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Four Lunn loving groups share one financial agent

Four of the five third party election advertisers using Conservative lawyer Bruce Hallsor as their contact also have the same financial agent.

Mark Dickinson, the owner and president of Van Isle Marina in Sidney, is the financial agent for Citizens Against Higher Taxes, the Dean Park Advocacy Association, the Economic Advisory Council of Saanich and the Saanich Peninsula Citizens Council.

The groups all did things like buy ads and lawn signs to support Conservative Gary Lunn's win in Saanich-Gulf Islands, Hallsor has said. Besides using Hallsor's firm's phone and address for their contact information with Elections Canada, documents obtained by The Tyee show the groups also provided Hallsor's own work e-mail address.

Hallsor is the Vice-President of the Conservative's Saanich-Gulf Islands Electoral District Association. In 2006 he was co-chair of the Conservatives' B.C. campaigns. A 'third party', according to the Canada Elections Act, “means a person or a group, other than a candidate, registered party or electoral district association of a registered party.”

According to public documents filed with Elections Canada, Dickinson signed on as financial agent for each of the four groups all on the same day, October 8, 2008. In all four cases, the “individual, signing officer of the corporation or person responsible for the group” signed at least a day, and as much as a week, later.

Dickinson's daughter, Dana Dickinson, is the signing authority for one of the groups, the Saanich Peninsula Citizens Council.

“I really don't care what you want to ask me,” said Mark Dickinson, reached by phone. “I'm not interested. If there's something there that's going to be damaging to me you can be assured I will be contacting my lawyer.”

Asked if it was “odd” that he's financial agent for the four groups, he said, “That's pretty subjective on your part. I'm not going to discuss this with you.”

While the Canada Elections Act does not explicitly bar someone from being the financial agent for more than one group, a spokesperson for Elections Canada said it's the kind of thing the agency's auditors may well flag when they review the groups' documents.

The act prohibits advertisers from colluding so they can spend more than $3,666 in any one riding, or $183,300 country wide.

As the letter sent to all third party advertisers puts it, “A third party shall not circumvent, or attempt to circumvent, a limit set out in section 350 in any manner, including by splitting itself into two or more third parties for the purpose of circumventing the limit or acting in collusion with another third party so that their combined election advertising expenses exceed the limit.”

The Elections Canada letter also notes third parties are not allowed to “collude with a registered party for the purpose of circumventing the party's election expenses limit.”

Candidates in Saanich-Gulf Islands were limited to $92,000 in election spending.

York University political scientist Bob MacDermid said election officials should take a closer look at third party advertising spending in Saanich-Gulf Islands, The Tyee reported yesterday.

Lunn and other candidates, as well as third party advertisers, have four months from the election to submit their financial disclosures to Elections Canada.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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