Candidates, their Official Agents and Auditors” (the handbook). While this handbook provides insight as to how the CEO and Elections Canada have understood certain provisions in the Act at various points in time, it is in no way binding on the Court. Nevertheless, from a practical point of view, candidates and their official agents are strongly advised by the CEO to seek independent legal counsel if they wish to depart from the interpretation adopted by the CEO in the handbook.

A key point of contention between the Conservative Party and Elections Canada was that the CEO changed the handbook in 2007 from the 2005-2006 version and applied his interpretation as a regulator of elections despite the fact that the underlying statute had not changed.

In 2005, during the election, advertising regional media buys conformed with the 2005-2006 version of the handbook. Without any change to the statute by parliament, the CEO changed the 2007 version of the handbook with respect to how valid candidate expenses for regional media buys were defined. The Conservative Party argued that the 2007 handbook guidelines were retroactively applied to the 2006 election though the 2005-2006 handbook described expenses differently. Paragraphs 144-147 recognition by the judge that a retroactive application of the “rules” was applied,

[144] Nevertheless, a reading of all the handbooks published by Elections Canada up to, but excluding, the most recent handbook issued in March 2007 (the 2007 handbook), clearly suggests that the CEO will treat as an election expense for the purpose of reimbursement, any cost incurred by a candidate’s campaign for the purchase of an ad that is used to promote both the candidate and its affiliated party.

[145] The fact that the same ad would have been used by the party to promote itself on a different occasion would not be considered a reason for refusing to certify such an expense.

[146] This liberal interpretation of section 407 is reflected in the different versions of the handbook published by Elections Canada over time. For example, the handbook issued in December 2005 (the 2005 handbook) provides:

Election advertising
Election advertising means the transmission to the public by any means during an election period of an advertising message that promotes or opposes a registered party of the election of a candidate, including one that takes a position of an issue with which a registered party or candidate is associated….

Identification of election advertising
All election advertising that promotes or opposes a registered political party or the election of a candidate, including taking position on an issue with which a registered party or candidate is associated, must indicate that it is authorized by the official agent of the candidate.
(Emphasis added.)

[147] Indeed, the handbooks have even provided for the possible situation of a candidate and a party agreeing to share an ad. According to the handbooks, if such a scenario arose, the CEO would review the basis for allocating the cost incurred by each, to verify that it was reasonable. As mentioned in the 2005 handbook:

…The following are examples of transfers:
[404.2(2), 404.2(3)]
…a proportion of expenses incurred to promote or oppose a candidate or a party. Elections Canada will accept the basis of allocation used by the official agent, provided that it is reasonable in the opinion of the Chief Electoral Officer, and provided that the auditor agrees that the allocation is reasonable and in keeping with this handbook.

Again, regarding the handbook, the judge remarks that the CEO’s interpretation of the Elections Act is just plain wrong. The interpretation of statute by the CEO and change in interpretation is not supported by Act passed by Parliament. Paragraphs, 130 and 131 describe this,

[130] The respondent submits in his written memorandum that the object and scheme of the Act require subsection 407(1) to be read disjunctively, resulting in the following definition:

407(1) An election expense includes any costs incurred, or nonmonetary contribution received, by a [ … ] candidate, to the extent that the property or service for which the costs was incurred, or the non-monetary contribution received, is used to directly promote or oppose […] a candidate during an election period.

(Emphasis added.)

[131] According to the respondent therefore, to be an election expense for a candidate, the election expense must be used to directly promote or oppose a candidate, and not a registered party or its leader. The Court does not accept the respondent’s disjunctive interpretation outlined above. A plain reading of subsection 407(1) does not authorize the Court to discard the words used by Parliament in enacting this provision. Rather, a plain reading favours the conjunctive interpretation that was found in material published by the CEO prior to the 2006 election. Namely, an election expense for a candidate can be one that exclusively promotes a candidate, or it can be one that directly promotes both a candidate and a registered party or its leader.

Speaking to party officials close to the issue, what I get from them is that they feel that the CEO is making up the rules as he goes along, interpreting changes to the statute when no such changes have been passed into law by Parliament.

