Tories agree to new audit powers for Elections Canada
Prime Minister Stephen Harper responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, March 7, 2012. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Wednesday, March 7, 2012 4:36PM EST
OTTAWA - The Conservative government has reversed course and now says it will support an NDP motion to give Elections Canada increased audit powers.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has battled the federal elections watchdog for much of his political career, told the House of Commons on Wednesday his government will support new legislation within six months -- as proposed by the official Opposition.
New Democrats and Liberals have been making hay of the fact a Conservative-dominated committee last month formally turned down a recommendation by the chief electoral officer for new investigative powers.
Marc Mayrand wants to be able to compel political parties to back up their financial statements with receipts and details -- a power currently held by all his provincial counterparts.
The Conservative committee rejection was used by the opposition parties as damning evidence against the government in the context of Elections Canada's growing investigation into fraudulent election phone calls.
For a prime minister who has long railed against the power of Elections Canada, New Democrats say the reversal reflects the political toll the robocall scandal is taking on the Conservative government.