MPs urged to safe­guard ‘in­tegrity’ of elec­tions

Former chief elec­toral of­fi­cer wants for­eign cash kept out of politi­cal process

Calgary Herald - - CITY - LICIA CORBELLA

Par­lia­ment must act quickly to close a gap­ing loop­hole that al­lows for­eign money to af­fect the out­come of Cana­dian elec­tions, urges a former chief elec­toral of­fi­cer.

Jean-Pierre Kings­ley, who served as Canada’s chief elec­toral of­fi­cer for 17 years — from 1990 un­til 2007 — is con­cerned about for­eign money in­flu­enc­ing Cana­dian elec­tions, as re­vealed in an ex­clu­sive Cal­gary Herald ar­ti­cle pub­lished on Tues­day.

“We sim­ply can­not al­low any kind of money that is not Cana­dian to find its way into the Cana­dian elec­toral sys­tem,” warned Kings­ley.

Last week, a 36-page com­plaint by a reg­is­tered group called Canada De­cides was filed with Elec­tions Canada al­leg­ing that for­eign money from the United States was fun­nelled to­wards Cana­dian politi­cal ad­vo­cacy groups and ma­te­ri­ally af­fected the out­come of the Oct. 19, 2015 elec­tion.

The Canada Elec­tions Act states: “No per­son who does not re­side in Canada shall, dur­ing an elec­tion pe­riod, in any way in­duce elec­tors to vote or re­frain from vot­ing or vote or re­frain from vot­ing for a par­tic­u­lar can­di­date” un­less the per­son is a Cana­dian cit­i­zen or a per­ma­nent res­i­dent.

“Yet the out­come of the 2015 elec­tion was skewed by money from wealthy for­eign­ers,” al­leges the com­plaint, which was writ­ten, in part, by former Con­ser­va­tive MP Joan Crock­att, who lost her seat in Cal­gary Cen­tre, which was one of 29 seats across the coun­try tar­geted by Lead­now, an ac­tivist group seeded by U.S. money.

In­deed, in its own re­port en­ti­tled “De­feat­ing Harper,” Lead­now ad­mits that it fur­ther fo­cused on 11 rid­ings, in­clud­ing Cal­gary Cen­tre, by send­ing paid staff mem­bers in to run the Vote To­gether cam­paign that urged cit­i­zens to cast their bal­lot for the left-of-cen­tre can­di­date most likely to win. In this case, the can­di­date was Lib­eral Kent Hehr, who is now Min­is­ter of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs.

“This back door whereby for­eign money came into Canada must be shut,” em­pha­sized Kings­ley. “We have got to slam it shut for the sake of the in­tegrity of our elec­toral sys­tem.”

Kings­ley be­lieves this is­sue is one all Cana­di­ans should rally be­hind.

“A gen­eral elec­tion is a na­tional event, it’s not an in­ter­na­tional event and for­eign in­ter­ests have no place and for them to have found a back door like this, that is not ac­cept­able to Cana­di­ans,” said Kings­ley.

“I think the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Cana­di­ans care about for­eign money play­ing a role in our elec­tions, re­gard­less of what party they favour. This is­sue is about the over­all fair­ness of our elec­tions, about keep­ing a level play­ing field,” added Kings­ley.

On Sun­day, another com­plaint about for­eign money tilt­ing the play­ing field was filed with Elec­tions Canada by Michael Cooper, Con­ser­va­tive MP for St. Al­bert-Ed­mon­ton.

Cooper al­leges that the U.S.based Tides Foun­da­tion gave $693,023.50 to eight third party groups reg­is­tered in the 2015 fed­eral elec­tion.

Cooper points out that re­cent tes­ti­mony by Yves Cote, Com­mis­sioner of Canada Elec­tions, at a Se­nate Le­gal and Con­sti­tu­tional Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, in­di­cated that as long as for­eign do­na­tions were made six months prior to the elec­tion be­ing called, money can be “min­gled” into the funds of Cana­dian third par­ties and there­fore isn’t break­ing the rules.

Kings­ley says per­haps call­ing this tac­tic a “back door” is putting things mildly. It’s more like a loop­hole a 747 jet can fly through, he quipped.

Kings­ley added that, now that Cana­dian elec­tion dates are fixed, one of the un­in­tended con­se­quences maybe that for­eign money will sim­ply be do­nated more than six months in ad­vance and held onto by Cana­dian third par­ties.

“This rule has to be changed. I would sug­gest that a ceil­ing be set, that no third party that wants to be in­volved in a Cana­dian elec­tion can re­ceive more than maybe 10, 15 or 20 per cent of its fund­ing from for­eign sources at any time.”

Tides Foun­da­tion and Lead­now did not re­turn re­peated calls and emails from the Herald.

We sim­ply can­not al­low any kind of money that is not Cana­dian to find its way into the Cana­dian elec­toral sys­tem.

CHRIS MIKULA

Former chief elec­toral of­fi­cer Jean-Pierre Kings­ley be­lieves “the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Cana­di­ans care about for­eign money play­ing a role in our elec­tions, re­gard­less of what party they favour.”

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