If we look at the recent victory by the Conservative Party against Elections Canada in the GST double dip litigation, we can see a pattern of this behaviour according to my sources. Paragraphs 78 and 79 of the Conservative Party Fund v. Canada (Chief Electoral Officer) decision suggest this,

[78] There is no basis in the statute for finding that, in the circumstances of competing policy concerns that are both directed toward furthering the policy of a “level playing field” among political parties, the interpretation that gives effect to the policy of a “level playing field” in respect of a political party’s maximum expense limit under section 422 must take precedence.

[79] Accordingly, I conclude that there is no basis in the Act, or in the Harper decision, for the CEO’s position that the policy of a “level playing field” for all political parties in Canada mandates the CEO’s interpretation of the Act in the face of the plain wording of the Act and the other considerations set out above.

Two separate court hearings before two different courts have concluded that the Chief Electoral Officer’s interpretation of statute has been flat-out wrong. In fact because of this poor interpretation of statute, the CEO has been making up rules as he goes along. This faulty interpretation of statute has impeded the Conservative Party specifically.

Troubling is the position of Elections Canada in this entire ordeal. Their role as a regulator is to apply statute passed by the will of Parliament. If they were to appeal this decision or proceed with an investigation, the regulator would then enter the arena among the partisans. Elections Canada should be educated by the court’s decision and not move to disagree because it would reflect a divergent view from that defined by statute and clarified by the Federal Court this week.

For reference, here are the two decisions discussed in this post:
Martineau decision, Federal Court – In and Out

Wilton-Siegel decision, Superior Court of Justice – GST double dip

The Seinfeldian media

The latest installment of the “will there or won’t there be an election?” drama of As the Hill Turns, the Canadian Press reports that Quebec Liberal candidates at an election readiness workshop had their election “mug shots” done — these are the official photos that Elections Canada and the media will use to report on the election (and while these are Quebec Liberals, I say “mug shots” for lack of a more descriptive term).

Will they or won’t they? — that is the question that has the media scrambling to fill their columns and air-time. Today, I was on Montreal drive-time talk radio and despite mentioning that party leaders themselves ratchet up election timing rhetoric to fundraise and to fill nominations, we still chatted about the prospects of a fall election.  I fear that I didn’t play my role and let the audience down when I explained that all of this election talk is just the empty thrill of a cheap drama.  I explained that prior to the summer break, Michael Ignatieff had just six additional nominations filled beyond his caucus compliment.  Further, despite healthier second quarter fundraising numbers — buoyed largely by Liberal leadership convention fees — the Liberals still have a steep hill to climb when it comes to fundraising.  Party leaders (or their proxies) amp up imminent election talk to create a sense of urgency that compels people to give and to act.

As for those Quebec Liberal candidate photos that were snapped — indicating that we just be going for it soon — it’s pretty standard fare, I’m sorry to say.

Though I fear this will fuel even more election speculation, the Conservative candidates — all of them — had their election mug shots snapped at the Conservative training convention early last month.

A summer of communion wafers, G8 photo-ops and inuktitut spelling gaffes has professional flacks looking for something else, and instead of hopping on an expensive jet to cover news where its happening, most of the bubble-locked Ottawa media are in a standard holding pattern and doing their best as bit players in a show about nothing called When is the next election?

Because perhaps when those glorious days come, they’ll have something more to talk about.

Google Earth demo – 2008 General Election poll maps and results

For the past week or so, when I’ve had a spare moment in the office, I’ve been working on a mapping project involving Elections Canada data and the Google Earth KML standard.  For anyone that’s worked on a political campaign or in a Member’s office, poll maps are always close by and always useful for plotting strategy for the next election.  Elections Canada provides data for drawing these polls maps, but unfortunately this data is not available in a format or projection readable by Google Earth or Google Maps.

I’ve gone ahead and translated and reprojected (after crashing my computer a few dozen times) the geographical coordinates that dileaneate the approximate 60,000 polls that make up the 308 ridings.  I’ve written software that represents these data points as polygons in Google Earth and shades them by poll winner (party) or by party vote share by poll (Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Green or Bloc).  I’ve also included an option in the software to shade the map by voter turnout.  These maps have an obvious political purpose, however, addressing low voter turnout is a non-partisan interest shared by most.

I’ve been working on writing an API to make this sort of data available to developers through a few GET requests.  I’ll keep you updated.  If you’ve got any questions, please send me an email or put a comment in the comment section below.  Here’s the demo, in all the wondrous splendor of Youtube HD.


