Complaint of Garth Turner’s trust fund forwarded to Elections Canada

About a year ago, I wrote of Liberal MP Garth Turner collecting money in a unconventional way. Garth Turner was asking contributers via his website to donate to “Garth Turner Campaign, in trust”. We learned then that this may run afoul of the Elections Act because of a recent Federal Accountability Act amendment.

Here is what Turner asked of his website visitors:

Two days ago, I learned from Will Stewart, President of the Conservative Halton electoral district association, that a resident of Halton lodged an official complaint with Elections Canada via registered mail regarding Turner’s request for money to be donated in a trust fund.

Regarding the incident, here’s what I wrote on October 28, 2007,

From Elections Canada, we learn that:

…as of June 12, 2007, as a result of changes made by s. 44(2) of the Federal Accountability Act to s. 404.2 of the Canada Elections Act, transfers of trust funds to candidates from registered parties and registered associations will be prohibited.

It seems that when an election is called, the federal accountability act prohibits the transfer of money from an electoral district association’s or party’s trust fund to a candidate. If this is so, who holds this money in trust? Is it “Garth Turner campaign” (whatever that entity is) or “Garth Turner”? If the account is to be used to elect Garth Turner, it would be useless for the EDA to hold it because of the new changes governed by the FAA. But yet, outside of an election, all funds must be donated to the EDA.

furthermore (from Elections Canada),

A contribution made from a trust fund is treated as a contribution from the trustee.

When a registered party, registered association, candidate, leadership contestant or nomination contestant receives a contribution paid out of funds held in trust, the trustee is reported as the contributor and the contribution counts towards his or her contribution limit.

Therefore, only a trustee who is an individual may make a contribution from a trust fund.

So, Garth is encouraging people to write cheques to “Garth Turner campaign, in trust”. What does this mean? As is the general understanding, and confirmed by Elections Canada, funds held in trust become the property of the trustee. Contributions from trust funds are treated as contributions from the trustee. So, if a candidate were to able to transfer money out of a trust fund to fund their campaign, the maximum they could withdraw would be the maximum contribution amount allowable by an individual (ie. the trustee) per year, which is $1,100. If Garth collects $50,000 into a trust fund from donors, it becomes the property of that trust’s trustee and subsequently, that trustee can only give $1,100. But, can money even be transferred out of a trust (with many contributors) for the purpose of an election campaign?

Trusts are dubious because of the exchanging of money through an intermediary (the trust/trustee). For example, if I wanted to give a political party $100, I couldn’t give it to my friend to donate that money for me. My friend would have to do that in his name because he is the one handing over the money. Again, the nature of trusts is that the money held in trust becomes the property of the trustee and therefore contributing from that trust becomes a donation from the trustee and not the variety of individuals who gave money to put into that trust.

But, as we read on, this becomes clearer. Elections Canada states that indirect contributions are prohibited,

An individual may not collect funds from others in a trust for the purpose of making contributions to registered parties, their associations, candidates, leadership contestants or nomination contestants. (s. 405.3 Canada Elections Act)

This is because individuals cannot make contributions from funds given to them by others for the purpose of making contributions. This rule cannot be avoided by the individual collecting funds in a trust from which to make contributions.

The Liberals have been going on and on about money transfers from parties to candidates and from candidates to parties. Money transfers of this sort happen all of the time. However, according to section 404.2(2.2) of the Elections Act, this may not occur with respect to trusts.

A transfer of funds, other than trust funds, is permitted and is not a contribution for the purposes of this Act if it is

(a) from a registered party to a candidate endorsed by the party; or

(b) from a registered association to a candidate endorsed by the party with which the association is affiliated.

and according to Elections Canada,

A registered party, registered association, candidate, leadership contestant or nomination contestant may not avoid Canada Elections Act controls by collecting contributions directly in a trust fund.

Any such contributions remain contributions. They must be accepted by the relevant agent, put into the campaign account (*** ie. during a campaign, for a candidate as recognized by a returning officer during a writ period — Stephen ***) (if received by a candidate, leadership or nomination contestant) and reported as contributions.

Outside of a campaign, donations for the purpose of eventually electing somebody must be made to the Electoral District Association.

Why is Garth collecting money from his supporters into a trust?

Who owns (and therefore controls) the money in that trust since an EDA cannot transfer money from a trust to a candidate during a campaign?

