Third-party ballot activities under scrutiny

OTTAWA — The number of complaints about third-party activities during the last federal election jumped almost nine-fold over the previous one, prompting the elections commissioner to suggest an update of the rules.

A spokeswoman for Yves Cote, the commissioner of Canada Elections, told The Canadian Press there were 105 complaints related to third-party activities in the 2015 campaign.

After the 2011 ballot, the number of complaints was just 12.

The latest statistics come as another complaint is filed by Alberta Conservative MP Michael Cooper, who alleges in a letter this month to Cote that in 2015 the U.S.-based Tides Foundation donated nearly $700,000 to eight organizations that registered as third parties for the 2015 campaign.

Cooper doesn’t know when in 2015 the donations were received, which is potentially the critical element to his complaint, because the law only prohibits foreign donations to registered third parties six months before the campaign begins.

Cooper however said the timing shouldn’t matter because Canada Elections Act also prohibits non-residents from doing anything to induce a Canadian to vote for or against a person or party.

“Foreign influence is a serious issue,” he said. “Canadians deserve elections that are free from foreign interference and influence.”

To date Cote hasn’t laid any charges from any of the complaints about third parties.

In an appearance at a Senate committee last month, Cote said he thinks it’s time Parliament takes a look at the rules for third parties, noting they haven’t changed in 17 years.

The number of third parties that registered more than doubled between 2011 and 2015, to 114 from 55.

The Canada Elections Act only applies to third parties with regard to advertising activities. Third parties, including unions and corporations barred from donating directly to political parties, can do as much direct calling, door-knocking and polling as they like.

Concerns about foreign influence during an election are high after the U.S. election and the investigation into alleged Russian interference to help Donald Trump win. The Canadian government has asked the Communications Security Establishment to look at whether the 2019 federal election is vulnerable to outside influence, particularly through cybercrimes such as hacking.

Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould said in a statement Tuesday the government plans to review the spending limits placed on political parties and third parties during an election, as well as introduce new spending limits for advertising between elections. She did not specifically mention whether the review will look at the scope of third parties, or whether the Canada Elections Act laws for third parties should be extended to activities other than advertising.

Jessica Clogg, executive director at West Coast Environmental Law, called Cooper’s complaint “one more poorly informed witch hunt designed to undermine the work that charities and non-profits do on behalf of Canadians.”

She said the West Coast Environmental Law Association and the West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation registered under third-party provisions only to be able to continue to take positions on environmental law issues during the campaign period, and never supported or opposed any particular candidate or party. All advertising done during the writ period was paid for by Canadian donors, she said. The Tides Foundation donations the two bodies received were unrelated to elections work entirely.

Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada, said in a written statement that Greenpeace — which also received Tides Foundation money — spent just $3,000 on election-related advertising, and all of it came from Canadians.

Conservative Senator Linda Frum intends to introduce her own legislation to ban Canadian organizations from accepting foreign donations to use for political activities within Canada. A phone call to her office Tuesday was not returned.

— Follow @mrabson on Twitter

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Huge RV resort proposed for Buffalo Lake

Some residents feel 800-lot RV resort too big for area

Updated: Red Deer gets WHL Bantam Draft and Awards Banquet

WHL will holds its draft and awards ceremony in Red Deer for next three years

Land wanted for Central Alberta Foodgrains project

23rd year for Lacombe area charity

Stolen vehicle found thanks to tip from motorist

Charges laid against Red Deer man and Leduc County woman

Updated: Red Deer gets WHL Bantam Draft and Awards Banquet

WHL will holds its draft and awards ceremony in Red Deer for next three years

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Red Deer blood clinic in need of 600 donors

Aunt encourages Central Albertans to donate blood after losing nephew

Court considers banning diesel cars in German cities

BERLIN — A German court began considering Thursday whether authorities should ban… Continue reading

US women beat Canada in Olympic hockey; Gisin tops Shiffrin

PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of — A tense shootout, a dazzling deke and… Continue reading

Trudeau: Invitation should not have gone to Sikh extremist

NEW DELHI — A man who was convicted of trying to assassinate… Continue reading

Greyhound cleared to end routes in northern B.C., Vancouver Island

Company says nine routes have dropped 30% in ridership in last five years

Evangelist Billy Graham, who reached millions, dies at 99

MONTREAT, N.C. — The Rev. Billy Graham, who transformed American religious life… Continue reading

Amid a flood of plastic, big companies see opportunity

LONDON — Public awareness of the problem of plastic waste is swelling… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month