Evidence of meeting #112 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was third.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Vivian Krause  Researcher and Writer, As an Individual
Gary Rozon  Auditor, Gary Rozon CMA Inc., As an Individual
Anna Di Carlo  National Leader, National Headquarters, Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada
Talis Brauns  Mediation Officer, Marijuana Party
Marc Chénier  General Counsel and Senior Director, Legal Services, Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Andrew Lauzon
John Turmel  As an Individual
Brian Marlatt  Communications and Policy Director, Progressive Canadian Party

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Good evening. Welcome to the 112th meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Our first two panels, we didn't quite get to. We gave them the option of coming back at 8:30 p.m. or sending a written submission. Two are coming back at 8:30 p.m., so we're going to our third panel. We are joined by Vivian Krause, researcher and writer; Gary Rozon, auditor, Gary Rozon CMA Inc.; Talis Brauns, mediation officer, and John Akpata, peace officer, both from the Marijuana Party; and from the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada, Anna Di Carlo, national leader, national headquarters.

Thank you for making yourselves available to appear.

We will start with you, Ms. Krause. Please make your opening statement.

6:25 p.m.

Vivian Krause Researcher and Writer, As an Individual

Good evening, everyone. Bonsoir, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.

I will make my presentation in English, but I'll be happy to answer your questions in either language afterwards.

Thank you very much for inviting me to join you this evening to contribute to your work in relation to Bill C-76. My understanding is that you are interested in my input with regard to the issue of undue foreign influence in Canadian elections; therefore, I will do my best to speak to that first.

By way of background, perhaps it would be of interest to the committee for me to introduce myself briefly and to sum up why I believe undue foreign influence in our elections is a serious issue not only for our country but also for the sovereignty of our country.

By way of background, I am a Canadian citizen. I'm a resident of North Vancouver. For the last 10 years I have been following the money and the science behind environmental activism and, more recently, behind elections activism. I have done all my work on my own initiative. I am not funded or directed by anyone, and I've written a series of articles that sum up most of my work published in the Financial Post and elsewhere.

As you may be aware from some of the articles I've written, there is a significant extent to which non-Canadian influence had an impact in the 2015 federal election in our country. I reported this extensively to Elections Canada. I would just sum up for you briefly that there are at least three U.S.-based organizations that have claimed credit for having had a significant influence in the 2015 federal election. Two of these are Corporate Ethics International, based in San Francisco, and the Citizen Engagement Laboratory, based in Oakland, California.

How do we know these American organizations influenced the outcome of the 2015 federal election? Well, we know this because they've told us in writing. I'll cite one example.

In the 2015 annual report of the Online Progressive Engagement Network, which is part of the Citizen Engagement Laboratory, its executive director, referring to the year 2015, wrote:

We ended the year with...a Canadian campaign that moved the needle during the national election, contributing greatly to the ousting of the conservative Harper government.

That's a written statement by the executive director of a non-Canadian organization. How do they do that? Well, the Citizen Engagement Laboratory has a project called the Online Progressive Engagement Network, OPEN for short, and it had a program called strategic incubation. That program helped to create, launch, and back behind the scenes a Canadian-based organization called Leadnow, based in Vancouver.

Leadnow, with the support of OPEN, ran a “get the vote out” campaign in the 2015 and 2011 federal elections. In the 2015 federal election in particular, they ran a campaign that targeted Conservative incumbents in 29 ridings. In some of these ridings, it stands to reason that this group had an impact. For example, in Winnipeg, in the Elmwood—Transcona riding, where Leadnow had full-time staff for more than a year, as far as I'm aware, the incumbent was defeated by only 61 votes.

Bill C-76 aims to close some of the loopholes that have allowed non-Canadian influence in our federal elections. I understand that a lot of work has gone into the preparation of this bill, and as a Canadian I would like to acknowledge and thank everyone who's worked so hard on it so far. I regret to say, though, that unfortunately I think with the way the bill stands today, what happened in the 2015 election would be able to occur and reoccur. I don't see that this bill has been changed in the ways that would be needed to deter and in fact make illegal what happened in 2015 and keep it from happening again.

Specifically, I would refer the committee to proposed section 282.4 under “Undue influence by foreigners”. It's paragraph 282.4(1)(b) in particular that I think needs some work.

I'll leave it at that as my opening comments, Mr. Chairman, and I would be glad to answer any questions that you may have.

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you very much. That was great.

Now we'll go to Mr. Rozon.

6:30 p.m.

Gary Rozon Auditor, Gary Rozon CMA Inc., As an Individual

I'm Gary Rozon. I'm an independent auditor. I work, obviously, independently. I work with all parties. I think I have a client or two in this room right now. I've been doing this for over 10 years. Before that, I worked at Elections Canada, so I have a perspective of how things work from the inside.

One of the things on which I've always thought the punishment didn't fit the crime is the issue of making people and agents go to court to file extension deadlines.

For those of you who don't know, after an election, for example, you have four months to file. After the four-month deadline, you have to have either filed or asked for an extension from Elections Canada, which is usually always granted. If you are late and you don't have your paperwork in or you didn't file the extension, you have to go to court to get an extension. This is costly, in the $4,000 to $6,000 range. I'm sure that some of you, as members of Parliament, may not even know. You trust your financial agents and your official agents to handle the money, and for the most part, they do a very good job, but sometimes—human nature—it slips. They forget the deadline. They have to go to court, and the costs are in the $5,000 range and more. For some of the major parties that have the cash or the riding associations or the campaigns that can pay this, it's the cost of doing business, but the same rule applies to people running independently who hardly spend any money, or to someone from the smaller parties who might have raised a couple of thousand dollars. For them to be hit with a $4,000 or $5,000 penalty, as I said, the penalty exceeds the crime.