How would a candidate expect to get more than $1,100 a year out of such a trust?

If a trust is made up of pooled money from a number of people, how can money be transferred to a campaign since indirect contributions are prohibited?

If during a writ period, only a campaign can issue tax receipts and if outside of a campaign, only an EDA can issue tax receipts, how can “Garth Turner campaign” hope to give tax receipts to donors as his website claims?

How much money has Garth Turner collected in trust?

Here’s what Garth had to say about this:

Mr. Taylor has written a blog of copious length after looking at my fund-raising web site (www.garthturner.com). He saw that in addition to credit card donations, I was accepting cheques, made payable to “Garth Turner Campaign, in Trust.” From that he made the assumption (since he did not call me) that I had opened a trust account, and wondered then how the new election financing rules would allow donors to get a tax receipt. I won’t trouble you with all the grinding details, since you can read them on Mr. Taylor’s blogette for yourself (www.stephentaylor.ca). But you can see from his effort on this that he thinks it’s a big deal. Maybe it is. Beats me.

…I did not think to change the wording on my website from the Garth Turner campaign to the Halton Liberal Association, so cheque-writers would face no delays or hassles in getting tax receipts. Whoops. Screw up. Enter Stephen Taylor and his “clean government” buddies to shoot my butt off.

So, what have I learned in the last twelve hours?

First, the website wording was changed. I learned not to ignore that. Second, I spent lots of time talking to a flinty-eyed party regulatory guy about campaign financing. I learned I do not want to be a regulatory guy. Third, I learned that even if the Lib riding association was dysfunctional, I had to turn over the meager amount of money in my indie campaign account. Fourth, I learned this will take some days, weeks maybe, to sort out since every donation of five or ten bucks, made over PayPay, by credit card, or cheque, will have to be reviewed. After all, the guardians of Clean Government are out to bury me &emdash; once they dig themselves out. I have learned there’s a big controversy raging about whether or not political candidates can even raise money online through portals like PayPal. It’s the Internet thing, you know, the devil’s invention.

And I’ve learned I am apparently not dead yet.

For that, Mr. Taylor, I thank you.

Turnergate synopsis

It all started quite innocently enough. CPAC, the Canadian parliamentary channel which provides an incredible service to Canadians by providing a unbiased tracking of politicians on the campaign trail, was trailing Progressive Conservative-turned-broadcaster-turned-Conservative-turned-Independent-turned-Green tease-turned-Liberal MP Garth Turner door-to-door as part of a hustings profile they were making for the riding of Halton.

As I’ve alluded above, Turner is a controversial figure who has been forced to shop around for a party that would take him after – the governing Conservatives allege – he violated caucus confidentiality by posting private discussions on his blog. There is no doubt that Turner and his Halton seat are being specially targeted for re-capture by the Tories.

As part of the CPAC profile, reporter Martin Stringer followed Turner door-to-door to get a snapshot of the typical candidate experience. The report was produced, taped, cut and aired on CPAC a short while later. As it aired, conservative blogger Matt McGuire snipped the video from CPAC showing Turner trying to sell Dion’s Green Shift to a constituent. McGuire wanted to make the point that Turner lacked confidence in pushing the plan.

An eagle-eyed viewer of this video noticed something else, however. The random constituent that Turner was door-knocking was the son of Esther Shaye, Garth Turner’s right hand and current campaign manager. The viewer emailed popular Conservative blogger Steve Janke and Janke got to work.

This caused quite a stir in the blogosphere and enraged the good people of CPAC. This supposed random door-knocker was the “last person” CPAC wanted to film because they wanted to show a typical constituent, not someone with a direct or indirect involvement with the campaign. CPAC’s reputation was on the line. The cable network prides itself on telling the story as straight as it can and here was this photo-op that it presented as non-staged. Looking for answers, CPAC’s anchor Peter van Dusen caught up with Turner on the phone while he was campaigning and pressed him to explain himself and why his campaign set up CPAC.  Turner was taken by surprise and squirmed during the call as he was prompted to explain why his campaign offered a family member rather than a random sample for CPAC to film.

CBC reporter Susan Ormiston is tracking how the internet is shaping this election campaign and to her this story had relevance since Steve Janke busted Turner’s campaign.  Ormiston produced a story for The National and, to her credit, provided some balance not immediately apparent in the Conservative blogosphere: the Halton Conservative candidate took CPAC to a friend’s store.  As Garth Turner tried to explain himself on his blog he lashed out at Ormiston and the process by which she took to produce the story.  Ormiston hit back at Turner expressing that his accounting of the story’s production wasn’t accurate.

