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Democracy Watch calls on Commissioner of Canada Elections to investigate Manning Centre and five “Proud” groups it funded for possible third party election disclosure and collusion violations

Given election law, and past court rulings, DWatch believes either Manning Centre or the groups are required to disclose the donors who funded the groups’ election ads

Thursday, October 17, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to Commissioner of Canada Elections Yves Côté calling for an investigation into possible disclosure and election collusion violations by the Manning Centre for Building Democracy and five “Proud” groups it has funded to do election advertising this election.

According to this Globe and Mail article published yesterday, and this earlier Canadian Press article, the Manning Centre raised funds from donors for election advertising spending during the election, then transferred the funds (along with general revenues, more than $300,000 in total) to the five groups who have used it to pay for advertising.

The Manning Centre didn’t register as a third party even though the groups are really a front for its advertising spending, and the groups haven’t disclosed the identities of the Manning Centre’s donors, making the Manning Centre essentially a front group for the donors.

The Canada Elections Act (CEA) requires individuals, businesses, unions and other organizations to register as a third party if they spending more than $500 on partisan activities, election advertising or surveys during the election campaign period and, if they spending more than $10,000, to disclose (21 days and 7 days before election day), the identities of contributors who donate to pay for activities, ads or surveys.

The arrangement between the Manning Centre and the five “Proud” groups also raises the questions of whether any of the funds that the Manning Centre transferred to the groups was donated by foreign entities (which is prohibited under the CEA), and whether the six organizations are attempting to exceed the third party spending limit of $511,700 for this election by colluding together (which is also prohibited by the CEA).

The Supreme Court ruled in the 2004 Harper v. Canada case that the third party registration and donation disclosure requirements are intended to ensure voters and enforcement agencies are fully informed of who is actually bankrolling each third party, and so the law can be effectively enforced (See paragraphs 140 to 145 of the ruling).

“Given the rules in the federal election law, and the Supreme Court’s ruling in a past case, the Commissioner should investigate and rule that either the Manning Centre or the five Proud groups are required to disclose the identities of the donors who funded the election advertising they have done,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The Supreme Court also ruled in the Harper case that the third party spending limit, and the anti-collusion rule, are needed to ensure fair, democratic election debates that are not dominated by wealthy interest groups, and so the Commissioner should also investigate whether the Manning Centre and the five Proud groups colluded in an attempt to violate that spending limit.”

No matter how the Commissioner rules on its complaint, Democracy Watch called on federal parties to cooperate to strengthen the rules, and the penalties which are much too low to discourage violations, before the next federal by-election or election.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179   Cell: 416-546-3443
[email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign