Party insiders are still talking about whether or not the Canadian Alliance will compensate Ezra Levant for stepping down as the nominee in Calgary Southwest, Alta. "I don't know the status of any agreement," said Doug Main, the director of communications in the Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition, adding that a deal had been struck to encourage Mr. Levant to step down but that it was taken off the table when Mr. Levant confirmed he was staying on March 28. The next day he finally stepped aside. "The last I'd heard was that everything was off because Ezra had decided to run. If everything is back on because he decided not to run, then that's news." It is estimated that Mr. Levant spent up to $220,000 to win the nomination in the Alberta federal riding vacated by former Reform leader Preston Manning. Reputed to be the most expensive in Canadian political history, the campaign included a major marketing blitz on radio and television, as well as billboards throughout the wealthy riding. After new leader Stephen Harper won the leadership and expressed an interest in the nomination, Interim Leader and House Leader John Reynolds (West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast, B.C.) suggested that some of the expenses might be refunded by the party if Mr. Levant stepped aside. "I said we would assist with any debts he may have had," Mr. Reynolds was quoted as saying in the Calgary Herald . But since Mr. Levant decided to step down, the party no longer seems as interested in compensating the young lawyer and former aide of failed leadership hopeful Stockwell Day (Okanagan-Coquihalla, B.C.). An aide to Mr. Reynolds told The Hill Times that the situation was "still up in the air" and that, moreover, the manner no longer concerned his boss. "I don't think John is involved in any of that stuff," said the aide, adding that Mr. Harper's transition team was dealing with Mr. Levant's expenses now. "It's still being looked at." Mr. Harper's press secretary, Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, was not available to comment on the issue last week. Nor was Mr. Levant who did not respond to phone calls. Whatever the party decides to do, it will no doubt keep in mind the lessons learned from the experience of former British Columbia MP Jim Hart who resigned his seat two years ago to give then new leader Mr. Day a crack at a seat in the House. What followed was an RCMP investigation into allegations that the Alliance paid him off to step down. The RCMP dropped its investigation last December and closed the case without pressing charges. During the investigation, which probed whether a $50,000 severance package provided by the party was nothing more than a payoff, Mr. Hart said he lost his job as a financial consultant and his family's life was turned upside down. " turned our lives on our ear, literally. There was media camped out on our doorstep for weeks," he said. "All my contracts were immediately cancelled. We had to sell our house; we had to move. The list goes on and on. It was sick and never-ending." Mr. Hart has since found new financial consulting work. "I stepped down for one reason only, to get the leader in a position where he could run in a byelection," he added. "There was a $50,000 severance package paid to me by the party and that's totally different from receiving money for giving up their Parliamentary seat." In the hectic days following Mr. Harper's election, Mr. Hart addressed a letter to the editor to several newspapers urging Mr. Levant to stand his ground and refuse to step aside for the new leader. "I've learned from experience that doing something honourable like resigning one's seat can result in a host of responses, including being wrongfully accused of an indictable offense," he wrote. Last week, however, he told The Hill Times that he respects Mr. Levant's final decision on the matter. "I think what he's done is very honourable and should be seen as something that's an honourable thing to do. In my case I still believe that what I did was honourable." He added that his former colleagues in the House should carefully consider his experience before giving Mr. Levant any money. "People in Parliament should really look carefully at this whole thing because the response is just totally off the wall. It's not right and I think every Member in the House of Commons should think about that."