Politics

Justin Trudeau got court extension after missing Elections Canada deadlines

Four Liberal MPs missed extended deadline to file post-campaign financial reports

Trudeau Belgium Attacks 20160322

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is one of four Liberal MPs who sought a court extension for more time to file financial reports required by Elections Canada. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and three of his Liberal MPs asked a court for more time to file post-campaign financial reports after failing to meet deadlines under Canada's election laws.

Elections Canada confirmed to CBC News that Trudeau and Liberal MPs Seamus O'Regan, Don Rusnak and Ken Hardie also sought a judicial extension. Trudeau, O'Regan and Rusnak were granted the extension; Hardie completed his filing before the matter ended up before a judge.

Dozens of defeated candidates, but no elected MPs from other parties, sought court extensions to file full reports or provide missing information, documents or receipts.

Elections Canada spokeswoman Melanie Wise said the four Liberal MPs have since filed their financial reports, which means they will not face sanctions.

"No MPs are currently in default. All four MPs have filed their returns and none is at risk of being barred from sitting in the House of Commons," she said.

According to the rules, if Elections Canada refuses to grant an extension or the official agent or candidate can't file the required documents on expenses and contributions within the extended period, the official agent or candidate can apply to a judge for another extension.

From the total pool of 1,800 candidates who ran in last fall's federal election, 802 requested an initial extension from the Chief Electoral Officer, which is usually for up to 30 days. Of those, 211 were from elected MPs and 591 defeated candidates.

Respecting the law

Former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley said it is important for all candidates to meet the deadline.

"Otherwise, they're not respecting the law," he said. "Parliament, meaning their predecessors, passed a law that says four months is enough time to reconcile what you spent and what was spent on your behalf during the election campaign."

Because the reports are posted online, Kingsley said they have become a critical oversight tool allowing the public to peruse the records and see if anything is "amiss."

"This is something Canadians go and check, and they will write in to the chief electoral officer," he said. "So this means that is postponed, and the people who follow this, follow the dates. That is why this is all important."

He also noted that if a judge authorized an extension, then they must have been satisfied with the reason.

A Liberal official called the delay in Trudeau's filing an "administrative error" and said there was never an intention to run afoul of the rules. The documents filed had missing signatures and were filed in their entirety on March 21, according to the official.

Hardie, who represents the B.C. riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells, said his campaign filed material electronically before the deadline but did not initially provide the hard copy as required.

"On deadline, the financial agent was out of the country, which prevented us from providing the hard copy, so we had to file for an extension in the courts," he said, adding the issue was resolved within a week of the missed deadline and that he is now in compliance with the rules.

Seamus O'Regan seeking Liberal nomination

Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan has filed required paperwork with Elections Canada after asking a judge for more time. (Malcolm Taylor/Getty Images)

A spokesman for O'Regan, who represents the riding of St. John's South-Mount Pearl, Nfld., said his campaign's official agent is a volunteer and a busy man and needed more time to file for the MP.

"He sought an extension, he got an extension and now everything has been filed with Elections Canada," Kyle Johnston said.

61 requests to court

Of the 61 requests for court extensions — 22 that were granted and another 39 still pending — four were from Liberal MPs and the remainder from defeated candidates.

Potential penalties for not meeting the deadline include forfeiting election expense reimbursements, suspension of the nomination deposit refund and a ban on running in future federal elections.

An MP can also be barred from sitting or voting until their financial reports have been submitted.

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