Politics
New contest's a drag on indebted 2006 Grit candidates

MP Joe Volpe pauses during a news conference in Ottawa

Credits: REUTERS/CHRIS WATTIE

JESSICA MURPHY | QMI AGENCY

OTTAWA - Seven years after Stephane Dion was crowned leader of the Liberal party, three contenders from the 2006 contest still owe money.

And one - former Liberal MP Joe Volpe - says it's nearly impossible in today's climate to find donors to help erase his debt because the pool of Grit contributors is being drained by new leadership contests.

"I think it's fair to say the field has been crowded by a leadership convention and candidates," Volpe said.

"And secondly in (Ontario) the leadership campaign to replace (Premier Dalton McGuinty). So people are otherwise preoccupied and committed."

Meanwhile, the trio's fate at the hands of Elections Canada is a mystery.

In June, an Ontario Superior Court tossed out Volpe, MP Hedy Fry and current Grit hopeful Martha Hall Findlay's request for another two year extension to repay the debt. They breached the Elections Act by blowing their repayment deadline.

Findlay has cleared her debt.

A spokesman for the agency refused Thursday to say whether the files had been referred to Commissioner Yves Côté, in charge of enforcing the Act.

Duff Conacher, a spokesman for advocacy group Democracy Watch, argued more transparency is necessary at Elections Canada.

"Otherwise these are unaccountable czars who may be watchdogs or may be lapdogs," he said.

Volpe said his file remains open. January 2012 filings show $85,090 in outstanding debt.

Fry said she's $10,000 in the red and has been forced to look outside the Liberal fold for donations.

Former MP Ken Dryden owes more than $366,000 according to documents filed with Elections Canada last August.

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