Manitoba

Toews pleads guilty to election overspending

Provencher MP Vic Toews has pleaded guilty to charges of overspending during the 1999 provincial election.

Provencher MP Vic Toews has pleaded guilty to charges of overspending during the 1999 provincial election.

The former attorney general of Manitoba pleaded guilty to overspending his campaign budget by $7,500. He has said the overspending was the result of a misunderstanding with the provincial Conservative party's central campaign office.

In the end, Toews lost the Rossmere riding to the NDP by about 300 votes in the 1999 general election.

Toews, who is now justice critic for the federal Conservatives, originally pleaded not guilty to the charges. However, his lawyer says he has changed his plea to guilty to put the matter behind him.

Toews faces a maximum penalty of $2,000; the lawyer for Elections Manitoba has asked the judge to consider a fine between $500 and $1,000.

The judge reserved his decision. Toews will not have a criminal record because the charges fall under the Election Finances Act, not the Criminal Code.

• Toews should resign: MP •

Manitoba's senior cabinet minister, Reg Alcock, says Toews should step down as justice critic – or be removed by Tory leader Stephen Harper.

Alcock says Harper has asked a number of ministers to step aside with virtually no evidence, so now he needs to act based on Toews' guilty plea.

"Mr. Toews has now admitted to breaking the law in Manitoba, which I think would at least cause him to question whether he should remain as justice critic, so I'm actually calling on Mr. Harper to ask Mr. Toews to step aside," says Alcock.

Toews says his actions weren't intentional, and since the offence is regulatory, not criminal, he does not need to give up his position as justice critic.

With files from Canadian Press