Charges go ahead against Mississauga ...

Charges go ahead against Mississauga councillor

Posted in the Georgetown Forum

MP Bonnie Crombie

North Bay, Canada

#1 Dec 12, 2012

A Mississauga councillor widely thought to be the front-runner to replace Mayor Hazel McCallion has been charged with 10 counts of election finance violations.

Former Liberal MP Bonnie Crombie was charged by elector Cecil Young Tuesday after Justice of the Peace Prior Bonas, of the Ontario Court of Justice, agreed Young’s case has enough merit to proceed with charges.

The charges stem from the 2011 Ward 5 municipal byelection won by Crombie shortly after she lost her seat in the federal election.

Crombie is alleged to have used signs from her federal campaign, accepted donations from outside the province, incurred expenses prior to registering as a candidate, and failed to record expenses — all in violation of sections of the Municipal Elections Act. Crombie could be removed from office if found guilty.

“I have made arguments about (the allegations) before. They prevailed once; I hope they prevail again,” said Jack Siegel, Crombie’s lawyer.

He was referring to an application by Young, who was another candidate in the byelection, and fellow candidate Mark Cashin, asking the city’s election finance committee to order an audit of Crombie’s campaign. In February, the five-member committee of appointed residents rejected that request.

But Crombie will now have to deal with similar allegations, and new ones involving alleged contributions from outside the province, at a Feb. 12 hearing.

Crombie did not respond to a request for comment by the Star.

“If everybody follows the rules, the playing field is fairly level,” Young said of the election process, explaining why he brought the charges forward.“If you choose to go outside the rules, there should be sanctions. If you can use signs from a federal election or get donations from outside the province, then that’s not fair.”

Young’s lawyer, municipal law expert Eric Gillespie, says Crombie’s alleged use of a poll paid for prior to the period when the Act allows such expenses to be incurred was a big advantage, as it would help her map out a campaign strategy based on targeting key rivals.

Gillespie said the Act prohibits donations from federal political parties or riding associations, making alleged reuse of signs from a federal campaign unfair.

Young says elected municipal officials need to be held accountable, even if, because of provincial laws, that requires average citizens to do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to bringing charges.

“The Justice of the Peace has allowed the charges to be laid; I’m happy with that,” Young said.“Now it will be up to a judge to decide what will happen and if there will be any punishment.”

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