(click the “full screen” button for the best experience)

Warren Kinsella misfires

Our friend Warren Kinsella of the red team, calls me out as a hypocrite for blogging about Michael Ignatieff’s $0 record of donation to the Liberal Party of Canada in 2008, whereas Warren points out Elections Canada lists me as giving $0 to the CPC in 2008.

There are a couple of quick points I should make about this:
– I actually didn’t do this. I didn’t call out Ignatieff for his lack of donations to the Liberal Party. So I am being called a hypocrite for something I didn’t do!
– I did in fact donate to the Conservative Party in 2008. Warren, you don’t appreciate that cheques for less than $200 are not publicly disclosed by Elections Canada. I suppose that Warren thinks that folks that write cheques for less than $200 aren’t “putting their money where their mouth is”. I suppose Warren might say that only those that cut big cheques are allowed to have a voice!
– Warren also doesn’t appreciate the difference between movement and party. I work full time for the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, a integral organization in the conservative movement.
– I’ve never been paid $1 by the Conservative Party, whereas you are and have been paid by the Liberal Party for communications! Putting my money where my mouth is? The Liberal Party pays for your mouth!
– If we’re going to compare apples to apples here, you ask “What did they donate to the Conservative Party last year?”, I ask “What did you donate to the Liberal Party last year?” Elections Canada has you listed as $0 to the Liberal Party of Canada in 2008. (You gave to the Ignatieff leadership campaign)

You write,

Michael Ignatieff has donated through the Laurier Club in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Both Michael and his wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, have donated the maximum amount to the Michael Ignatieff campaign in 2009. And, in 2007, Zsuzsanna donated $1,000 to Michael’s riding and $1,000 to the Liberal Party.

First of all, the Laurier Club doesn’t mean anything in a legal sense to Elections Canada. To Liberals, it’s the max donor club. To Elections Canada, it could be called the “First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence… Club” and it would have the same legal standing. Anyway, donations to the “Laurier Club” are in fact donations to the Liberal Party. And, according to Elections Canada, Michael Ignatieff has donated $0 in 2008. So, either Michael Ignatieff has given $0, or he’s made his donations off-book (you say he’s given the max amount), or you’re mistaken and he’s given as many normal political donors do, with a $50 cheque here and a $75 cheque there. You really shouldn’t be hard on us regular folk, you with your top hat, monocle and deeds to all four railroads, both utilities and Pennsylvania avenue!

Michael Ignatieff taking illegal donations?

(The Liberal Party says the National Post got it wrong and they respond in the update)

That’s the conclusion one may come to if one reads Don Martin’s latest column in the National Post. However, it seems that Don doesn’t come upon the conclusion himself. The fundraising numbers for the last quarter of 2008 have come out and the story is the same, yet this provides fodder for political columnists since money is important in politics to build well-oiled political machines. The Conservatives are flush with cash rounding out 2008 with $21 million while the Liberals with about $6 million. Yesterday, I spoke with Jack Layton and the NDP leader was astonished that his party posted 90% of the Liberal total, though he sounded like he was chastizing the Liberals rather than bragging about his own party’s strength.

These particular paragraphs of Don Martin’s piece stand out,

The other glimmer of Liberal hope is political weaponry they have purchased from the Barack Obama campaign.

Specifically, they have purchased computer programs and donor-targeting technology at a discount from the friendly U. S. Democrats and plan to unleash hundreds of gigabytes at crafting a master list of donors while combing the country for new support.

It looks like the Liberals are starting to get their game in gear, or are they? Last summer, I met a member of Obama’s senior staff at a web 2.0 conference in New York City. The staffer told me that the Liberals had once contacted the campaign to adapt some of their fundraising capacity. The result? The Grits never followed up. According to Martin’s piece, Ignatieff’s team finally did and they got a discounted rate.

But it is this discounted rate which may pose a problem for the Liberal party.

What does the Elections Act say about discounts?

“commercial value” , in relation to property or a service, means the lowest amount charged at the time that it was provided for the same kind and quantity of property or service or for the same usage of property or money, by

(a) the person who provided it, if the person is in the business of providing that property or service; or

(b) another person who provides that property or service on a commercial basis in the area where it was provided, if the person who provided the property or service is not in that business.

“non-monetary contribution” means the commercial value of a service, other than volunteer labour, or of property or of the use of property or money to the extent that they are provided without charge or at less than their commercial value.

