Records missing from Conservative MP's campaign file
Law is clear about allowing public access, lawyer says
Questions are being raised about how Elections Canada is handling MPs' campaign files after the agency refused to allow CBC News to see documents in the campaign file of Conservative MP Eve Adams.
At the end of every federal election, candidates have to turn in paperwork, including receipts, to back up their spending. That information is available to anyone who requests the files from Elections Canada headquarters in Ottawa.
The election agency also reviews the files to see whether they comply with the rules for reporting expenses. Candidates who get enough votes in the election are reimbursed for 60 per cent of their eligible expenses.
With some MPs still arguing with the agency over the expenses they claimed in the last race two years ago, CBC News asked to see their files.
After viewing the file of Conservative MP Eve Adams, it was clear that some correspondence was missing.
One document, titled "Appendix to letter of April 9, 2013," and apparently written by Adams's official agent, was in the file, but there was no cover letter. Letters from Elections Canada were also missing.
'Left on file in error'
The appendix lists expenses "as corrected" in the Elections Canada return, suggesting the corrections were made in response to a request by Elections Canada. Other line items offer explanations for why Adams's official agent, her former husband Peter Adams, was refusing to make the changes.
The appendix shows Peter Adams is set to repay $6,003.34 in expenses that the agency said didn't count as election expenses.
Other files for campaigns where Elections Canada asks for corrections contain letters from the agency and responses from the candidate's official agent or lawyer.
John Enright, a spokesman for Elections Canada, said the letter and appendix are "audit documents" that aren't accessible to the public under Section 541 of the Canada Elections Act.
"The appendix was left on the file in error and should have been removed before public viewing," Enright said in an email.
Asked how the letters don't qualify for public viewing, Enright repeated his first response. He declined an interview request.
Section 541 lists a number of documents that "are public records and may be inspected by any person on request," including "all instructions issued by the Chief Electoral Officer under this Act, all decisions or rulings by him or her on points arising under this Act and all correspondence with election officers or others in relation to an election."
'Supposed to be public'
Peter Rosenthal, a lawyer specializing in election law, says Elections Canada needs a good reason for refusing to provide any paperwork related to any campaign spending.
"In general, all these documents are supposed to be public," he said in an interview with CBC News.
"It's explicit in Section 541 of the Canada Elections Act.... So it's absolutely unequivocal that all documents related to that [file] are public documents that should be made freely available to the public."
Rosenthal says there are no exceptions, other than a lawyer's advice to a client.
"I cannot see any reason for Elections Canada refusing to provide you these documents," he said.
New Democrat MP Charlie Angus says the missing paperwork raises red flags.
"With the paper missing, it leaves a lot of questions and it leaves the question [of] who pulled that paper," he said.
"I think also out of fairness to Eve Adams, there's been many questions in the media about inappropriate spending, hopefully the paper trail would establish what was appropriate and what wasn't."
"It puts MPs and candidates in a bind if the explanation's not there, because the assumption is they did something wrong. So I think when it's transparent and clear, we can get to the bottom of it quicker."
Eve Adams and her official agent both declined to comment.