Federal Liberal candidate Hardy Staub is taking incumbent Conservative Russ Hiebert to task for an election brochure mail-out sent to voters days before the upcoming federal election was called on March 26.
Staub said in a press release that Hiebert should admit if taxpayers paid for the mail-out – which other critics are estimating must have cost at least $8,000-$10,000 to print and mail.
“The people of the constituency deserve to know without delay who paid for the printing and mailing of your brochure that arrived in riding mailboxes before the dissolution of Parliament,” Staub said, addressing an open call to Hiebert in his statement.
“It says something about your ethics that you jumped the gun – while your government was so emphatic it didn’t want an election – by mailing self-promotion ahead of the actual election call.”
Staub told Peace Arch News it was also telling of the tactics of the Harper government in general.
“Isn’t it amazing that Mr. Harper and all the Conservatives said ‘no – we don’t want an election, it’s unnecessary,’ and suddenly, boom-boom, before the writ is dropped the election material is out there.”
And other candidates for the South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale riding are lining up to take shots at Hiebert’s – and the Conservatives’ – electioneering practices.
Green party candidate Larry Colero noted that, under Elections Canada regulations – which cover the campaign only – it’s not illegal for campaign materials to be distributed prior to the election call.
“It follows the letter of the law but not the spirit of democracy,” he said.
NDP candidate Susan Keeping said she feels the campaigning violated an unspoken rule usually followed by election candidates.
“How would you feel if you were running a race and the whistle was about to blow, and somebody jumped the fence and started running? How would you feel about that person?”
Keeping said funding of the campaign advertising was “a deeper question” she fears will never be answered honestly.
“It’s almost like, ‘how much money can we spend so that it’s not included in our cap (on election spending)?’” she said, adding that tax dollars paid for Conservatives’ full-page magazine advertisements promoting the most recent federal budget.
Christian Heritage Party candidate Mike Schouten said large political parties have an advantage in that $2 per voter each year in taxes is allocated to election spending, without any say by voters.
Colero said a half-page colour advertisment in the Peace Arch News March 18 promoted Hiebert without making mention of the government – even though Hiebert’s office has admitted, he said, that it was paid for by tax dollars.
“The only contact information was for Russ Hiebert,” Colero said. “I believe that’s highly inappropriate.”
Independent candidate Aart Looye said he feels the local brochure mail-out – and the way it was paid for, is consistent with Hiebert’s past record.
“Mr. Hiebert feels he’s entitled to use whatever resources are available to him,” he said. “It’s an abuse of power.”
Looye said he also believes current election regulations are not strong enough to take Hiebert and other Conservative candidates to task.
“Where is the accountability? The ultimate accountability will be at the polls,” he said.
“Russ Hiebert is pretty good at self-promotion at taxpayer expense – such as travelling first class on our dime.
“With his history of spending taxpayers’ money as if it were his own, we insist that he reveals the source of funding for his questionable pre-election mailing.”
Staub also told the Peace Arch News he feels that Hiebert has “no fiscal responsibility.”
“In one year he spent more on flying his family first class than any government will pay a disabled soldier for the rest of that soldier’s life.”
Hiebert had not responded to a request for an interview by Peace Arch News press deadline.