Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Darling, you're now $700 less taxpayer body beautiful!"

Elections Canada rejects MP's claim for grooming costs as election expenses

Glen McGregor
Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Conservative MP Eve Adams responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

OTTAWA — Conservative MP Eve Adams will not be reimbursed for hundreds of dollars in grooming supplies and visits to hair and nail salons that she had claimed as campaign expenses in the 2011 election.

In filings with Elections Canada, Adams had submitted receipts for “candidate’s personal expenses” that included more than $900 for salon visits, dry cleaning and items such as skin cleanser and whitening toothpaste.

After a review by Elections Canada auditors, the financial report filed by Adams’ campaign was revised to include only $200 of these costs — the maximum limit the agency allows for personal care items a candidate may claim during a campaign.

The Adams campaign had submitted receipts from seven trips Adams made to the Davinci Salon and Spa in Mississauga over the five-week campaign before the May 2, 2011, vote.

The total cost of $424 included six bills that the owner said would have been for a hair wash and blow dry and two others for highlights or hair colouring.

The campaign had also submitted a $63 receipt for a visit to a nail salon, with a $4 tip, four days before the election, as well as a dry-clearing bill for $166 and a $260 receipt from Shoppers Drug Mart.

The Shoppers bill listed Crest 3D mouthwash and whitening toothpaste, Neutrogena cleanser, Nivea Visage skin cream, and travel hairbrushes, among other items.

Adams, a former Mississauga city councillor, serves as Parliamentary Secretary to Health Minister Rona Ambrose.

Candidates are eligible for reimbursement of 60 per cent of their approved campaign expenses, meaning taxpayers would have paid $552 for Adams’ grooming costs, had the full value of the expenses been allowed.

Elections Canada allows personal claims for travel and living expenses during a campaign, but the costs must be incurred because of the campaign.

“In other words, they have to be expenses that the candidate would not normally incur if there was no election,” Elections Canada’s handbook for candidates and official agents says.

When the Citizen first reported on Adams’ expenses in June, the Mississauga–Brampton South MP lashed out on Twitter and suggested that expense costs were for campaign workers.

“We even bought soap for campaign office bathroom for people to wash their hands after 16+ hour days. Go figure!”

She did not say if the skin cream, facial cleanser or Sally Hershberger brand hair product charged to her campaign were also intended for use by volunteers.

At the time, her estranged husband and campaign official agent, Peter Adams, said he was required to disclose all personal expenses while knowing there was a $200 cap.

The original campaign return listed $2,777 in candidate costs, including childcare costs. But the revised claim moved $720 of Adams’ expenses to a column labelled “amounts not included in election expenses.”

On Tuesday, Peter Adams wrote in an email, “All receipts were originally provided to Elections Canada and those receipts and the amounts have not changed.”

In June, Eve Adams defended her original expense claim in the House of Commons, saying that more than two-thirds of her expenses were for child care for her five-year-old son. She did not address the grooming products or salon visits.

“Elections Canada has very clear-cut rules and definitions of what can and cannot constitute a personal campaign expense. All campaigns, including my campaign, need to follow those definitions,” she said.
After the election, Adams’s campaign still had not paid off a $15,000 bill from call centre company, the Responsive Marketing Group.

The bill was resolved only after the Conservative Mississauga–Brampton South Riding Association transferred $17,000 to the campaign last summer, more than a year after the vote.

The association financed the bulk of Adams campaign, which took in only $21,000 in donations from individuals.

Filings with Elections Canada give rare insight into the kind of expenses MPs feel should be compensated. The House of Commons provides only aggregated totals of the amounts each MP spends on travel or office costs.

The Liberals and Conservatives have begun voluntarily posting more detailed accounts of their MPs’ spending, mimicking the proactive disclosure template used by cabinet ministers, but even these do not provide the same level of detail as election finance reports.

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