The case for prorogation

Buzz about Ottawa these past two weeks (there’s really nothing else going on here) is talk about the Prime Minister asking the Governor General for a prorogation of this session of Parliament to recall MPs to the legislature in March of next year.

Opponents on the opposition benches and in the media have been cynical of such a move citing that Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament just last year and that like last year a prorogation would be a dodge rather than for anything substantive.

Indeed, the Prime Minister asked the Governor general for a suspension of Parliament last year after the coalition government attempt to replace a freshly elected Prime Minister and his cabinet just six weeks after an election, ahem, for no substantive reason beyond cynical bickering that the governing Conservatives were moving to remove public financing (read: party welfare) from all parties. The loudest opponents to this move were the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois, two parties that find that collecting tax monies is an easier option that appealing directly to their respective bases for funding.

And this year, what substantive reason exists for a reset of Parliament? The opposition will argue that because an Afghan detainee transfer was hit with a shoe by a Afghan prison guard and that problems may have existed with our trust of transfer of Afghan nationals to the sovereign national Afghan authorities was at times tested, the Prime Minister is again running away from his problems. They will say that prorogation is political despite the Conservative lead in the polls and despite the fact that this detainee issue isn’t doing too much of anything to affect the Prime Minister’s standing in the polls.

However, let’s step back and go outside of the Ottawa bubble wherein the last two weeks of reporting of any period contains the most important news stories ever told. In 50 years, when they look back at the prorogation of 2010, how will they recount this event (if at all)?

For the first time in twenty years, Conservatives will have a plurality in the Senate of Canada. Our parliament is a bicameral body consisting of a lower and upper house. While its activities may not be conducive to the lust of the cut and thrust of politics for the average Ottawa watcher — and who called whom “fat” on Twitter in committee this week — the Senate is constitutionally important to the parliament of Canada. When a new plurality exists in the lower House, the Governor General asks the party leader that can lead a stable government to form a cabinet. When a new plurality exists within the Senate, the government’s opponents accuse the Prime Minister of politics when the Prime Minister asks the Governor General for a chance to reset parliament so that its committees and functions may represent the new reality.

The case for prorogation is constitutional.The case against it is political.

Third Quarter Party financial statements out today

Conservative Party Liberal Party New Democratic Party Green Party Bloc Quebecois
Q1 $4,362,596 $1,857,728 $595,611 $215,967 $133,586
Q2 $3,957,662 $4,053,568 $711,269 $194,090 $198,858
Q3 $4,554,787 $2,010,823 $1,078,376 $265,507 $249,477
Total $12,875,044 $7,922,119 $2,385,256 $675,564 $581,921

For all of the Liberal crowing last quarter over their 2Q results (largely buoyed by a “leadership” convention where Michael Ignatieff was coronated leader) and their 1Q->2Q plus/minus, their 2Q->3Q plus/minus is that story in reverse. However, realistically this quarter’s results shows the real strength of each party’s fundraising machine.

Interestingly, the Greens are outraising the Bloc Quebecois. The Greens may argue that this is another example of why we need proportional representation, however, I’d argue that this represents Canadians that believe in something, rather than believing against another (see what I mean in this article).

The NDP is raising half of what the Liberals are raising showing that for their relative size, their numbers aren’t surprising. Further, it shows that the NDP base is still healthy enough for their smaller party. For the Liberals, their numbers are also relative to their seat count (when compared to CPC numbers) in the House of Commons. However, this may be bad news for the Liberals as they’d like everyone to believe that their seat count is rather a result of a unpopular leader in the last election rather than current Canadian (and Liberal member) attitudes about this party.

Despite the economic crisis, the numbers are still relatively healthy. My friends in the fundraising sector would suggest that if corporate donations were still legal, we’d see party fundraising take a hit this year. However, although Canada went through some tough economic times this year, personal donations are still relatively strong in all charitable sectors.

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.