Liberals spent almost $100,000 to elect now-independent Hunter Tootoo
Hunter Tootoo is sworn in as Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard during a ceremony at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)
Published Friday, August 19, 2016 3:03PM EDT
Former Liberal cabinet minister Hunter Tootoo's victory didn't come cheap during the last federal election, documents filed with Elections Canada show.
The now-independent MP and his campaign spent nearly $100,000 to win the Nunavut riding for the Liberals, in a campaign funded exclusively by the federal party and the local riding association. That includes $10,000 in salary paid to Tootoo for the 78-day election period. He had initially invoiced the campaign for $18,000, but noted it could be paid "as the cash flow of the campaign account allows for."
Tootoo reduced the salary request the same month bank records show his campaign was essentially broke.
It's unusual for a candidate to charge a salary for the months spent campaigning, given how many other places there are to spend scarce campaign resources. The cost of travel in remote ridings is particularly steep since large areas with sparse populations tend to necessitate air travel, while candidates in most ridings can travel by car.
Documents filed with Elections Canada show the campaign paid Tootoo $10,000 in salary on Sept. 14, a little more than a month before the Oct. 19 election date. The invoice filed by Tootoo listed expenses his income would normally cover, including child and spousal support payments, rent and a truck payment, which he valued at $7,150 a month.
Months later, with Tootoo in cabinet and the campaign short on cash, he wrote a follow-up memo to say he was reducing the amount owed to the $10,000 he’d already been paid.
"As a result, there are no further amounts owing to me from the 'Hunter Tootoo Election Campaign'," he wrote in a letter dated Feb. 29, 2016. The same month, records show only $5,565.42 left in the campaign bank account, with $21,448.51 still owing to the Nunavut Federal Liberal Association.
Tootoo seems to have done no fundraising during the campaign, relying entirely on financial transfers from the local riding association, which in turn relied partly on transfers from the Liberal Party of Canada.
The campaign received $80,000 in transfers from the Nunavut riding association to fund the campaign, which Elections Canada records show spent a total of $97,546.62.
The Liberal Party of Canada transferred $49,000 to the Nunavut association from Feb. 10, 2015 to Oct. 19, 2015, the day of the election. An additional $3,000 was transferred from the federal party to its Nunavut association on Oct. 20 and $12,233.26 on Dec. 15, for a 2015 total of $64,233.26 in transfers from the party to the association. A party spokesman said the $12,233.26 transfer was due to a mix-up that had the party receive part of the Tootoo campaign's Elections Canada refund last December.
Campaign still owes money
A Canadian Press analysis last spring found the average campaign spending among Liberal candidates was $71,660, while the Conservatives spent an average of $90,665. That's nearly twice what the average NDP candidate spent, at $54,404, with the average Green Party candidate dispensing a frugal $12,642.
In Nunavut, Tootoo's Conservative rival spent $80,765.86. Leona Aglukkaq went into the race as the incumbent and a long-serving cabinet minister in Stephen Harper's government. Her riding association raised about the same as Tootoo's in 2015 - over $19,000 - but took only $14,380.35 in transfers from other ridings. Aglukkaq does not appear to have been paid during the campaign.
Of the donations the Liberal association received, most came in small amounts donated monthly. There were a smaller number of much bigger donations, including from several people who live outside the territory.
The $97,546.62 campaign spending total includes $21,448.51 the campaign still owed the riding association when the records were filed last March. Between the transfers and the unpaid claim, the riding association funded the entire campaign for a candidate now sitting as an independent.
Tootoo quit the Liberal caucus to enter treatment for addiction issues. Tootoo also admitted - after weeks of speculation - to an inappropriate but consensual relationship with a staffer.
Some Liberals in the riding have expressed frustration over no longer having representation, not only in the government caucus, but at the Cabinet table too, and have called for Tootoo to step down and run as an independent candidate in a byelection.
CTVNews.ca sent multiple emails to addresses associated with the Nunavut Liberal association requesting comment, but received no response. A phone request to another member of the executive also drew no response.
Henry Wright, a spokesman for Tootoo, said the MP was travelling and not available for an interview requests. Wright also responded to questions on behalf of the campaign's official agent, Geoffrey Oliver, who handled the campaign's finances.
The money owed to the riding association will be partially covered through the remaining Elections Canada rebate, Wright wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca.
"The unpaid claim of $21,448.51 remains unpaid. The campaign anticipates further rebates from Elections Canada of approximately $8,700. Any unpaid amounts beyond that will require fundraising in accordance with the Canada Elections Act," Wright said on behalf of Oliver.
Oliver is not a Liberal Party member, nor a member of any other federal party. He agreed to be Tootoo's official agent after Tootoo went into his accounting office ahead of the election, Wright said. Oliver "agreed to be official agent out of a sense of civic duty and he was not paid," Wright said.
While Tootoo drew a salary from the campaign, he filed few incidental expenses, providing receipts for only $431.18 for meals and other incidental expenses. The incidentals included flour, sugar and fabric softener.