This story, of course, goes to credibility.  In the age of the blogosphere and pushback on unfair reporting, the mainstream media is now very sensitive to demands that their reports are unbiased and fair.  CPAC alleges that Turner manipulated what was supposed to be a typical day in the life of a candidate.  CBC alleges that Turner’s accounting of their process was untruthful.  If nothing else, this shows the MSM’s intent on showing their effort to fulfill their new contract the blogosphere to go that extra step to report accurately.  However, as far as credibility goes, Turner has run into trouble before with those that have cried foul to his recounting of events.  If he is re-elected, as the Canadian public we may have more opportunities of witnessing such incidents as they unfold on the national stage and within the blogosphere.

Garth Turner gets caught

CPAC is probably my favourite place to turn for election coverage on television. They do a top job and it is virtually impossible to determine a particular bias towards one ideology or another. The cable channel prides itself on being a straight shooter and when Garth Turner’s campaign seemed to pull a dirty trick on them as revealed by Steve Janke, Peter van Dusen made sure to try to set the record straight.

Garth Turner is of course the Conservative-turned-Independent-turned-Green teaser-turned-Liberal that is never more than a few steps away from controversy. Here is the exchange from CPAC.

First, anchor Peter van Dusen interviews CPAC reporter Martin Stringer on being deceived by Turner’s campaign. Then, so that Garth can explain his actions, van Dusen catches the Liberal MP on the phone while he’s doorknocking and an awkward Turner tries to find excuses.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Garth has been caught playing outside of the truth. Flashback to my exposing of Turner fibbing about violating caucus confidentiality and the reason why he’s now trying to push a carbon tax for Stephane Dion.

Stephane Dion channeling Barack Obama?

Take a look at the following ten-percenter that landed in mailboxes in Burlington ON (from a PEI MP printed on dead trees! Someone call Garth).

Is Stephane Dion trying to channel the success of Barack Obama’s campaign? Hope and change and change and hope.

Now, all Dion has to do is work on adapting Obama’s inspirational speaking style and then he’ll win a landslide majority and get back into power “as soon as possible”.

At least he’s hopeful.

Garth Turner, legend of the elected Liberal Member of Parliament

Canadian Press in the Globe and Mail:

Mr. Turner, 59, was a Conservative when he was first elected to the Commons in 1988. He served briefly as revenue minister and ran unsuccessfully for the Tory leadership in 1993 and lost in the general election that year.

He was re-elected as a Liberal in 2006.

I’m sorry, but that’s just not so!

Regular readers of political news will remember that Garth was unceremoniously booted from the Conservative Party caucus for breaching caucus confidentiality (and for not being a team player in general). He then mused on joining the Green Party making the Greens somewhat excited and likely anxious at the same time. He polled his constituents on their preferred path for their maverick MP and staying to this apt descriptor, ignored their advice and joined the Liberal caucus. Turner has never been re-elected as a Liberal MP even though he said that the floor-crossing David Emerson should have gone back to his constituents to be re-elected as a Conservative.

“Anyone who crosses the floor ultimately should go back to the people for ratification and I stick by it and hopefully in this case that will happen,” — Garth Turner as a Conservative MP

Garth has yet to resign his seat to force a by-election. He’s at home in his new – but not Green – shifty party.

The Death of Oily – the tragic premature demise of an almost Canadian icon

Oily, the talking oil spotIt was the first brillantly sunny pre-summer weekend of June. Joggers in Ottawa hit the river parkway and canal while sun-bathers converged on Parliament Hill. In an air-conditioned office on Queen street, Conservative Party officials were preparing to unleash the first volley of their new advertising campaign.

A few short weeks earlier, hapless and troubled Liberal leader Stephane Dion first mused about a new policy that MP Garth Turner would later – in a turnabout way – described as the sort of idea that drove the former sociology professor into politics years ago.

Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien recruited the then-unelected Mr. Dion into cabinet as intergovernmental affairs minister and following that, Canada’s environmental direction was later guided by Dion’s hand as environment minister. Tethering his ambition on recent popular interest in the topic of Global Warming, Dion and his supporters donned green scarves at the Liberal leadership convention in 2006 and effectively won the contest with this topic as a single issue campaign. For Dion, it was a calculated risk and when he secured the leadership of “Canada’s Natural Governing Party” – despite its recent rejection to opposition status – Mr. Dion probably thought he scored himself quite a coup. Unfortunately for him, a shrewd Conservative Party set to work soon after defining his visibly weak personality as weak leadership and Canadians started to associate the man with the cleverly crafted Conservative catchphrase “not a leader”.

Fast forward to 2008 and the Conservative strategists are facing an alternative line of attack from the opposition. Scandal is the order (rather, strategy) of the day for the Liberal Party. Labeled as untrustworthy after the very public sponsorship scandal, Liberal minds went to work after receiving a bit of a hint from Karlheinz Schreiber and Brian Mulroney. The former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister taught the Liberals that there is no shelf-life on unresolved scandal, but more importantly that the public spotlight on perceived dubious activity could harm Conservatives as it had done the Liberals. If the Liberal brand has a higher floor than that of the new Conservatives, framing all political parties as untrustworthy may just have Liberals coming out ahead (while at the same time setting everyone back). Chuck Cadman, Ian Brodie and NAFTA, and Maxime Bernier became key nodes on the Liberal strategic whiteboard as that party worked on degrading the key strength of the Conservative Prime Minister: trust and accountability.

The Liberals felt a new sense of energy after being demoralized by the constant barrage of attack against their leader. This was especially evident in daily question period when former Liberal leadership candidate Maurizio Bevilacqua rambled off expressive Italian tabloid headlines on the “scandalo” of Maxime Bernier that were dogging the PM on his European trip. A gang of OLO staffers and Liberal researchers showed up in the member’s gallery and held their sides as the Italian-Canadian MP made a great show of his question to the government.

The Liberal leader, however, still had his own problems. Facing a ‘save-the-furniture’ style election by elements within his own caucus – namely MPs loyal to Bob Rae – Dion promoted a new policy plank in his carbon tax. Later told by senior Liberal strategists that calling his plan a tax would turn off Canadians, Dion strode forward on the well-founded assumption that the only thing standing in the way of a Rae-Harper orchestrated defeat of the government, was a party-defining policy that could sustain the embattled leader through the summer. Environment played to one of Mr. Dion’s rare if wrongly perceived strengths and for the Liberal leader it will probably be his last playable hand. Going into a summer forecasted to be a scorcher too hot for even regular joggers along the canal, Mr. Dion may believe that the “green, don’t call it a carbon tax, shift” is his trump card.

In the meantime, Conservative insiders heard that Mr. Dion was set to unveil his carbon tax plan next Wednesday, just prior to the House rising after the spring session. In doing so, the professorial Liberal leader could define his plan outside of Parliament on the – ironic perhaps – propane-fueled BBQ circuit that politicians often take during the summer recess.

In focus groups and telephone-based market research, Conservative planners came to understand that a carbon tax in the abstract is a well-received concept to most Canadians. What they also found, however, that when the details of achieving such a policy objective are understood, a broad majority of Canadians don’t think of it as feasible. Words like “tax-shifting” and “revenue neutral” were panned and uncomfortably rejected by focus groups when polled and the general distrust of politicians regarding new tax became a palatable conclusion for Conservative strategists. Conservative-Liberal switchers, a group that holds victory for either party, was found to have a distrust for any politician with a plan for creative tax manipulation.

As they did before, the Conservatives moved to define the Liberal leader, however this time on his carbon tax, before Dion could do it himself. The party faced two decisions. On one hand, they could engage the Liberals in a debate on their carbon tax proposal, and on the other they could tap into the public’s well-grounded suspicion in creative tax schemes proposed by politicians. The Conservatives chose the latter. Using the specific terms of carbon taxation would be instrumental to the party’s strategy and this would not allow Dion to speak about it in general feel-good terms. Conservatives tasked themselves on warning Canadians of politicians promising new models of taxation. A key weakness for Dion in attracting swing votes that exist between Liberal and Conservative is that the Liberal leader is not viewed as a fiscally frugal Liberal and that he instead occupies the “tax and spend” left camp in the Liberal party. On trust numbers, Harper scores much higher than Dion on the issue of taxation. If Dion’s strength is in the environment, the Conservatives did well to frame this as a tax issue instead. From alluding to the then-promised temporary measure of income taxation to pay for the First World War to the recent McGuinty health premiums, Conservative messaging sought to enhance Canadian skepticism in Dion’s plan yet to be unveiled. Warning tape was streamed at the “willyoubetricked.ca” website the party built to compliment the campaign and scores of volunteers donned yellow shirts – yellow being the colour of warning or caution – to alert Canadians to what Conservatives claim would be Dion’s “tax on everything”. Indeed, the primary message of the campaign was caution underscored by the primary catchphrase “don’t be tricked”.

