HQ of Conservative Party raided

Tue Apr 15, 2008 2:57pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Elections Canada investigators, backed by police, raided the Ottawa headquarters of the ruling Conservative Party on Tuesday, in a probe of its financing practices during the 2006 federal election campaign.

A crowd of reporters watched as two police officers arrived with a trolley-load of crates and entered one of the party's offices. The investigators were inside the offices for several hours, but no boxes were immediately seen being removed.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police stressed it was only there to assist Elections Canada, which regulates and monitors all federal elections.

"I can confirm that the commissioner of Elections Canada has requested the assistance of the RCMP in the execution of a search warrant," said John Enright, a spokesman for Elections Canada.

The Conservatives won power in 2006, partly by campaigning on accountability in the wake of a series of Liberal scandals.

The investigation was linked to Elections Canada's assertion that the Conservatives spent too much on advertising in the election campaign leading up to the January 23, 2006 vote, in which they won a minority government.

The party is engaged in a court battle with Elections Canada over its refusal to reimburse C$1.2 million ($1.2 million) in expenses that 67 Conservative candidates had claimed for television and radio advertisements produced by the national party.

Elections Canada says the Conservatives violated their spending limits through a series of financing transfers with local candidates, which the party is contesting.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (C) stands to vote in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 13, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>