Foreign money ‘skewed’ vote in 2015: report
• Foreign money funnelled towards Canadian political advocacy groups affected the outcome of the 2015 federal election, according to a document filed last week with Elections Canada and obtained in part by the Calgary Herald.
The 36-page report, entitled Elections Canada Complaint Regarding Foreign Influence in the 2015 Canadian Election, alleges third parties worked with each other, which may have bypassed election spending limits — all of which appears to be in contravention of the Canada Elections Act.
The Canada Elections Act states that “a third party shall not circumvent, or attempt to circumvent, a limit set out … in any manner, including by splitting itself into two or more third parties for the purpose of circumventing the limit or acting in collusion with another third party so that their combined election advertising expenses exceed the limit.”
“Electoral outcomes were influenced,” alleges the report. The Canada Elections Act also 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, submitted by Canada Decides, a registered society with three listed directors — including Joan Crockatt, a former Conservative MP for Calgary Centre, who lost her seat to Liberal Kent Hehr, now the MP for the once long-held Tory riding and the Minister of Veterans Affairs. The other two directors include Chad Hallman, a University of Toronto political science student.
The number of third parties registered during the 2015 general election more than doubled, to 114 compared with 55, in the 2011 election.
In total, the 114 third parties spent $6 million and many of those third parties were funded by California and New York-based Tides Foundation — known in Canada for holding numerous campaigns against the Canadian oil industry.
In 2015, Tides Foundation donated $1.5 million to Canadian third parties.
Crockatt’s seat was one of 29 targeted by an organization called Leadnow through its “largest ever campaign,” called Vote Together. The complaint by Canada Decides alleges that foreign money “spawned” Leadnow and helped fund an elaborate campaign to oust the Conservative Party.
Tides Foundation and Leadnow representatives did not return repeated phone calls and emails.
A December 2015 Leadnow report, Defeating Harper, discusses how effective its campaign was in the 2015 general election. “The Conservatives were defeated in 25 out of 29 ridings, and … in the seats the Conservatives lost, our recommended candidate was the winner 96 per cent of the time.”
Leadnow’s Defeat Harper report also states: “We selected target ridings with field teams run by paid Leadnow organizers ...”
Crockatt lost her Calgary Centre seat by 750 votes. Conservative MP Lawrence Toet lost his Manitoba seat of Elmwood-Transcona to the NDP’s Daniel Blaikie by 61 votes. Former Conservative Finance Minister Joe Oliver lost his Toronto-area seat to Liberal Marco Mendicino by 5,800 votes.
Leadnow staff members flew around the country, as Facebook postings and photographs show, to distribute flyers and put up signs. Also, 57 local polls were commissioned across 37 ridings urging citizens to strategically vote for the most winnable, left-of-centre candidate in order to defeat the Conservative candidate.
There was an $8,788 spending limit per riding for the election. NDP candidates and even CUPE complained about Leadnow’s activities being anti-democratic.
“Foreign money meddled in a big way in our election and that’s not right,” said Crockatt, a former journalist. “Foreign money, in many cases by very wealthy people — was donated and arguably changed the outcome of our Canadian election. It needs to be taken seriously and investigated.”
It appears Yves Cote, Commissioner of Elections Canada, is considering doing just that. Cote admitted during an April 13 Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee that an investigation needs to be launched.
“Issues of significance have been raised …” said Cote, “which in my view deserves Parliament taking the time to look at the situation, trying to understand what has happened, what is likely to happen and then taking measures … to make sure there is compliance.”