The party also signed a contract with Fuelcast, the company that runs the video screens at the gas pumps for very focused messaging. While representing less than 5% of their ad buy, the fuelcasting represented a unique angle to land coveted free advertising via earned media; no political party has ever used the gas pump video screens for political advertising and the unique nature of this advertising was a great news hook for the networks. Although the agreement unexpectedly fell through, the campaign earned increased exposure even in the negative attention that certain media outlets gave the ad spots as some reporters speculated that “Oily” (the talking oil spot in the fuelcast spots) was a deliberately engineered failure in order to get earned media.

Oily, as he’s been dubbed by reporters, was never intended to die. Though the Liberal response to the advertising was that such a campaign indicated that the Conservatives were in the pocket of big oil – in that the party purchased advertising on gas pumps, the irony is that the Fuelcast company eventually rejected their advertising citing that they didn’t want to be political. Oily was meant to be an eye catching, sort of in-your-face character to draw the attention of gas pumping consumers and the spot compliment the yellow warning colour of the campaign website. The willyoubetricked.ca website was meant to be a zany, humourous and interactive website that people could pass on to their friends.

Any successful campaign gets a lot of attention and it’s without dispute that this one did. A multi-faceted campaign that included the novelty (or promised novelty) of fuelcasting, an interactive website, a pedestrian literature push in yellow t-shirts and panel after panel of Conservative strategists warning Canadians not to be tricked by politicians promising crazy tax schemes. Surprisingly on Monday, while Conservative prodded Dion on redefining himself (after they had done so) on his carbon tax, Dion accepted the challenge and we bizarrely saw an opposition leader in fact responding rather than challenging. This suggests that the theory that Dion is desperate to cling to a medium-term campaign (rather than a snap election) to save himself as the leader of the Liberal Party.

So this summer, Dion will jump on a jet to visit all parts of Canada, flipping non-organic transited burgers on gas or charcoal grills telling people that he’s in a shifty mood when it comes to their taxes, the summer sun that Canadians will seek to avoid inside their cooled homes may prove to have too much disconnect when it comes to the tax they’ll pay on their gas, their groceries and their respite from the heat. For Conservatives, the party planted a successful seed of well-founded doubt among Canadians concerning Mr. Dion’s plan.

Not enough room for Garth in parade

It appears that there will only be one jolly bearded man in a suit spreading cheer to the little ones in this year’s Milton Santa Claus Parade. That is, there will only be one that was invited.

My hometown’s local newspaper (full disclosure: years ago I was once a paperboy for the outfit), had the following story about Halton MP Garth Turner and the latest controversy he’s involved in.

Controversial Halton MP Garth Turner is butting heads with the Milton Santa Claus Parade Committee after learning the only politician allowed in the festive event this year is Mayor Gord Krantz

One of the parade organizers, Mike Ricker, had the following to say:

“It’s got to the point where I want to quit the parade. I’ve volunteered 200 or 300 hours this year. To throw our credibility down the drain… He just wants to promote himself rather than the well-being of the whole parade.”

Turner, Halton’s controversial [Liberal] MP, was told that there’s not enough room for him, for PC MPP Ted Chudleigh or for Regional Chair Gary Carr. Garth’s planned crashing of Milton’s Santa Claus parade will ruin the credibility of parade organizers with the other politicians that they’ve turned down, according to Ricker.

Isn’t this supposed to be for the children?

UPDATE: Garth has sent out this press release:

Garth Turner , MP Constituent Help Centre
Parade Day Open House

For immediate release

Milton – The office staff of Hon. Garth Turner, P.C., MP for Halton will be serving up hot apple cider and holiday greetings from their constituency office along the Milton Santa Parade route.

“Many businesses and services along Main Street have an Open House tradition where they invite family and friends to drop by during the parade. My office, thinks this would be a great way to celebrate the launch of the holiday season.” said Turner.

