Canada briefs – November 24

Canada’s chief electoral officer has no discretion to audit or investigate election expense claims by party candidates but must simply reimburse them if the paperwork appears in order, a lawyer representing two Conservative agents argued Monday in Federal Court.

Watchdog has no power to audit

Tory in-and-out invoices: lawyer

OTTAWA — Canada’s chief electoral officer has no discretion to audit or investigate election expense claims by party candidates but must simply reimburse them if the paperwork appears in order, a lawyer representing two Conservative agents argued Monday in Federal Court.

It was a surprisingly simple, nuance-free submission considering the lawsuit — initiated by the Tories in relation to advertising expenses in the 2006 federal campaign — has taken more than 27 months, countless court manoeuvres and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to get before a judge.

Lawyer Michel Decary, representing two Conservative agents among 67 who participated in the so-called “in-and-out” ad financing scheme, said the role of chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand is purely “mechanical” when it comes to reimbursing expenses.

“He has no investigative powers,” Decary told a clearly skeptical Justice Luc Martineau.

“The role of the chief electoral officer is not to get down in the ring and become the prosecutor.”

Since the candidates provided invoices for the ad purchases, and since the ads did in fact run, Elections Canada had no option but to reimburse them, Decary stated.

He said that if Mayrand had concerns about the invoices, his only option was to pay up and then refer the matter to the federal Elections Commissioner.

Mayrand did in fact call in Elections Commissioner William Corbett, who is still investigating. But Elections Canada also stopped payment to some 50 Tory candidates after reimbursing 17 of 67 claimants who participated in the ad scheme.

The case involves $1.2 million in Conservative advertising that was billed to local candidates during the last weeks of the 2006 election campaign.

In a series of transactions controlled by party headquarters, thousands of dollars were transferred to local campaigns, which immediately sent the money back as payment for national TV and radio ads that played in their region.

Had the national ads been billed to the party, the Conservatives would have exceeded their election spending limit by more than a million dollars.

Quebec premier calls on Ottawa

to fight greenhouse gas emissions

MONTREAL — Ottawa needs to do more to reduce Canada’s greenhouse emissions, Quebec Premier Jean Charest said Monday as he committed Quebec to accelerate its own efforts to help grow the provincial economy.

“For Quebecers, the environment is synonymous with the future, prosperity and a better quality of life,” Charest said in a speech attended by the who’s who of Quebec business leaders.

The premier said Monday the province’s bountiful natural resources, particularly its abundance of hydro power, will support its efforts to become “an international leader in this new global economic order.”

Seniors on antidepressants, other sedating drugs more prone to falls

TORONTO — Researchers say seniors who take medications that can have a sedating effect are at greater risk of taking a potentially debilitating fall.

The researchers at the University of British Columbia found those over 65 who take antidepressants, antipsychotics and certain sleeping pills have 1.5 times the risk of falling compared to those not on the drugs.

Principal investigator Dr. Carlo Marra, a UBC pharmacist, says one in three Canadians over 65 living in the community fall each year, and that figure rises to 40 per cent for those over 80.

And he says taking a spill is no trivial matter for this age group — one in five who fracture a hip will die and 15 per cent will have to move into a long-term care facility.

Marra says the study findings reinforce the message that doctors need to take care in prescribing drugs with sedative effects to older people.

The UBC analysis of pooled data from 22 international studies is published in Monday’s Archives of Internal Medicine.

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