Inside Politics

UPDATED - NDP claims victory in dispute over byelection mailings

In a press release headlined "NDP cleared by Elections Canada," the New Democrats are claiming victory over their parliamentary opponents in the now seemingly concluded dispute over the party's taxpayer-funded mailing campaign on the eve of the November 2012 byelections.

"Elections Canada has confirmed that the NDP mailing program prior to the start of by-elections in the constituencies of Provencher, Bourassa and Toronto Centre was in full compliance with the Elections Act," the release trumpets.

As proof, the party has provided a copy of the letter sent by Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand to House Speaker Andrew Scheer, who filed a formal request for the agency to look into the matter last week on behalf of the secretive all-party Board of Internal Economy that oversees MP and party spending on the Hill.

The release also includes a celebratory quote from newly minted NDP House Leader Peter Julian, who noted that the Liberals and Conservatives had "failed in their smear campaign against the NDP."

Here's the full text of Mayrand's letter, as provided by the NDP: 

Careful readers will no doubt notice that the letter does not include an explicit statement 'clearing' the New Democrats, and, in fact, even includes a line that seems to suggest the matter is still under review.

Nevertheless, in response to a request for confirmation and/or clarification, Elections Canada spokesperson John Enright told CBC News that the letter "speaks for itself."

He did, however, include a link to the candidates' manual, which reiterates the point made in Mayrand's response; namely, that if a householder is "in transit" on the day of the election call and the candidate "does not have the ability to stop the delivery," it would not be considered an election expense even if it arrives during the writ. 

In a follow-up response, Enright explained that the phrase "this matter" is "generic," which suggests, but doesn't officially confirm that, as far as Mayrand is concerned, the case would appear to be closed. 

UPDATE: It appears that it may not be entirely closed for the Board of Internal Economy, however, which is "continuing to review the matter," according to The Canadian Press.

"It may yet rewrite the rules for bulk mailings by MPs into ridings where byelections are imminent."

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