Ok, so the Democrats allegedly provided a non-monetary contribution because they sold computer programs to the Liberals at a discounted (less than commercial value) rate.

When an official agent receives a non-monetary contribution from a donor, the official agent must obtain complete documentation about the commercial value of the goods or services donated, and the name and address of the donor, so that the contribution may be (subject to its commercial value) reported in the Candidate’s Electoral Campaign Return (EC 20120) as a contribution and as an expense. “Gifts and other advantages” are reported separately in the Candidate’s Statement of Gifts or Other Advantages Received (EC 20053)

So, do the Liberals have to fill out some forms? No! Thankfully, they’ll save some time because the contributions themselves are ineligable.

404.(1) No person or entity other than an individual who is a citizen or permanent resident as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act shall make a contribution to a registered party, a registered association, a candidate, a leadership contestant or a nomination contestant.

The Liberals as a registered political party appear to be taking non-monetary contributions from foreigners to raise more money in Canada. If Don Martin’s account is true, the Liberals aren’t playing by the rules. This should raise some serious questions about the judgement of Michael Ignatieff.

Liberals receiving discounts from the Barack Obama campaign?

No, they can’t.

UPDATE: And they didn’t according to Liberal Party spokesman Daniel Lauzon. Daniel writes:

You should note that the Liberal Party has not, in fact, purchased software from the Obama campaign or any other supplier. Though we are currently exploring options for more powerful software – including products like those used by our friends to the south – we have not made a purchase, let alone at a discount.

The statement appears to stem from an interview granted yesterday, and I am in the process of clarifying this unfortunate misunderstanding.

I hope this clears things up. I appreciate your cooperation in clarifying this matter for your readers.

Is s.329 of the Elections Act quixotic?

Section 329 of the Elections Act reads,

“No person shall transmit the result or purported result of the vote in an electoral district to the public in another electoral district before the close of all of the polling stations in that other electoral district.”

The polls in Newfoundland and Labrador close at 8:30pm local time whereas those in BC close at 7pm. In reference to the Eastern time zone, those eastern polls close at 7pm and those polls on the west coast at 10pm. Therefore, it is technically illegal to broadcast results of any poll between 7pm and 10pm tonight though results should be available as early as 7:45pm.

In this age of new media, bloggers, facebookers and twitterers are expected to operate in the framework of an antiquated law. When this provision of the Elections Act was written, the intent of the law was to prevent television networks from broadcasting results in Newfoundland to British Columbia in order to prevent BC voters from having results before they cast their own ballots. Now that new media offers populist broadcasting to everyone with a mobile phone or a computer, how will Elections Canada enforce this provision of the Elections Act?

In my opinion, this section is a violation of free speech. Yes, I understand the reasoning behind it, yet I do believe that the law does not reflect reality in this age of self-broadcasting. Laws should be enforceable because when it is impossible to enforce a law, a law ceases to have effect. If the purpose behind the law is valid (to prevent “specially informed” voters), a more realistic method of achieving it is required. It is much more reasonable to close all polls at the same moment no matter the time zone.

What is to stop an Atlantic Canadian from updating her twitter status as to the result of her Newfoundland riding? Or the Prince Edward Islander from posting who is in the lead on his Facebook wall? Since the possible forums for national broadcast have gone from a limited three television networks to practically limitless social media outlets, this particular provision of the Elections Act is de facto unenforceable.

And who is responsible for the rebroadcasting of early results? Do I shut down Blogging Tories for three hours this evening because a blogger whose RSS feed I aggregate there may put me in violation of the Act? Is the situation similar for Google Reader and iGoogle which both act as an RSS reader? More broadly, will Google shut down its Blogger site to Canadian IP addresses? Will Twitter face sanction because a Canadian might convey information to another Canadian through its American-hosted service?

Indeed, the law does not reflect reality and must be changed. What remains to be seen is whether change will come from mass social media violation of s.329 or through the legislative process.

Liberals rip down Conservative signs with a blessing from Elections Canada

This campaign has seen a lot of things, from MPs using office budgets to advertise during the writ to past blogs of present candidates coming back to haunt parties that have not properly conducted the vetting process. But this story, as reported by the Charlottetown Guardian is perhaps the one to top.

