Liberal MP Martha Hall-Findlay, centre, speaks on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, February 28, 2011. (QMI Agency/CHRISTOPHER PIKE)
OTTAWA - The Conservative Party wants Elections Canada to force 2006 Liberal leadership scofflaws to pay up, or enforce legislation that calls for fines and jail.
Jenni Byrne, the party's director of political operations, wrote a letter to chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand that calls on Elections Canada to stop ignoring a court ruling that said three candidates are in violation of the Canada Elections Act for not repaying their debts.
The fourth candidate — Ken Dryden — wasn't part of the court proceedings involving MP Hedy Fry and former MPs Joe Volpe and Martha Hall-Findlay, who is considering another run at leading the Grits.
Collectively, all four still owe more than $600,000, with Dryden owing the most.
Under the rules, candidates had 18 months after the race to clear the slate.
A pack of contenders failed to meet that deadline and were granted an extension. When that expired, some went to court and were given another two years.
The Ontario Superior Court tossed in the towel in June after hearing arguments that none of the candidates was trying very hard to erase their debts and sent the matter back to Elections Canada to take appropriate measures.
"It is important that Elections Canada take action," Byrne wrote Monday. "What will Elections Canada do to prevent circumvention of the law on political donations, and what penalties will it impose on these candidates?"
A spokesman for Elections Canada said an audit of the debts would be conducted before any decision is made to impose penalties that range from a $1,000 fine to three months in jail or both.
"As is the case with candidates and other political entities governed by the Canada Elections Act, the debt remains until the unpaid claims are paid and the contestant's campaign is closed off or the creditors have written off the debt," John Enright said.