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'Long, close look' needed on Lunn advertising: Ignatieff

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said he shares concerns about third party advertising spending in support of Conservative minister of state Gary Lunn during the October federal election.

“My view of this is that Elections Canada should take a long, close look at this,” he said following a March 28 town hall style meeting in Victoria.

It's up to Elections Canada to make sure elections are conducted in a fair way and that all the parties and candidates follow the rules, he said. “Canadians have the right to know that their elections are fair.”

Recently released financial information shows Lunn's campaign spent close to the legal limit in Saanich-Gulf Islands, the Tyee reported on March 19. Five previously unheard of groups with connections to each other, the Lunn campaign and the Conservative party spent another $15,000 on advertising in the riding.

Bruce Hallsor is a lawyer who helped the five groups register with Elections Canada and who was the vice-president of the Conservatives' electoral district association in Saanich-Gulf Islands during the election. He remains on the EDA executive and is in charge of "election readiness". In repeated interviews he has said the third parties and Lunn's campaign followed the letter of the law.

The Liberals' electoral district association in Saanich-Gulf Islands complained to Elections Canada, as has the NDP and other individuals. The NDP's Bill Siksay, MP for Burnaby-Douglas, raised the issue in question period on three days in the House of Commons this week.

Elections Canada is reviewing the documents the third party advertisers filed, according to a letter to one complainant, and if they require further review the matter will be referred to the commissioner of Canada elections, William Corbett.

The Victoria Times Colonist this week quoted Lunn's campaign co-manager, Byng Giraud, saying the campaign had raised more money than it could legally spend. So when people asked to donate, he said, “I would say 'we are fully funded, but, if you want to do something else go do it.' Is that collusion? I don't know. I'm not an expert.”

Related stories:

Oct. 14, 2008: Suspicious call urges support for withdrawn NDP candidate

Oct. 15, 2008: New groups sprung up to support Lunn with paid ads

Oct. 21, 2008: Gary Lunn's Shadowy Grassroots

Oct. 23, 2008: Observers say advertisers for Lunn show investigation, tougher laws needed

Oct. 24, 2008: Four Lunn loving groups share one financial agent

Oct. 30, 2008: BC minister Gary Lunn demoted in new Harper cabinet

March 19, 2009: Details Emerge on MP Gary Lunn's Third Party Advertisers

March 19, 2009: Documents connect Lunn campaign, third party advertisers

March 20, 2009: Elections Commissioner Drops Phone Fraud Probe

March 23, 2009: Gary Lunn campaign may have used ad rules to break spending limits: NDP

March 24, 2009: Third party advertiser wrote cheque to Lunn's campaign co-manager

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

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