Conservative candidate Tom DeBlois posted signs throughout his riding advising constituents to “say no” to Dion’s carbon tax. These signs weren’t the standard blue with the standard Conservative logo but they were authorized by the official agent for Tom DeBlois.

Liberals, infuriated by opposition to their leader’s carbon tax, or perhaps just simply frustrated the plan isn’t going over as well as Al Gore’s private jet on the way to another Inconvenient presentation, drove throughout the riding and tore down the signs.

If this sounds like the standard campaign dirty tricks, read on. There’s an interesting twist. Turns out that Elections Canada actually authorized the take-down of the signs. Even if the signs were illegal, why did Elections Canada outsource it’s muscle to the Liberal Party? With pre-election suggestions by the Conservatives of Elections Canada working hand-in-glove with the Liberal Party, one would presume Elections Canada would be more careful and do better to try and dispel this allegation. The problem for the Liberals, and for Elections Canada in particular, the signs are completely legal and the subjective arbiter of elections fails to secure the democratic process from abuse once again and in this particular case they enabled it.

Elections Canada has admitted it was wrong to have the signs removed. The executive director of the Liberal Party has apologized.

While we’re on the topic of signs, let’s bring up some suspicious advertising that Elections Canada should take a look into. Of course, as Conservatives we don’t expect them to give a green light to our (or rather their) enforcement division.


Stapled to municipal sign


Stapled to utility pole


(from Guelph) Authorized by an official agent? Who knows.

Consider the stark difference in how Elections Canada enforces its rules.

1) In this case here, Liberals complain about legal signs, Elections Canada authorizes the Liberals to take them down.

2) Liberal MP Anthony Rota buys an identifying himself as an MP and the ad runs during the writ period unauthorized by his official agent. Conservatives complain but Elections Canada declares the ad legal.

3) Liberals provide advertising for a corporation on their campaign plane. We still haven’t heard from Elections Canada if this was done for free or whether other considerations were involved.

4) Finally, an NDP supporter puts an NDP sign in their rented apartment window, the landlord threatens eviction and Elections Canada washes their hands of the matter.

Elections Canada takes up arms, risks losing the war for us all

I admit, I have an abnormal obsession with politics, and as I’ve reassured some of my concerned friends during these past weeks: this is the call to battle for political geeks and if I’m my Blackberry becomes even more of an extension of my thumbs, do not worry, I will soon emerge to my “normal” state of following politics for only a few hours a day rather than full-time.

What is at the root of my attraction to politics? It’s a love of liberty, of this country and a love of the democratic system which undergirds it. The wisdom of the people and power and rights conferred to them — not by a constitution, Charter or any other political derivation, but from their very birthright as free persons — is at the core of the concept which defines our understanding of governance.

Election is war. In fact, battling factions called parties wage campaigns carefully considered from their war-rooms complete with psy-ops and black-ops, while pollsters provide reconnaissance for planners in the map room who send their lieutenants on tour. Foot soldiers are marshalled to the front lines by local commanders to knock on doors, make calls and at times good coffee. Communications officials are on the horn spinning their stories, boosting morale and deploying propaganda over enemy territory.

Some say that all is fair in love and war but in this war, there are rules. In a war for democracy — certainly a cause worth fighting for — all soldiers should fight fair lest something greater than their campaign is lost.

Elections Canada is the arbiter of the rules of electoral war. The agency, which could have been set up in The Hague, surveys the battlefield, tends to the wounded and at times runs its own carefully calculated raids. Elections Canada keeps civilians out of harm’s way and unlawful third party combatants at bay.

I have spent some time during this campaign pointing out various missteps and technical infractions of unfriendly parties in order to do my part to ensure that the battles fought during this campaign are fair and that the rules of combat are equally enforced. However, what is to be done when those that enforce the rules are ignorant of them?

In a spirit of a temporary armistice to protect the process and its ends that we fight for — no matter our stripe — from the protectors of this process themselves, I must call into question the occurrences reported in this dispatch from the field,

Landlords can order tenants to remove signs supporting federal election candidates, Elections Canada said Tuesday, after an Edmonton woman told CBC News she was threatened with eviction if she didn’t remove her sign.

Marilyn Dumont said she received a letter from her landlord saying she would be evicted within 14 days if she didn’t remove the sign from her apartment window by Wednesday.

“What I have is a signed letter from the landlord saying that I need to take the sign down and that we’re not allowed to post signs inside or outside of the premises,” she said.

