RCMP investigate allegations of embezzlement and theft made by Conservatives
By Jason Malloy
TRURO - Bill Casey wants his name cleared after the RCMP investigated accusations of embezzlement and theft made by the Conservative Party during the last federal election campaign.
The Independent MP for Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley rose in the House of Commons on Tuesday and produced an RCMP briefing note pertaining to the accusation of embezzlement and theft of $30,000 from the local riding association.
Inside the House, he called it "an attempt to smear my reputation and destroy my character."
"I don't want to leave politics with an accusation of theft and embezzlement remaining," Casey later said in an interview.
"This RCMP reports says that they did not have sufficient grounds to go further, but when you say you don't have sufficient grounds, it insinuates there are some grounds and there are no grounds," the 63-year-old Brookdale resident said.
"I want them to say there is no grounds and these accusations should never have been made. This is totally, absolutely 100 per cent false, malicious accusations."
The RCMP report contains little information about the allegation except a reference to a $30,000 cheque.
Casey explained the $30,000 was removed from the riding association account by his election team in May 2007 and placed in a campaign account. At the time, Casey was the nominated candidate in the riding, a confidence vote was upcoming and the potential for an election was a real possibility.
Political parties must set up separate funds for election campaigns.
Casey was kicked out of caucus in June 2007 for voting against the federal budget. That October, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it clear Casey would not be back in caucus and another candidate would be running for the party in the next election.
Casey said within a week, the money was returned to the riding association in full despite some of the $30,000 having been spent on bank charges during the interim.
"We complied with Elections Canada to the letter," Casey said.
During the last federal election, unnamed Conservatives spoke to the RCMP in Cumberland County and went to the Bible Hill detachment with the information.
The issue was brought to a handful of media outlets during the election campaign but was never published by mainstream media because of a lack of evidence to substantiate the claims.
It rose again when a reporter from Montreal's La Presse obtained a copy of the RCMP briefing note and contacted Casey late last week.
The MP said he was "shocked" because he never heard the words "embezzlement" or "theft" when the issue first arose.
The Truro Daily News has learned that Diana Read-Miedema, the financial agent for Conservative Party candidate Joel Bernard, took the allegations to the RCMP.
She did not return calls yesterday.
Riding association president Ted Rushton told CBC-TV that national party headquarters had nothing to do with going to the Mounties.
"Basically national office said 'leave it alone, dead in the water, don't touch it.' She felt there was some definite questionable irregularities that needed to be investigated. She did this on her own," he said.
Casey is unsure how long it will take for the speaker to decide if his claims warrant going to committee.