Illicit cannabis store donations to New Brunswick PC party may have been overlooked by Elections NB

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The New Brunswick Progressive Conservative party and Elections NB are facing criticism after the latter allegedly overlooked “dozens” of donations to the party in 2018 and 2019 they shouldn’t have — including $7,500 from the owners of an illicit cannabis dispensary chain, reports CBC.

Hank and Anne Marie Merchant, owners of HBB Medical Inc., reportedly gave the party the largest political donation by a single household in the form of money orders. The couple declared bankruptcy a few years prior and shut down their stores after multiple police raids and seizures. The origin of the cash used by the Merchants to purchase the money orders has not been confirmed.

New Brunswick law dictates that political donations over $100 must originate from a donor’s credit card or bank account in order to be traceable.

While PC party executive director Rick LaFrance initially said the donations were legit, the party is now conducting its own internal review of donations spanning the past few years.

A representative of agency responsible for policing donations told CBC News that it does not review all donations, deeming it impractical.

“We would never review every single contribution receipt,” New Brunswick’s chief electoral officer and supervisor of political process financing Kim Poffenroth. “For every return that is filed, a group (of contribution receipts) are selected and then those are reviewed in more detail looking for potential flags.”

The NB PCs have since proactively refunded three dozen donations accepted in 2018, as well as an unspecified number of donations from 2019 totalling over $30,000 over the two-year period after being unable to confirm their legality or trace them back to donor accounts earlier this year.

Poffenroth also noted that to her knowledge, no other parties’ donations from the time period have warranted further scrutiny.

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