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Democracy Bought and Paid For

From August 22, 2008

In 2000, as the rookie leader for the Canadian Alliance, Stockwell Day rightly realized that his influence on the federal government could be best felt only once he had a seat in parliament. His party spied a safe seat in the British Columbia Interior. There Day could run easily, but only if the existing MP Jim Hart resigned and opened the way for a by-election.

Jim Hart believed this to be in his interest, that is, if the Canadian Alliance met his demands and paid him $40,000.

Later Jim Hart settled for $50,000 and a non-disclosure agreement. With the Canadian Alliance and Day's blessing, Hart left his seat and responsibilities behind, relocating to the Republic of Georgia.

Much of this was investigated by the RCMP in 2001, but new documents came to light in early 2007. The documents were among thousands of papers left behind by the Conservative party as they rushed to switch from their former offices in opposition to their government offices in 2006.

Among the related documents were faxes from Hart, which included statements such as "My resignation was contingent upon this negotiation," and "consider, if this is to be handled by an employment contract that I split the income with my wife, for tax purposes."

These statements are particularly damning: in contrast to a severance package, bribing an MP to resign is a criminal offence; and Hart's proposed income splitting plan was fraudulent and illegal. Worse, as this information was made public, Stockwell Day's role as Public Safety Minister meant he was also the minister for the RCMP.

Yet Day did not see the conflict of interest that would require him to step down from his position as minister. In the end, the RCMP decided to not reopen the investigation.