Sports socks, skin resurfacing among candidates' expenses in 2015 election
Published Friday, August 19, 2016 10:22PM EDT
On top of yard signs and pizza for volunteers, candidates in last fall’s federal election charged their campaigns for the costs of skin-resurfacing treatments, sport socks and visits to hair and makeup salons.
Elections Canada records show International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland filed receipts worth over $500 in hair and makeup appointments to her campaign in Toronto.
Pixie Hobby, a losing NDP candidate in Surrey, B.C., also submitted bills for hair salon visits and a $367 charge from Azure Skin Care, writing on the receipt submitted in campaign filings that she needed to have treatment for facial scars suffered in a 2011 bike accident removed.
Two Conservative candidates passed on the costs of rounding out their wardrobes to their campaigns. Former MP Robert Goguen ordered custom-made suits, shirts and pants from a tailor in Bangkok, Thailand, at a cost of $1,800. He was defeated in his bid for re-election in Moncton, New Brunswick.
And Dev Balkissoon charged his losing campaign in Ottawa-South for shoes, neck ties, sport socks and even collar-stays for his shirts, submitting a total of $1,239 in receipts for new duds. Expenses that are approved by Elections Canada are eligible for taxpayer-funded rebates of 60 per cent of the costs, if the candidate gets 10 per cent of the popular vote in the riding.
Candidates are allowed to claim reimbursement against a maximum of $200 in personal grooming or clothing expenses that they would not normally incur outside of an election campaign.
But costs that are declared ineligible for reimbursement can still be paid to candidates by their campaigns -- drawing on funds donated by supporters or transferred from their riding associations or national parties.
“It is our understanding that all rules have been followed,” Steve Aylward, president of Freeland’s riding association, told CTV News in June when first asked about the expenses.
“Since the costs were incurred for the campaign, it would be a violation of the rules not to file with Elections Canada the full expenses as they were incurred.”
Freeland’s $532 in hair and makeup appointments exceed those submitted by then-Conservative MP Eve Adams, who was criticized by Liberals for expensing $491 in salon visits to her 2011 election, a shorter campaign.
Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett in 2013 accused Adams of "trying to get a taxpayer rebate for beauty products and services" and asked whether she had broken Elections Canada rules.
Some of Adams’ expense claims were later disallowed by Elections Canada.
Records obtained by CTV News show that Freeland charged two appointments at the Yonge Street salon Philosophy Inc.
One of the bills, worth $177, was on the same day then-Liberal leader Justin Trudeau visited Freeland’s Toronto riding of University - Rosedale. It was listed in her financial report under personal expense category labelled “Care of a person with a physical or mental incapacity”
Aylward said the expense was categorized in error and will be amended.
Freeland also filed two claims with her campaign for “Paparazzi” makeup packages from Gee Beauty, worth $79 and $94, and another for $64 for a blow dry at Fiorio Yonge Salon & Spa.
Freeland’s campaign return also included a $72 receipt from Indigo Books for three copies of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, her 2012 book on income inequality.
Aylward said books were purchased as gifts for volunteers, he said.
“We’re proud the book shines a light on income inequality. It represents who Chrystia Freeland is and what she stands for.”
Equal Voice Canada, which encourages more women to participate in politics, say women candidates are often exposed to greater scrutiny of their appearance than men and said the government should consider revising the expense rules to account for their higher costs.
"We want more women to get into politics. We obviously need them to feel they are not bearing a disproportionate financial burden for campaign expenses that are very real," said Equal Voice’s Nancy Peckford.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation calls election expenses a grey area and said candidates should bill only for costs directly related to their campaigns.
"If it’s something people are used to spending in their everyday lives, I don't think taxpayers should be asked to pay for that," said CTF federal director Aaron Wudrick.