The NDP gave back $45,000 of union election contributions yesterday over fears the donations may have violated the province’s Elections Act.
Organizations can donate a maximum of $5,000 to a political party. Nine unions, all members of the Mainland Nova Scotia Building Trades Council, donated the maximum.
However, the NDP learned the council had offered to reimburse the unions for their donations.
“They were clearly trying to get around (the $5,000 limit) by giving $45,000 through nine surrogates. And you can’t do that,” said Elections Nova Scotia spokesman Dana Doiron.
The NDP said yesterday they learned about the money possibly being breaking rules of the Elections Act Saturday evening from a freelance journalist. The party refunded the money yesterday and contacted media outlets to inform them of what had happened.
NDP Leader Darrell Dexter said they returned the money as soon as they learned of the possible rules breach.
“We did exactly what we were supposed to do. We acted entirely appropriately,” Dexter said.
Council President Cordell Cole told CBC News his group did offer to reimburse the unions, but said their lawyer thought it would be OK.
The news of this money being returned emboldened the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives yesterday, who had already been attacking the NDP for their ties to unions.
“I think it’s rather interesting that when they get put under the microscope about the involvement of unions in their campaign, that they decided all of the sudden they’re going to start giving money back,” said Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil.
The Tories called on chief electoral officer Christine McCulloch to bring in the RCMP to investigate NDP donations.
But Doiron, speaking on behalf of McCulloch, said that wasn’t going to happen.
“There’s nothing to investigate. They handled it the appropriate way,” he said.
“The act is very specific that if and when you find out it’s an inappropriate donation or contribution you have to give it back, and that’s what they did.”