The only Conservative candidate who refused to participate in the so-called in-and-out election financing scheme says he's gratified that the federal Court of Appeal has sided with Elections Canada and that criminal charges have been laid against Tory officials.
David Marler, a lawyer who ran for the party in 2006, turned party officials down when they asked to deposit money in his campaign account and almost immediately remove it for national advertising. About 66 other candidates agreed to the request.
"It always seemed to me that the in-and-out was irregular and illegal," Marler said in an interview.
"It is gratifying to note that the federal Court [of Appeal] has come to the same opinion, which always seemed to me to be obvious. I think they're doing the right thing by prosecuting the alleged offenders."
The system has resulted in a protracted legal squabble between Elections Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada. Elections Canada, with the support of the Director of Public Prosecutions, laid charges against the party and four senior officials last week relating to $1.3 million in alleged election overspending.
The Conservatives say shuffling money between the national campaign and local campaigns was common practice and legal. They refer to the case as "a five-year-old administrative dispute" though they say they ended the practice ahead of the 2008 campaign.
Elections Canada maintains the scheme allowed the national party to exceed its spending limit by permitting local candidates to claim rebates on expenses they hadn't actually incurred.
Two Conservative senators who served as campaign chairman and chief party fundraiser were among those who were charged. Marler wrote a short book about his experience running for the Conservatives, the in-and-out controversy and his campaign in 2008 as an Independent.
He said the party asked him to step aside following the 2006 election to allow a Parliament Hill staffer to run in the Brome-Missisquoi riding in Quebec's Eastern Townships region.
Marler is sharply critical in his book of the 66 Conservative candidates who agreed to the scheme proposed by party officials. Two of the candidates, backed by the party, launched a civil suit against Elections Canada and won at the Federal Court level. However, that ruling was overturned Tuesday by the Court of Appeal in a unanimous decision backing Elections Canada.
"Maybe it was greed or maybe it was lack of intelligence or something in between the two. However, I put it down to the strength of the party and its ability to create a cult that can cause its followers to do virtually anything that might be asked of them," Marler wrote.
Marler was approached by Elections Canada investigators following a Commissioner of Elections raid on Conservative party headquarters in 2008. Since then, he has not been asked for further information or to participate in any court appearances, although he suspects that might happen.
He remains sharply critical of what he calls the Conservative government's "unacceptable" behaviour.
"To think that we live in this country in which our government behaves in such a manner, has such a disregard for ethics, manners and respect, in what they do and how they do it …," Marler said.