Parade watchers young and old are invited to drop by Garth Turner’s Help Centre at 86 Main Street East from 2:00 to 3:00 pm on Sunday, November 25th to warm up with a cup of cider.

-30-

Questions for Garth Turner

Sunday night, I broke the story that Garth Turner, Liberal MP for Halton was collecting funds from donors into a trust. As specified by Elections Canada, trusts are generally forbidden as one cannot pay out of a trust the many donations that went into a trust. Check the full story here.

Garth’s response was both predictable and unpredictable. Predictably, he alluded to some well-organized conspiracy that was out to get him and immediately claimed victim status. Unpredictably though, he acknowledged his mistake and has taken steps to significantly reconfigure how he will be collecting money in the future. However, there are significant questions that remain.

  • Since this comes on the heels of Liberal questions in the House about election spending, they have much to do to get their own campaign finances in order. This week, we’ve seen apparent campaign finance discrepancies by Bonnie Crombie (more on that soon), Blair Wilson and now Garth Turner. How can they criticize the Conservatives before they sort out their own affairs?

  • Since many cheques to Garth Turner were made out to “Garth Turner Campaign, in trust”, does this mean that he’ll have to return all of that money? All cheques should have been made out to the “Halton Federal Liberal Association”.
  • In April of this year, Garth held a fundraising event with former Liberal leadership candidate Ken Dryden. Garth wrote:

    “Tonight was also an important milestone in my local election campaign. We exceeded our fundraising goal and, in the past three weeks, have raised five times more funds than the local Conservatives did in an entire year. All those bag signs, arterials, stakes, wire frames, ties and pounders in my garage are now paid for in full. We have cash in the bank � enough to get seriously and immediately ballistic the moment the writ is dropped.”

    Ballistic or busted? Were these fundraising efforts for naught? If that campaign materials was purchased by a private account and not the one held by the Federal Liberal Riding Association, Garth cannot use these campaign materials.

  • This represents a huge oversight by Dion’s new czar of fundraising. Does this represent poor judgment on behalf of the Stephane Dion? Will Garth resign this position? What can be said of the fundraising health of the Liberal party if Garth has been directing it?
  • Garth claims that he transferred money from a business account to the Liberal Electoral Association. Last time I checked, this is not allowed. Ironically, Garth criticizes the Conservatives for transferring money between EDAs and the federal party (which is allowed). “In and Out” is it called? Or is this “Out to In”? I’ve lost track.
  • If the Liberal Electoral Association accepted money from this business account (as Garth claims) they would also seem to be in violation. Could this association become de-registered by Elections Canada?
  • Garth is right in that being an independent can be tough. Independents do not have riding associations (EDAs). They can raise money, but they cannot issue tax receipts. Garth writes:

    “When Mr. Harper threw me out of caucus, I sat as an indie for a number of months, during which people sent me money because they took pity on my soul”

    I hope these people don’t expect to get tax receipts. But really, now that Garth is a Liberal, what is the status of this money? He can’t transfer money from this “business account” (in trust) to the Liberal EDA.

  • What are the consequences of this oversight? If this gets investigated, will Garth step aside? Will Dion ask him to step aside?
  • In a past life, wasn’t Garth a finance guru? Wasn’t he Minister of National Revenue? Is this mistake oversight or a sophisticated financial operator pushing the envelope?

What is Garth Turner doing?

As Halton MP Garth Turner stands in the House of Commons and acts offended by the so-called “In and Out” scandal with which the Liberals are trying to tar the Conservatives, he may want to check his own behaviour as his own financing may be in question.

On Garth’s website, where you can donate, the following information appears:

garth-donations.jpg

There are two questionable items in this information, particularly:

  • Cheques are to be made out to “Garth Turner campaign, in trust
  • Garth is promising tax receipts for donations made in this way

From Elections Canada, we learn that:

…as of June 12, 2007, as a result of changes made by s. 44(2) of the Federal Accountability Act to s. 404.2 of the Canada Elections Act, transfers of trust funds to candidates from registered parties and registered associations will be prohibited.

It seems that when an election is called, the federal accountability act prohibits the transfer of money from an electoral district association’s or party’s trust fund to a candidate. If this is so, who holds this money in trust? Is it “Garth Turner campaign” (whatever that entity is) or “Garth Turner”? If the account is to be used to elect Garth Turner, it would be useless for the EDA to hold it because of the new changes governed by the FAA. But yet, outside of an election, all funds must be donated to the EDA.

furthermore (from Elections Canada),

A contribution made from a trust fund is treated as a contribution from the trustee.

