International group takes pass on monitoring election due to limited resources

OTTAWA — An international body that specializes in monitoring elections is skipping this year’s Canadian election due to limited resources despite questions and potential concerns about the role of third-party groups, cybersecurity and social media in the campaign.

The Organization for Security and Economic Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE, monitored Canada’s federal election in 2015 and recently deployed an advance team to determine whether it should repeat the exercise. Canada is one of 57 members of the OSCE.

The team came back at the end of August recommending a monitoring mission following interviews with representatives from the main political parties as well as Elections Canada, several government departments and outside experts.

While the team wrote in its report that it found “full stakeholder confidence in the overall integrity of the electoral process,” those interviewed identified several areas of concern that would warrant the presence of an extra set of eyes.

Those included changes to the election law by the Liberal government as well as efforts to protect the election from cyberthreats, the role of online media and social networks on the campaign, “and the effectiveness of oversight of campaign and campaign-finance rules.”

In particular, those interviewed “acknowledged concerns related to public perceptions of electoral security,” fears about disinformation campaigns and “potential loopholes” in the election law when it comes to spending limits and other rules on third-party actors.

Despite these concerns, Katya Andrusz of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights said the organization decided not to send an observation mission because it has already deployed a large number of missions to other countries this year.

“As 2019 is a heavy election year and we have had some large-scale observation operations that have been demanding on ODIHR’s budget and human resources, it will not be possible for us to carry out an observation to the federal elections in Canada this year,” she said this week.

Ukraine’s presidential and parliamentary elections in particular have been a significant draw on the office’s “limited resources,” Andrusz said, while missions are also underway or expected for Poland and Belarus.

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