On November 4, 2005, the federal Conservative Party pledged to increase the ethics and accountability of the federal government as the first thing they would do if they were elected. During the last ten years the Harper government has taken steps that have weakened open government and ethical rules. Here are six examples of Conservatives facing legal or ethical challenges:
Conservative Party Fined: The Conservative party admitted to illegal campaign advertising tactics in the 2006 campaign that brought Stephen Harper to power and was fined $52,000 in November 2011 for breaking election rules.
The Party had pleaded guilty to exceeding national advertising spending limits and improperly reporting the expenses incurred through a sophisticated “in-and-out” scheme. Under it, Harper’s party shifted national advertising money, through wire transfers into and immediately out of local riding campaign accounts, in order to claim national ad spending as local. In the words of national campaign director Doug Finley, it would “run a major slam dunk” over competitors in the final weeks of the campaign.
More serious charges against the party and its fundraising arm of willfully breaking the laws were withdrawn.
Dean Del Mastro: Former parliamentary secretary to the prime minister and Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro was sentenced to one month in prison on June 25, 2015, followed by four months of house arrest, for breaking the law by overspending during the 2008 federal election.
The former MP had been found guilty of violating the Canada Elections Act. The judge found that Del Mastro had exceeded spending limits, failed to report a personal contribution of $21,000 to his campaign and knowingly submitted a falsified document.
Ontario Court of Justice Judge Lisa Cameron said Del Mastro bears a high “moral culpability” for the spending and his “significant attempts to hide it.
Michael Sona: In November 2014 former Conservative staffer Michael Sona was sentenced to nine months in jail plus a year on probation for trying to keep some voters in Guelph, Ontario, from casting ballots in the 2011 federal election.
Sona was found guilty of attempting to prevent people from voting by sending a robocall to thousands of opposition supporters directing them to the wrong polling station.
At the time he was director of communications for Marty Burke, the Conservative candidate in the riding who lost the 2011 poll to Liberal Frank Valeriote by more than 6,000 votes in spite of the robocall.
Sona was convicted by Judge Gary Hearn, who ruled he did not appear to have acted alone in sending the deceptive calls. Sona had maintained his innocence in media interviews before the trial, suggesting he was the fall guy for others in the party.
Mike Duffy: The former Conservative senator appointed by Harper is suspended and on trial facing 31 charges. In 2012, Duffy was accused of claiming primary residency outside of Ottawa in order to claim living expenses for work in Ottawa. He has lived and worked in Ottawa for decades, and still claimed his primary residence is in Prince Edward Island. The charges against Duffy include fraud, bribery and breach of trust. He has pleaded not guilty and insists he followed the Senate’s rules on expenses.
Patrick Brazeau: Also a former Conservative senator appointed by Harper, he is suspended and on trial charged with assault and sexual assault in connection with a 2013 incident. He also faces trial on charges of fraud and breach of trust.
In April 2014, Brazeau was also charged with assault, possession of cocaine, uttering threats and breaching bail conditions, following an altercation. In October 2014, he was charged with two counts related to being behind the wheel of a car while impaired and a third for possessing a weapon in breach of his bail conditions.
Pamela Wallin: A former Conservative appointed by Harper, she is suspended from the Senate. The RCMP is investigating her expense claims, but no charges have been laid. She repaid questioned expenses of more than $100,000.