Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley repudiated Tuesday all the arguments Conservatives have used to justify their party's failure to disclose up to $1.7-million in donations.
But during testimony before the Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee, Mr. Kingsley left little doubt that the Tories violated the Canada Elections Act when they failed to report delegate fees to the party's 2005 policy convention as political donations.
Some 2,900 delegates attended the convention, which charged a regular fee of $600 each. Treasury Board President John Baird, the Harper government's point man on ethics, and Conservative party brass have maintained that the fees did not constitute donations because they simply covered the costs of staging the convention, which did not turn a profit.
Mr. Kingsley bluntly demolished that argument.
“Profit's got nothing to do with it,” he told the committee.
The issue boiled over late last June when Baird blurted out, during an appearance before the same Senate committee, that the Tories hadn't disclosed their 2005 convention fees as donations.
The admission sparked a furor, with Liberals and New Democrats demanding an investigation. Mr. Kingsley asked the Tories to turn over their convention books so that he could look into the matter.
Only two weeks ago, Conservative executive director Michael Donison explicitly told the same Senate committee that his party had complied with Mr. Kingsley's request.
“Yes, we have . . . We are dealing with Elections Canada on that matter and we will comply with whatever requirements they have,” Mr. Donison said.
However, Mr. Kingsley told The Canadian Press that he has yet to receive the convention books. The Conservatives have handed over only “what is required by law,” which is the party's annual financial statement for 2005. Such statements are vague, listing donors and outlining the party's expenses in broad brush strokes.
“That is not quite sufficient to allow us to do an audit because it is not the (convention) books,” Mr. Kingsley said after the Senate hearing.
“If they've given me anything else it's caught up in some type of delivery system because I have not received it,” he added, noting that the party has had two and a half months to comply.