NDP fined for fail­ing to re­turn do­na­tion from trade unions

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY ERIN POTTIE

SYD­NEY — The Nova Sco­tia NDP has been fined $10,000 — the max­i­mum fine un­der pro­vin­cial law — for ac­cept­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­tri­bu­tions dur­ing last year’s elec­tion cam­paign.

Elec­tions Nova Sco­tia chief elec­toral of­fi­cer Chris­tine McCul­loch made the an­nounce­ment in a press release Thurs­day, the same day the party’s pro­vin­cial sec­re­tary ten­dered his res­ig­na­tion.

McCul­loch said the fine stems from the ac­cep­tance of a cam­paign do­na­tion in ex­cess of $5,000, and for fail­ure to re­turn $45,000 from eight unions and a union af­fil­i­ate when the party “ knew or should have known” that the con­tri­bu­tions were funded by a sin­gle en­tity — the Main­land Build­ing and Construction Trades Coun­cil.

Prior to the elec­tion, Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive cam­paign di­rec­tor Kevin Lacey filed a com­pli­ant with McCul­loch’s of­fice un­der the Mem­bers and Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees Dis­clo­sure Act. The com­plaint lead to an in­spec­tion of NDP records by an in­de­pen­dent au­di­tor and a for­mal in­quiry.

McCul­loch said the in­volve­ment of the unions and the Trades Coun­cil in this case has now been re­ferred to the Hal­i­fax Re­gional Po­lice Ser­vice for “such in­ves­ti­ga­tion as it con­sid­ers ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Nova Sco­tia Premier Dar­rell Dex­ter told the Cape Bre­ton Post on Thurs­day that ex­plicit or­ders were given in June to send the money back.

“I gave very clear, un­equiv­o­cal and spe­cific di­rec­tions with re­spect to the re­turn of that money to the pro­vin­cial sec­re­tary of the party and I’m of course also dis­ap­pointed to find out that didn’t hap­pen,” he said.

Dex­ter said he be­lieved the money was to be re­turned when the is­sue sur­faced eight days be­fore the June elec­tion.

NDP pres­i­dent Peggy Mahon said the per­son re­spon­si­ble for hand­ing back the cheques, pro­vin­cial sec­re­tary Ed Wark, ten­dered his res­ig­na­tion Thurs­day morn­ing.

Mahon was in­formed by the chief elec­toral of­fi­cer at the end of Jan­uary that the money hadn’t been re­turned.

“At that point he told me that he had in­structed the Trades Coun­cil per­son to not cash the cheques un­til the re­port had been re­leased from the chief elec­toral of­fi­cer, so he ba­si­cally saw it as an ad­min­is­tra­tive mat­ter,” said Mahon. “He handed over the cheques and said ‘ Well don’t cash them un­til the re­port comes in.’”

Call­ing it an “a very poor judge­ment on his part,” Mahon then in­structed new cheques to be writ­ten, which she says were cashed Feb. 1, and in­cluded the proper in­ter­est.

She said Wark would have been the only per­son to reg­u­larly over- see the bank ac­count, adding the NDP is plan­ning to meet this week to dis­cuss whether or not they will pay the fine.

McCul­loch cau­tioned Thurs­day that of­fi­cial agents of rec­og­nized par­ties, elec­toral dis- trict as­so­ci­a­tions and candidates will have to be dili­gent to en­sure con­tri­bu­tions are proper, not­ing that her of­fice will con­tinue to scru­ti­nize con­tri­bu­tions ac­cord­ingly.

Last fall, the NDP in­tro­duced a bill out­law­ing po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions from cor­po­ra­tions and unions. Tak­ing ef­fect Jan. 1, the new law al­lows in­di­vid­u­als to do­nate up to $5,000 per per­son.

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