Nfld. & Labrador

Suspicious of Tory 'in-out' money, disgruntled ex-candidate says

A former Conservative candidate says revelations about the widening advertising scandal only underline her existing suspicions about the party.

A former federal Conservative candidate in southern Newfoundland said Tuesday that revelations about the widening federal advertising scandal only underline her existing suspicions about the party.

'All I know is that that cheque came in, and went out,' said Cynthia Downey. ((CBC))

Cynthia Downey — who has already broken with the federal Tories after an unsuccessful bid in the southern Newfoundland riding of Random-Burin-St. George's — said she was told nothing about why the national party suddenly sent her campaign money leading up to the January 2006 election.

Downey, a last-minute candidate in that election, said she assumed that the money was meant to boost her uphill campaign against Liberal incumbent Bill Matthews.

"We thought when it came in that it was some funds to help us with our local riding campaign, but only to find out a few days later that it was to be returned to the party headquarters," Downey said.

"All I know is that that cheque came in, and went out."

Downey said she did not discuss the issue much with her staff, who she said complied with directions from Tory headquarters.

Downey already has a sour feeling about the federal Tories, having broken with the party over Prime Minister Stephen Harper's handling of the equalization formula.

Harper has drawn considerable fire from Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams and others for reneging on a written pledge leading up to the 2006 election, to exclude offshore energy revenues from a new formula.

Withdrew from race for nomination

Downey had been campaigning to seek the Conservative nomination for the next federal election in Random-Burin-St. George's, but withdrew to protest Harper's policies.

"I'm thinking that I made the right choice by breaking any ties with the Conservative Party of Canada," Downey said.

"[Harper] gives his word, and he breaks his word," she said. "If I can't have a leader that I can look up to and respect, I have no need to be part of something that is not honest and above board."

In court documents used for an Elections Canada raid on Conservative headquarters last week, officials say the so-called "in-out" plan involved transferring funds to 67 different candidates, and then pulling the money back within days, where it was allegedly spent on national advertising purchases.

Funds were evidently directed to candidates who were not close to meeting their respective campaign spending limits.

Elections Canada maintains that the Conservatives exceeded their spending limit by more than $1 million. The Tories, though, say they are being unfairly targeted.

Downey is one of four Newfoundland and Labrador candidates named in court documents. The others — Cyril Pelley, Joe Goudie and Aaron Hynes —also lost to Liberal incumbents.

Learned of problem in coffee shop

Goudie said he was unaware until Tuesday morning of any problems with election spending. He said he found out in a coffee shop in Labrador.

Goudie said he will track down his official agent and campaign manager to see if any money flowed in and out of his campaign.

Downey told CBC News she knows "very little" about what was actually going on, but is hoping the truth will emerge.

"We thought that the federal party was actually going to do something to help us, knowing that they would get the money back at the end of the campaign, I presume," Downey said.

"But then we found out that we were not to spend that money, but to return it."