Regardless of what you call it, this certainly strikes me as a newsworthy issue. For those unfamiliar, Jason Cherniak has a fairly detailed breakdown, complete with snazzy graphs and everything. The short of it is that the Tories had some fun with the accounting books, by shuffling money from the party to the local ridings, allowing them to break the spending limits and get larger refunds from Elections Canada.
Predictably, Conservatives have lept forward to defend themselves, the most common line appearing to be "it's not as bad as Adscam". I love this one since it's pretty much akin to saying "the last guy who held my job was fired for fraud, so I should be allowed to take a piss in the lunchroom". Hell, why didn't Martin just bring up the Pacific Scandal during the good old Liberal Adscam days to explain things away?
Another fun arguments I've heard is "it's just like Tim Hortons!" Because, you know, like, all the individuals chains, like, pay for those national inspirational ads about fathers and sons and soliders and puppies bonding together over Tim Hortons. Which is a valid point, because I can't remember Elections Canada ever going after Tim Hortons for breaking the election financing laws.
Now, in fairness, making fun of the arguments put forward by Tory bloggers isn't really fair - I should be looking to the official party position. Pierre Pollievre has brought forward the case that it's a freedom on speech argument. Basically, the Conservative Party is admitting they broke the rules but that the rules are unfair because there shouldn't be spending limits during campaigns. Yes, this from the party that brought you an Accountability Act with donation limits of $1,000 per person. An Accountability Act that was completely quiet on spending limits. Hmm...Now, from my perspective, a few things seem fairly obvious:
1. These were obviously national ads. I'm sorry, but font size 3 white writing on a yellow background at the end of the ad, does not make it a local ad.
2. This danced around the rules. At least in the eyes of Elections Canada it did and they seem to be the ones best suited to judge this.3. Even though this may not be the most sinister conspiracy ever perpetrated on the Canadian people, it still looks dirty to me and the Tories deserve to get some flack for it. And, yes, even those evil Liberals who brought you Adscam should be able to criticize them for it.
4. Had it been the Liberals who had done this, they'd have been crucified by Ivison, Pollievre, and the media as a whole. That's just the way it is and the double standard is reversed when it comes to things like abortion comments, but it's still there.