When a registered party, registered association, candidate, leadership contestant or nomination contestant receives a contribution paid out of funds held in trust, the trustee is reported as the contributor and the contribution counts towards his or her contribution limit.

Therefore, only a trustee who is an individual may make a contribution from a trust fund.

So, Garth is encouraging people to write cheques to “Garth Turner campaign, in trust”. What does this mean? As is the general understanding, and confirmed by Elections Canada, funds held in trust become the property of the trustee. Contributions from trust funds are treated as contributions from the trustee. So, if a candidate were to able to transfer money out of a trust fund to fund their campaign, the maximum they could withdraw would be the maximum contribution amount allowable by an individual (ie. the trustee) per year, which is $1,100. If Garth collects $50,000 into a trust fund from donors, it becomes the property of that trust’s trustee and subsequently, that trustee can only give $1,100. But, can money even be transferred out of a trust (with many contributors) for the purpose of an election campaign?

Trusts are dubious because of the exchanging of money through an intermediary (the trust/trustee). For example, if I wanted to give a political party $100, I couldn’t give it to my friend to donate that money for me. My friend would have to do that in his name because he is the one handing over the money. Again, the nature of trusts is that the money held in trust becomes the property of the trustee and therefore contributing from that trust becomes a donation from the trustee and not the variety of individuals who gave money to put into that trust.

But, as we read on, this becomes clearer. Elections Canada states that indirect contributions are prohibited,

An individual may not collect funds from others in a trust for the purpose of making contributions to registered parties, their associations, candidates, leadership contestants or nomination contestants. (s. 405.3 Canada Elections Act)

This is because individuals cannot make contributions from funds given to them by others for the purpose of making contributions. This rule cannot be avoided by the individual collecting funds in a trust from which to make contributions.

The Liberals have been going on and on about money transfers from parties to candidates and from candidates to parties. Money transfers of this sort happen all of the time. However, according to section 404.2(2.2) of the Elections Act, this may not occur with respect to trusts.

A transfer of funds, other than trust funds, is permitted and is not a contribution for the purposes of this Act if it is

(a) from a registered party to a candidate endorsed by the party; or

(b) from a registered association to a candidate endorsed by the party with which the association is affiliated.

and according to Elections Canada,

A registered party, registered association, candidate, leadership contestant or nomination contestant may not avoid Canada Elections Act controls by collecting contributions directly in a trust fund.

Any such contributions remain contributions. They must be accepted by the relevant agent, put into the campaign account (*** ie. during a campaign, for a candidate as recognized by a returning officer during a writ period — Stephen ***) (if received by a candidate, leadership or nomination contestant) and reported as contributions.

Outside of a campaign, donations for the purpose of eventually electing somebody must be made to the Electoral District Association.

Why is Garth collecting money from his supporters into a trust?

Who owns (and therefore controls) the money in that trust since an EDA cannot transfer money from a trust to a candidate during a campaign?

How would a candidate expect to get more than $1,100 a year out of such a trust?

If a trust is made up of pooled money from a number of people, how can money be transferred to a campaign since indirect contributions are prohibited?

If during a writ period, only a campaign can issue tax receipts and if outside of a campaign, only an EDA can issue tax receipts, how can “Garth Turner campaign” hope to give tax receipts to donors as his website claims?

How much money has Garth Turner collected in trust?

UPDATE 10/29, 11am: Garth has changed his website. It now asks cheques to be made out to “Halton Liberal Association – Garth Turner Campaign”.

garth-donations-2.jpg

Will Garth have to return all of the cheques made out to the trust fund?

How will any donor to the trust receive a tax receipt?

What if he has already cashed the cheques and the money has already accrued interest?

Why was a trust fund set up in the first place?

Is Garth Turner stretching the truth?

Monday’s Hill Times features an article about Bruce Sutherland, the videographer for Conservative-turned-Independent-turned-Green-teaser-turned-Liberal MP Garth Turner. It’s an interesting piece that describes the work of the man behind the MPtv production that Turner features on his website.

However, the subtitle of the piece caught my attention:

Garth Turner says his webcast is downloaded by about 30,000 to 40,000 viewers every night.

