Is the Conservative Party violating the Canada Elections Act?

In response to media stories reporting that the Conservative Party has retained Australian campaign manager Lynton Crosby to boost their flagging fortunes, we wrote to Canada’s Chief Election Officer today asking for an immediate investigation of this apparent violation of the Canada Elections Act. (See the CKNW story here.)

Section 331 of the Canada Elections Act prohibits people who do not reside in, and are not citizens or permanent residents of Canada from in any way inducing voters to vote for or against any candidates. We believe that the words ‘in any way’ include working by indirect means, for example by planning and directing interactions and communications to be carried out by others to persuade people to vote for or against Conservative candidates in the upcoming election, and we said as much in our letter to the Chief Electoral Officer.

We haven't received a response yet, but we have seen media reports that the Commissioner of Elections has considered the issue and determined that that section of the Canada Elections Act only prohibits non-residents from engaging in corrupt or nefarious practices, such as offering bribes. This is an obviously wrong interpretation of the law, because it is already illegal for anyone, Canadian or not, to engage in corrupt or nefarious practices or offer bribes to voters.

Jim spoke with CKNW radio about this issue on September 12. You can have a listen at CKNW's audio vault; select September 12 and 4 pm from the drop-down menus then scroll to the 36-minute mark.

 A copy of our letter to Mr. Mayrand is below.


September 11, 2015

Marc Mayrand Chief Electoral Officer of Canada

Elections Canada, 30 Victoria Street, Gatineau, Quebec, K1A 0M6

Dear Mr. Mayrand:

re:  Conservative Party of Canada – complaint pursuant to section 331 of the Canada Elections Act

 This is a request that Elections Canada immediately investigate reports that the Conservative Party of Canada has engaged a person who is not a citizen nor a permanent resident of Canada in an apparent violation of section 331 of the Canada Elections Act.

 We note that section 331 provides as follows:

          Non-interference by Foreigners

Prohibition — inducements by non-residents

331. 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) a Canadian citizen; or

(b) a permanent resident within the meaning of subsection 2(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

 Media reports indicate that the Conservatives have engaged an Australian named Lynton Crosby into a leadership role in their election campaign. We note that section 331 prohibits a person who is neither a citizen nor a permanent resident from “in any way” inducing electors “to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate.” The phrase “in any way” must be understood to encompass indirect as well as direct means of inducement, including directing or facilitating others in their interactions and communications with electors.  The intention of this provision, as its heading suggests, is to prevent “interference by Foreigners” in Canada’s elections during the election period, which is now underway.

We ask that Elections Canada investigate whether the media reports are accurate and, if so, determine whether engagement of Mr. Crosby is unlawful and, if so, to direct the Conservative Party to discontinue it immediately.

 We thank you for your attention to this matter.

Yours very truly,

Allevato Quail & Worth

per Jim Quail