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

Thursday, February 8, 2018

What's Up?

What have we been up to lately? Not much! The weather has been, to put it scientifically, "shitty". We have been hanging around the house getting a few jobs done between rain storms. The new wall on the workshop cannot be painted until after it had been subjected to at least three days of sunshine and that has not happened. Like so many other things, this job is on hold.

Our friend Garth is retiring and he and Nancy are having a retirement party here on Saturday as we have so much outdoor entertaining area. The weatherman says there will be no rain on Saturday but if he is wrong, we have the covered porch that we intend to surround with a large tarp to keep the wind and rain out. If it doesn't rain we have the outside fireplace to help keep folks warm. It will be fun regardless and Garth and Nancy are heading for Mexico the day after the party. He is very happy to be retiring from Canada Fisheries.

So, there is not much to report but that is it! End of story. We are not having as much fun as we would be having if we had gone to Mexico. Lesson learned.