30,000 to 40,000 viewers every night? That would be incredible, if true. Garth would start to rival some of George Stroumboulopoulos’ numbers for The Hour (and George is on the TV dial of every Canadian television).

Let’s take a closer look at Garth’s numbers (accurate at time of this post):
Garth’s latest videos:

Title Number of views
MPtv interviews Catherine Bell NDP MP on Bulk water exports 18 June 2007 6
MPtv interview with Derek Lee on National Security- 18 June 2007 22
MPtv Interviews Gary Merasty on funding Aboriginal Languages 15 June 2007 56
MPtv- interview with Ken Boshcoff discussing gas prices 13 June 2007 79
MPtv- Hon. Garth Turner poses a question during Question Period 12 June 2007 165
MPtv- Interviews Omar Alghabra Critic Citizenship/Immigration 13 June 2007 38
MPtv- Interview with Mark Holland Liberal Critic Natural Resources 11 June 2007 88
MPtv-Interview with Hon. Hedy Fry Critic Sport and Vancouver Olympics 11 June 07 104
MPtv – Stories about Parliament Hill-The Laurier Tower 11 June 2007 34
MPtv-interviews Glen Pearson MP from London North Center 8 June 2007 145
MPtv- Interview Nancy Karetak-Lindell MP for Nunavut 7 June 2007 92
MPtv Stories about Parliament Hill- Lester Pearson statue 4 June 2007 28
MPtv- Interview with Bill Casey Independent M.P. 6 June 2007 453
MPtv- Interview with Hon.Robert Thibault 6 May 2007 73
MPtv-Question Period- Hon. Garth Turner poses a question 5 June 2007 197
MPtv- Questions from the House Hon. 5 June 2007 57
MPtv -Interview with Hon. John McCallum Liberal Finance Critic 4 June 2007 142
MPtv- Interview-Paul Szabo on Bill C-251 Alcohol warning labels 30 May 2007 138
MPtv – Stories about Parliament Hill with Don Nixon 31 May 2007 24
MPtv Stories about Parliament hill- Cat Sanctuary 31 May 2007 182

These are the most current videos (the ones featured “above the fold” on Garth’s MPtv website).

Here are Garth’s top 10 videos by number of views:

Title Number of views
MPtv – Garth Turner’s address to residents in Halton – October 18, 2006 7,264
MPtv – Interview with Green Party of Canada Leader, Elizabeth May – October 17, 2006 3,170
MPtv – Income Trust Press Conference 29 January 2007 2,945
MPtv – Garth Turner joins Liberal caucus – February 6, 2007 2,593
MPtv – Question Period in the House of Commons of Canada – October 25, 2006 2,465
MPtv – Garth Turner reflects on his options after dismissal from the Conservative Party 1,865
MPtv – Freedom Of Speech In Canada – November 12, 2006 1,554
MPtv- Mike Duffy On Parlimentary Preparations 26 January 2007 1,549
MPtv – Garth Turner commentary before press conference – November 14, 2006 1,392
MPtv – Pierre Paquette discussion Quebec as a Nation- December 12, 2006 1,344

The numbers for the top 10 videos aren’t bad, but consider that Garth boasts 30,000-40,000 views of MPtv per night. The numbers above represent the number of views since the date included in the title. It is closer to the truth to say that Garth’s videos have been viewed 30,000 times (in total) rather than per day.

It seems that Garth’s typical video gets about 50-200 hits (total) while his top video received 7,264 views since October 18th, 2006. A far cry from 30,000 to 40,000 video views every night that Garth claims.

NOTE (6/20): Anyone who wishes to verify the numbers that I state above can click on the title links in the table to go to each movie hosted on Google Video. The “All time views” are listed in the right hand column of those pages. The numbers are accurate to the time of this post yesterday. All of Garth’s video are hosted on Google Video and he embeds the player on his site. Every view from the embeddable player on Garth’s website registers as a “view” on Google Video, since the player is hosted on Google’s site and plays the same Google-hosted video. Whether a Garth video is viewed on Google, on Garth’s site or my site via embeddable player, Google registers a “view” on the video’s homepage hosted on Google. I see that Garth has chosen to respond to this post in a way that attacks me as a person, rather than challenge my claims with any valid counter-argument. This is unfortunate.

Of course, I’ve written about Garth’s poor choices before:
I took the Garth Challenge
Garth the Grit