Nova Scotia NDP scandal and who knew what when?

Nova Scotia is electing a government next week and you may know that the Nova Scotia NDP has a competitive shot at forming the next government in that province. For those that have been following the race, you’ll know that the Nova Scotia NDP has caused a bit of scandal that is starting to peak as we ramp up to e-day on Tuesday.

The NDP is a funny animal; the party is a national organization unlike other parties. The NDP in each province is the same organization as the NDP federally. This is different from the Conservative party, for example, which is exclusively a federal party. Yes, there are provincial sister organizations, but not branches. This could theoretically allow the NDP the potential to play a bit of a shell game when it comes to finances.

The provincial NDP has been caught in a funding scandal during this election regarding a massive influx of money on a single day of the campaign. The hive-like organization of the NDP spreads down to its union affiliates as well. On April 9th, a resolution at the Mainland Nova Scotia Building and Construction Trades Council was passed to reimburse member unions for their individual $5,000 donations to the NDP. Essentially, this packed the contributions into a $50,000 envelope and this was passed onto NDP party HQ. The scandal here is that what was essentially a $50,000 donation was made to look like 10 individual $5,000 donations (including one from the organizing union). The NDP received the cheques on the week of May 5th. Prior to this, they received a phone call to let them know these donations were coming.

The scandal broke on May 30th when a reporter got wind of what happened and called the NDP party office asking them about the donations. The party claimed to be unaware of the cheques. Two days later, the party felt it necessary to call a press conference to declare that they would return $45,000 worth of donations.

On June 3rd, Ed Wark, the NDP’s official agent, said he knew a sizable amount was coming from the trades council and nine unions after a phone conversation with union president Cordell Cole. This is a direct contradiction of Darrell Dexter’s story on Monday that the NDP just found out about these donations on the weekend. It is simply unbelievable that the NDP received $50,000 in one day after a single phone call from a union president and they claim that no one raised any questions. The Chief Elections Officer said “It appears that the contributions by the individual trade unions were improper because it was not money belonging to the trade unions – that it was being reimbursed by the umbrella organization to the individual unions,”

The next day, PC Premier Macdonald puts pressure on candidates to release full lists of donors. NDP leader Dexter agrees but refused to return the $5,000 from the Mainland Nova Scotia Building and Construction Trades Council. On the 5th, Dexter releases a two and a half page document of donations to the NDP. This apparent demonstration of accountability came a full five days after the scandal broke. The document itself shows nine union contribution (remember that nine other union contributions were returned). This means that the NDP stood to net double in their union contributions column if this scandal had not been brought to light. Further, the list of donations does not declare individual donors.

The scandal for the man who could become the next premier of Nova Scotia on Tuesday is that he and his party feigned ignorance of the massive $50,000 influx of money. In fact, on the day they were unaware of the union donations, they were aware that this was their best day for donations. Also, consider that a union rep called ahead to let the NDP know they’d be receiving the $50,000 envelope. How can Dexter or the NDP claim ignorance of the donations until an outside source was able to ask them tough questions regarding election financing?