On top of the enormous expense of this federal election, taxpayers may also be contributing to the personal grooming, footwear and wardrobe expenses of some candidates.
MPs elected in 2008 tried to claim reimbursement for expenses such as shoes, clothes, a parking ticket and even a $176 hairdo, campaign finance reports shows.
Candidates are allowed to claim reasonable personal expenses incurred during campaigns and can pass on 60 per cent of these costs to taxpayers, if they get 10 per cent of the vote.
Elections Canada has approved only 23 per cent of the more than $112,000 that candidates tried to claim as “other personal expenses” in 2008.
While many of the claims were refused for accounting confusion — expenses included in the wrong categories — some appear to have been tossed out because they wouldn’t qualify as personal expenses.
Newmarket-Aurora Conservative MP Lois Brown charged three visits to her hairdresser during the campaign, running up bills of $31, $21 and $176 at Di and I Hair Design in Newmarket.
Her appointments were about two weeks apart, the receipts show. A receptionist at Di and I said the $176 charge was likely for foils or colouring.
Brown also hit the ladies sale rack at Tom’s Place, a business clothing discounter in Toronto’s Kensington Market. She picked up nine items totalling $1,776.
Tom Mihalik, owner of the store, says he remembers Brown coming in.
“She would have bought ladies’ suits and ladies’ pants,” he said.
In an e-mail, Brown said the expenses were ones she would not have incurred were she not running for office.
“As it turned out, they were not allowable,” she wrote. “Elections Canada provided clarity on this item, which assists going forward.”
Were Elections Canada to approve Brown’s claims, taxpayers would have reimbursed her $137 for her coiffure and $1,065 for her new business outfits. But the agency allowed only $200 of her claim, a standard cap on personal costs.
Elections Canada allows candidates to claim reasonable expenses for travel, living and child care related to their campaigns. Dry-cleaning or personal grooming are allowable as “other” expenses, but the elections watchdog cautions these must be something that the candidate would not normally incur had there not been an election.
The rules are the same for men and women, which may put female candidates at a disadvantage. Men’s haircuts are cheaper and they can get through a campaign with a couple of suits, but women’s hair styling is costly and their clothing subject to heightened scrutiny — as Kim Campbell or Sarah Palin could attest.
Women running for the New Democratic Party can get financial help from the Agnes Macphail Fund, named after the first woman elected to the House of Commons. Winnipeg NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis collected $1,200 from the fund in 2008. She also claimed clothing as a personal campaign expense, submitting a bill for clothing from The Bay for $580, with six items from the brands Precis, Windsmoor and Jacques Vert. Elections Canada allowed only $200 of these.
Fellow New Democrat Jean Crowder also picked up new togs for the campaign. She hit Damsels Fashions in Nanaimo, B.C., and snagged a plaid Spanner shirt ($129), an Orly sweater ($75) and a pair of Jag Jeans corduroy pants ($95). Crowder claimed $334.88, her Elections Canada filings show.
Crowder dropped another $286.90 at Cardino’s Footware in Duncan and submitted a $70 handwritten receipt for “history books” from the Women’s Institute, a charitable organization in Kamloops.
Crowder said she had broken her ankle and needed special shoes for campaigning. The new outfits were to replace clothes she had spilled something on.
“I had some sort of malfunction,” she said. “I guess it’s up to people to judge if it’s a legitimate campaign expense.” Elections Canada allowed only $200.
New Democrat Don Davies tried to claim as a transportation expense a $45 ticket for parking in a no-stopping zone in Vancouver. Davies also claimed $1.73 spent at Starbucks. He did not respond to a request for comment.
Gatineau Bloc Québécois MP Richard Nadeau filed a claim for an expense outside his riding, with a claim for a $183 meal with three guests at the Baton Rouge steak house in downtown Montreal, about 160 kilometres from his riding.
The expense filings with Elections Canada also show that: Montreal Liberal MP Marlene Jennings submitted four taxi receipts for $109 as campaign costs in her Montreal riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grace-Lachine. Her taxi stubs are from Blue Line and Crown, cab companies that service only Ottawa and Gatineau.