Parliamentary hearings into the Conservative in-and-out campaign financing scheme got off to a raucous start Monday, with the Tories' campaign manager being ejected after refusing to leave voluntarily.
Doug Finley was escorted from the Commons ethics committee room by security guards after 20 minutes of wrangling between Tory MPs and Liberal committee chairman Paul Szabo.
Mr. Finley surprised committee members by showing up three days before he was scheduled to appear – in what seemed to be an orchestrated attempt to create a stir.
I fail to see the wisdom in creating a "stir" from the Conservatives perspective. All Findlay achieved was to put more focus on the proceedings, ensure the committee was frontpage news in every publication. Trying to disrupt speaks to a sense of guilt, because if, as the Conservatives argue, "everybody does it", nothing illegal, you aren't reduced to pulling pranks to draw attention from the substance. There's nothing to see, so why create a spectacle?
Speaking of substance:
In a hearing about Conservative election spending, an unsuccessful candidate testified Monday that he agreed in advance not to spend $37,000 the party sent to his campaign in 2006 and quickly took back.
Gary Caldwell, who ran for the Tories in the Quebec riding of Compton-Stanstead, said he later redrafted his election spending report to withdraw a claim for a 60 per cent federal rebate on that amount.
"I realize that the central party, any party, can give money to the local riding association, but when we examined this further I became convinced that it was only a legitimate local expense if we in fact spent it," he told the Commons ethics committee. " In fact, that was not the case."
Caldwell said he left the Tories "after what happened and my concern that the Conservative Party was no longer interested in rehabilitating parliamentary institutions." He plans to run next as a Green Party candidate.