The sign was for Linda Duncan, who is running for the NDP in Edmonton-Strathcona.

In Dumont’s lease, there is a prohibition against placing advertisements in apartment windows.

“Yes I do rent a space. And yes I did sign a lease that says, you know, I couldn’t put signs up for advertising. But I don’t feel this is advertising. It’s an election and it seems to me my democratic right to be able to express my opinion,” she said.

CBC could not reach Dumont’s landlord for comment.

But a spokeswoman for Elections Canada said while the agency has guidelines for the placement of signs on public land, it has no rules and takes no position about signage on private property, because its an issue between a landlord and a tenant.

“It’s a legal thing and has nothing to do with Elections Canada. It’s up to the tenant and the landlord to come to an agreement and follow up,” said Marie-France Kenny of Elections Canada in Alberta.

However, Elections Canada’s own rules state:

322. (1) No landlord or person acting on their behalf may prohibit a tenant from displaying election advertising posters on the premises to which the lease relates and no condominium corporation or any of its agents may prohibit the owner of a condominium unit from displaying election advertising posters on the premises of his or her unit.

Elections Canada should enforce the rules of this election fairly, no matter the fighting party. For if the rights that our troops fight to protect are victims of the process, all of us have lost the war.

That carbonzero logo raises some questions

Here’s a picture of Liberal leader Stephane Dion’s plane:

Allow me to draw your attention to the “carbonzero” logo that is displayed on the fuselage.

What is carbonzero?

Carbonzero is a company that provides carbon offsets. They were commissioned by the Liberals to provide offsets for that party’s travel during the campaign so that the Liberal could say they are “carbon neutral” during the election.

Here’s an information sheet provided by Elections Canada to reflect their interpretation of the Elections Act when it comes to “The Purchase of Advertising Space at Political Events”.

I’d like to highlight sections 6, 9, 11, 13 which read:

6. Corporations and other groups or associations sometimes offer to purchase “visibility” or advertisement space at political conventions or fundraising events. They may also offer to provide certain goods or services to attendees of these events.

9. Accordingly, when a corporation purchases advertising space at a political event, the political entity that sells it must be able to establish that the amount paid by the corporation represents the commercial value for such advertising (that is, the lowest price someone who is in the business of providing advertising would charge for this service in the area where it was provided).

11. Similarly, if the advertising space to be purchased constitutes banner space at a political event, the commercial value would be the lowest rate charged for equivalent visibility of commercial advertising placement in public areas such as bus shelters, billboards, etc.

13. The political entity must also be able to demonstrate that attendees of the event represent a market for the purchaser of advertising space. If this is not the case, the transaction would constitute a contribution.

Why is this law in place? Suppose I was a political party and my candidate was giving a speech. Suppose company X wants to advertise at my event by putting up a banner. Company X figures this is worth $50,000 and hands me a bag of cash. Elections Canada would raise a red flag on this practice. Did company X really receive $50,000 worth of advertising. If not, are they circumventing the corporate donations limit?

Back to “Profess-air” (the nickname of Dion’s campaign plane) and this election. I would argue that this election campaign constitutes a political event and I’d suggest that one of three scenarios exists here.

a) Carbonzero paid the Liberal Party to put their logo on the Liberal campaign plane.

or

b) Because Carbonzero reflects positively on the campaign and makes the point that the Liberals are carbon-neutral, the Liberals put the logo on their plane for free.

or

c) The Liberal Party paid Carbonzero to put their logo on their campaign plane.

The question is: who receives value for the display of the Carbonzero logo on the Liberal campaign plane and how is this value determined?

If the display of the Carbonzero logo is valuable to the Liberals, did they pay fair market value for its display? This may go above and beyond what the Liberals paid for carbon credits. If they didn’t, it may be argued that the difference represents a corporate donation.

If the display of the Carbonzero logo is valuable to Carbonzero, did Carbonzero pay fair market value to the Liberals for advertising their company on the Liberal plane and if not, does this reflect a corporate donation?

In my opinion, it’s best for political parties to stay away from sponsorship opportunities during elections because it is very difficult to determine the value of the market (the electorate, the news media?) and it is tricky to measure which party to the sponsorship agreement benefits and to what degree. Of course, this is possible to determine in everyday real-world scenarios, but this is one that is governed by Elections Canada.