Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The headline says “Conservative Party back in court over deal with candidate”

It’s too bad they couldn’t have saved this headline for Accountability Week, isn’t it? Well, maybe we can make it an Accountability Month or something. But indeed the Conservative Party is back in court.

You may be thinking of the CalgaryWest nomination court case. But actually I’m talking about another Conservative nomination related court case (hard to keep track of them, I know). But I’m actually referring to the court case involving the Conservative nomination for Ottawa-South.

I’ve blogged extensively on the Alan Riddell case before. The CPC offered to buy Riddell off so sponsorship whistleblower Alan Cutler could run. Riddell stepped aside, and Cutler went on to lose to Liberal David McGuinty.

The deal was the party would cover Riddell’s expenses in running for the nomination, which he estimated in the neighborhood of $50,000. Rumours of a deal surfaced during the campaign but Harper flatly denied there was any such deal. Either Harper was lying or he wasn’t told, because once Riddell sued for the money the party admitted there was indeed a deal, but by going public Riddell negated it. You see, the buyoff was to be kept secret. Because that’s accountability, Conservative style.

A judge disagreed with the Cons though and ruled for Riddell to get the money, a ruling which the CPC apparently plans to appeal. Riddell also has defamation suits pending against Harper and CPC president Don Plett, both of whom denied in the media there was a deal to play Riddell. Something which the CPC’s own court fillings show to be untrue.

To the latest news though. The CPC is being dragged back to court over the confidentiality issue:

A political party asking a candidate to step aside to make way for a bigger name is nothing particularly new - but should those negotiations and the possible money they involve be considered secret?

That issue will be debated in an Ottawa courtroom this week in the second chapter of the Conservative party's ongoing legal battle with former party member Alan Riddell.
Because when you said accountability, you totally weren’t talking about yourselves, right CPC lawyer?
"Am I going to ask that the matter be postponed? Yes, the principle reason being it is under appeal and shouldn't go forward right now," said party lawyer Robert Houston. "There is absolutely no urgency in this matter proceeding at this time."
At least until after the next election, right Rob. For his part, Riddell’s lawyer finds the penchant for secrecy from the “accountability party” to be puzzling:
Riddell's lawyer Tom Conway says the party is likely reluctant to start going through the details of other deals it has made with candidates. For example, British Columbia MP Jim Hart's agreement to step aside for Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day, or candidate Ezra Levant's departure to make way for Day's successor Stephen Harper in Calgary Southwest.

"It doesn't make sense for them when this party has insisted on transparency and accountability, and here they are saying an agreement they made with a candidate should be secret," Conway said Monday. "There's no reason to keep that kind of agreement secret."

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