Monday, January 6, 2014

Charlie Angus Broke the Rules... Now What's He Gonna Do About It?

Stop me if you've heard this one before: NDP MP found to have broken the rules in the 2011 election. Does nothing about it. Shrugs. Moves on.

Of course we've heard this one before. Immediately after the 2011 election, when it was revealed that individuals whose signatures allegedly appeared on Ruth-Ellen Brosseau's nomination papers had never actually signed her nomination papers. As such, her nomination papers were actually a false document.

Brosseau did nothing. Appeared in the House of Commons. Was applauded by the fellow members of her caucus. The rules, you see, are not for them.

Now we find out that it wasn't merely the NDP's MP for Vegas who has broken the rules and apparently intends to stroll free. Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus apparently expects to do the same. The punchline? Angus is the NDP's ethics critic.

This is what happened: the bank account established by Angus' election campaign in 2008 was, by law, supposed to be closed after settling its accounts. Instead, the account remained open -- and presumably carrying a balance -- until the 2011 election, when it was used again.

Angus insists that his official agent simply made an error. So everything's OK, right?

Well, maybe not so much. Then-Labrador MP Peter Penashue said the same thing about the acceptance of the donations ruled illegal by Elections Canada: that a volunteer didn't understand the rules, and had made a mistake in accepting them. That wasn't good enough for Angus. He demanded: "Would the member for Labrador stand up and take accountability for his actions?"

Then the strangest thing happened: Penashue did. He resigned his seat, and ran in a by-election. He lost.

Now one of Angus' volunteers has made a mistake in the handling of his campaign's bank account and, by extension, the funds it contains. Remember the ultimate lesson of the Penashue affair: that the candidate is responsible for the conduct of his campaign staff. Their missteps are also his. So with this in mind, will the member for Timmins-James Bay -- who, once again, is the NDP's ethics critic -- stand up and take accountability for his actions?

Personally, I'm not holding my breath.

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