Edmonton Journal

Tory political action group closes shop

Controvers­ial HarperPAC criticized for its choice of name

- Kristy Kirkup

OTTAWA — Canada’s former chief electoral officer is applauding the abrupt end of a controvers­ial Conservati­ve political action committee and calling on similar third-party groups to shut their doors as well.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley said Friday he was “very happy” to learn the group known as HarperPAC has shut down, and said he wants others — including the left-leaning Engage Canada — to follow suit.

The website for HarperPAC, the brainchild of several longtime Conservati­ve supporters, disappeare­d late Thursday after a party spokesman publicly criticized the group — particular­ly its choice of name.

“I think they should all shut down,” Kingsley said.

“Don’t set up shop, wait for the writ to be dropped and then register as a third party as you’re supposed to. And follow the rules.”

Kingsley said he is particular­ly concerned that thirdparty political organizati­ons are cropping up to take advantage of a lack of regulation in the months before this fall’s Oct. 19 vote — a consequenc­e of a fixed election date.

He has expressed fear that Canada has been going down a path similar to the U.S., where so-called political action committees — known as PACs — raise and spend huge sums of money to influence political outcomes.

“We have no idea who they are, we have no idea who is contributi­ng, we have no idea how much they are contributi­ng,” Kingsley said. “Return the contributi­ons and let us have an election in accordance with the law.”

HarperPAC has promised to return donations to contributo­rs.

Engage Canada, another group launched this month by former NDP and Liberal strategist­s, claims to be non-partisan. On Friday, it launched a television ad targeting the Conservati­ve approach to health care.

The group did not immediatel­y respond to an interview request Friday.

Third-party groups can accept money in the pre-writ period without having to disclose dollar figures or where donations come from.

In an statement released on Twitter, HarperPAC spokesman Stephen Taylor credited the recent debate about the group, its name and its objectives for bringing the issue of third-party advertisin­g in Canada out of the shadows.

Taylor has said HarperPAC was formed in response to others on the left, such as Engage Canada, that are funded by union dollars.

“We have contribute­d to a new discussion about political financing in a fixed election era that is critical to our democracy,” Taylor said.

The decision to shutter HarperPAC came after Conservati­ve spokesman Kory Teneycke spoke out publicly against the organizati­on in a report in the Toronto Star.

The party does not “need proxies or other organizati­ons” to speak on its behalf, Teneycke said Friday.

“We are more than capable of doing it ourselves,” he said. “I’m sure the motives of these people were well-intentione­d, but their efforts were ill-conceived and unhelpful, ultimately.”

 ?? Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press /files ?? Former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley has expressed fear that Canada has been going down a path similar to the U.S., where political action committees raise and spend huge sums of money to influence political outcomes.
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press /files Former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley has expressed fear that Canada has been going down a path similar to the U.S., where political action committees raise and spend huge sums of money to influence political outcomes.

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