Wednesday, February 21, 2018

I Thought I was Going To Jail

Or, "For Gawds Sake, It's Only Forty Cents"!

Back in the 80's Norma and I were very involved in politics and there was a Federal Election going on in Canada. Norma worked for Jim Fulton, the Member of Parliament for Skeena Riding in Northern BC and served as his very capable Campaign Manager during elections (ie: he never lost). My union had sprung me from the job and was paying my wages to work full time on the campaign as Jim and the entire New Democratic Party was and is very worker friendly.

I either volunteered or was seconded into acting as the candidates Official Agent, the person who is the legal representative of the candidate and is responsible for the proper recording of the finances of the campaign, a position that carries a great deal of responsibility.

As the campaign wore on, our days grew longer and by the end Norma and I were working twelve to fifteen hours a day (I was only being paid for 7 1/2 so the balance was my contribution to the Good Fight).

Back then we were doing the books the old fashioned way, double entry bookkeeping on balance sheets. All was going well until after the first month I balanced the books and discovered I was out forty cents! OMG! How could this have happened? I went back and compared all my entries with the invoices and receipts and the error would not go away. I don't know how many times it had been stressed that the books HAD to balance when I turned them in and I could not find the error! This amount was over a total cash flow of probably  $25,000 so not that big a percentage of the total. Still, my books did not balance and I was sick about it. To me, being out a penny was the same as being out a thousand dollars. I HAD to find that damn $.40!

Then one day we had a visitor to the campaign office, a local accountant who came in to drop off a donation for Jim. As I was writing out his receipt he asked how I was doing with the books (knowing I was an electronics guy, not an accountant). I spilled the beans to him, telling him I could not balance the books and that Jim would probably lose his seat and I would probably go to jail. To say I had put 100 hours into looking for the error is probably an exaggeration but I am pretty sure I put twenty hours into it, time I could well have spent on something more productive for the campaign.

He pulled a chair around to my side and had a quick look while I tried to explain. He waved me into silence, took a pencil, erased a random entry of $xxx.44, wrote down $xxx.84 and changed the total at the bottom of the column. "There, all fixed. This is why accountants use pencils" he said. Twenty seconds. Done.

"How is that going to work?", I asked. "These books have to pass two audits, the Party and Elections Canada! Someone will find an invoice that does not match the entry! I will be caught!" By now I was in a panic. Losing forty cents is one thing, hiding the fact is another!

He said, "Relax, they are looking for international money laundering, illegal contributions and thefts and misappropriations in the order of thousands of dollars, they could care less about a forty cent entry error, you are not going to jail!"

And he was right. I sat on the edge of my chair until the results of the audits were posted and campaign expenses were published and I did not get a late night knock on the door by the RCMP. Jim won the election and once again took his seat in Parliament. The world was once again as it should be.

Jim and his overworked Campaign Manager in or around 1983


  1. Well, thanks for putting a smile on my face!

  2. My accountant always said "figures lie, and liars figure"...

  3. Being a foreigner in Mexico I have always worried about paying taxes. My accountant has assured me many times that they aren't interested in a free lance consultant/teacher, they're keeping tabs on the ones who make the big bucks and have excessive deductions. I alway receive my Mexican tax refund yearly without issue and Lolita (Mexico's Uncle Sugar) has never taken an interest in me after 30 plus years.

  4. Basic honesty should be more important than a few dollars here and there.

  5. Love the picture of you and Norma. Never knew that you wore a mustache; Beach also wore one in his younger days along with mutton chops; eventually, the military said no more mutton chops.

    You really are very honest if you fretted over 40 cents!

    Your experiences in politics was little more sophisticated than mine. I had to work three election poll locations on Election Day over a seven-year period as a Poll Manager. Each location was uniquely different. For the polls in Rosinville, I had to travel early in the morning about 40 miles to open the door at the elementary school for the polls to open at 7:00 AM. Election Day was a really big deal in this very, very rural community of farmers and moonshiners. Before I could allow the men to walk through the door, I had to relieve these fellows of their containers of corn whiskey (which they were going drink with the other guys in the parking lot after they all voted). Also, I had to relieve them of their hunting guns for turkey hunting (it was the season.). You probably would ask where I put all that stuff; I found a nearby cloak room with a key still in the lock and some construction paper to write their names to hang on the hooks. At the second poll in Ridgeville, SC, we couldn't get the public school for the polling place, but the pastor of Harvest Baptist Church offered to let us use the congregation's church. I thought that was very nice of him, until I opened the church recreation center door to prepare for voters. All through the main hallway leading to the register tables just before you entered the voting booths were photos of aborted fetuses of varying ages of gestation. Was this simply a coincidence that these photos were there at the same time a referendum was on the ballot regarding whether our state should continue to fund family planning centers for young women? So I had to call a couple of members of the county election commission to handle the matter. The third polling place, King's Grant, was not so bad; it was near where I live and where I vote. However, this poll precinct is densely populated, and its voters bridge the town of Summerville and the city of North Charleston. When I arrived before the polls opened at 7:00 AM, the lines had formed to the highway. The day before Election Day the mayors of Summerville and North Charleston had phoned and asked if we could put policemen, firemen, rescue workers, doctors, and medical personnel to the head of the line since they were needed for emergencies and traffic control in the areas while people were traveling to the polls. Of course, we said yes. But instead of punishing the mayors, I was punished by others in line with name calling and, of course, the ever present finger. Croft, I would have taken your job in a skinny minute. After a while, you just get burnout.

    1. That is the candidate, Jim Fulton. He was a young probation officer from the Queen Charlotte Islands. Never lost an election!

    2. What great stories you have about your polling station adventures! I loved reading them! Someday I will have to do a post about some of ours!

    3. Jim Fulton died too young at 58. Just think of what he could have done as an environmentalist and protecting the indigenous people of Canada if he had lived longer.

    4. No question, he was one of the good guys.

  6. Once again we have proof of how Democrats will lie and steal!

    Just kidding Croft! Amazing you worried for so long about it.

  7. I just kept staring at those two figures that did not match. To me, it didn't matter how much they were out, all I saw was they were out! I guess accountants go through this every day but I don't and at the time it really bothered me.