When I was initially made aware of possible unreported
election expenditures of $3,000 relating to the January 30, 2001
by-election held in the electoral district of St. Barbe, I initiated a
review of the filings in question.
As a consequence, I spoke directly with the
Progressive Conservative (PC) candidate for the by-election and PC Party
officials regarding what they knew of the situation. They indicated that
they became aware of this issue when the statement of facts relating to
the Ed Byrne Constituency Allowance fraud case was brought forward by a
CBC reporter, this being the same time that my office was made aware of
the situation. They also indicated that at the time the related finance
reports for the by-election were filed, they were of the belief and
understanding that all legitimate expenses relating to the by-election
had been disclosed.
The Elections Act, 1991, establishes that both
candidates and political parties are subject to expenditure limits for
their election related expenses, the purpose being to provide as level a
playing field as possible in prohibiting any individual party or
candidate from spending in excess of the legislatively permitted amount.
For the 2001 St. Barbe by-election, the expenditure limits for both the
political party and for individual candidates was $25,743. The reports
filed on behalf of the PC candidate in the 2001 by-election and by the
party indicated election expenses totaling $17,362. Even including the
amount of $3,000 identified in the statement of facts released with
respect to the Ed Byrne criminal proceedings, neither the PC candidate
nor the party would have exceeded the legislated expenditure limits for
the electoral district in that by-election.
As for the involvement of a PC Party worker in the
election campaign, it is not only acceptable under the Elections Act,
1991, but a common occurrence during elections for candidates and
political parties to pay campaign workers and organizers for their work
and to reimburse them for their expenses incurred.
As long as there was expenditure room within the
established legislative limits, a party or candidate would have no
reason to hide the involvement of a party worker who had received pay
for their services.
Also, in light of the fact that at that time campaign
filings were not due until six months past polling day, any error or
understatement of campaign expenditure that had occurred could not
possibly be seen to have affected the actual voting that had taken place
on January 30, 2001.
The available evidence indicates no knowledge or
involvement on the part of the candidate or party with respect to the
actions of Ed Byrne. There is also no indication that the fraudulent
actions on the part of Mr. Byrne affected the outcome of the 2001
by-election. Further, there is no evidence that anyone other than Mr.
Byrne was involved in a deliberate attempt to manipulate funds or to
otherwise fraudulently circumvent the provisions of elections finance
requirements in the Elections Act, 1991.
On the basis of the above, I conclude that any
impropriety involved in the 2001 St. Barbe by-election was related to
the actions of Ed Byrne, actions for which he has been convicted, and
are not attributed to other persons involved in that by-election. There
is no evidence presently available to support a contention that the
outcome of the by-election was affected by these actions and no formal
investigation is required.