The same applies to the riding associations that had the May 31 deadline. I've been working with them. It's always a rush for those who forgot about the date. If you have new agents, the dates aren't burned into their brain like they are with some of the rest of us who do this all the time.

One way to get around it, I would suggest—and I've suggested it with some of the agents I've been working with for years—is that in the matter of a campaign, where you're getting back 60% of your spending from Elections Canada.... To make round numbers, if you spend $100,000, Elections Canada is going to give you back $60,000. I'll say that you motivate people the best way you can, and for most people, that's money.

I would do away with the court side of things. I would say that if they did four months, they needed an extension, they got it, they got an extra 30 days, and they still couldn't file after a few days, don't send them to court. I would say to take 10% off every month. Instead of 60%, it would be, “No, you missed the extra month and you're now getting 50%. You missed another month? You're now getting 40%.” That paperwork would get filed faster than any court would ever do.

I'm not going to mention names, but I know that one person in this room had to go through that with their riding association. The file went into Elections Canada. The agent didn't know that Elections Canada puts the “dead” in “deadline”, and he thought, “Close enough.”

Everybody is pointing.

6:30 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

I feel like it's a murder mystery now.

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

To be clear, everybody in the room is looking at me.

June 6th, 2018 / 6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Let the record show, Mr. Chair.

6:35 p.m.

Auditor, Gary Rozon CMA Inc., As an Individual

Gary Rozon

That's why I didn't name names.

To me, it's just crazy. In the one case that I'm speaking of, he got the paperwork in. He was in the Elections Canada mailroom, but they flat out refused to open it until they.... He had to go to court. The judge is like, “I went to law school for this?” He got the court order. Then it came to Elections Canada, and they opened it. It just seems like overkill. That's the main thing. It's equal until it gets down to the little guys. They're being asked to pay $4,000 or $5,000, as well. It's overkill. If this ever goes back to Elections Canada, I hope they take advantage of that.

My other totally self-serving item is this. Over the years, we've all seen the indexing of campaign spending limits for elections. We've all seen the indexing of contribution limits, which I'm sure some of you totally appreciate. They have not indexed the Elections Canada subsidy in about 15 years. Every year we are asked/told to do more, and with inflation we're getting less. That ends up going back onto your riding associations and your campaigns, when there is more audit work that has to be done before going to elections.

That's my semi self-serving.... The main thing is that I wish we could do something to keep these kinds of things out of the courts.

Thank you.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Well, thank you.

I can assure you Elections Canada is watching this very closely, so I'm sure they'll give that due consideration.

We'll go to Anna with the Marxist-Leninist Party.

6:35 p.m.

Anna Di Carlo National Leader, National Headquarters, Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada

It's the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada.

Esteemed members, I'm very happy to be here.

I'll start by saying I'm quite familiar with the election law, and I have been since about 1991 when we had the Spicer and the Lortie commissions, the last time that any really serious study of the electoral law was done.

We also have a lot of experience being on the receiving end of the unfair and undemocratic aspects of the law since 1972, when we started participating in elections.

In our opinion, Bill C-76 is a missed opportunity. It missed the opportunity to uphold democratic principles and to contribute to alleviating the perception we have today that party governments don't have the consent of the governed. It did nothing to address how the electoral process and electoral results themselves don't inspire confidence that a mandate that is supported by the majority of Canadians has actually been achieved.

I'd like to highlight just two problems today, because of the brief amount of time we have. One is the right to an informed vote and the need to have equality of all those who stand for election. The other is the matter of privacy.

The unequal treatment of candidates results from the privileges accorded to the so-called major parties, and it violates the right to an informed vote. We're told that we have political equality because of an even playing field that is supposed to be created by the fact that everybody has to meet the same criteria. For example, everybody has to do exactly the same things to become a candidate. Everybody has to respect the spending limits and so on. On top of this, we're told that public funding mitigates the inequalities we have.

All of this is meaningless when privileges are accorded to some, and the rationale is presented that only the so-called major parties are considered to be contenders for government, and that therefore, only they deserve to be heard. Others are dismissed as being fringe or incidental. This is not democratic by any standard. The only ones who see these arguments and don't see that they're undemocratic are those who are passing laws.

Canadians see it for what it is: a violation of fundamental democratic principles that exacerbates the crisis of credibility and legitimacy of both the electoral law and governments.

I'd like to give just one example of how this time around we could have taken the opportunity to address this problem. For over 17 years now, the Chief Electoral Officer has been recommending that the allocation formula in the law be removed from the privileged status now in the formula that's in the law, and instead that allocation be on an equal basis, particularly the free time. I sit on the advisory committee of Elections Canada, and I attend the broadcast meetings, and this very simple recommendation that the free time should both be increased and allocated equally has been rejected repeatedly for 17 years because, as has been said, it needs to be referred to study.

In the next election, we'll face the same situation in which, first of all, the parties in the House will have the majority of time, and within that, the Liberal Party—the ruling party—will have the lion's share of that time, while the smaller political parties get a token, not to mention all the complications with the airing of it.

The second point I'd like to make relates to privacy. We stand with the Privacy Commissioner in believing that political parties should be subject to the law. We see no reason why they shouldn't. I want to highlight the hypocrisy in this, because even if political parties are subject to the privacy law and PIPEDA, the election law itself, in our opinion, violates the right to privacy.

The election law does not recognize the right to informed consent, in our opinion. In 2006, the Conservative Party, when it was in the vanguard of micro-targeting with its constituent information management system, used the power that it had at that time, although all the parties agreed, to introduce unique, permanent identification numbers for electors, and to introduce bingo cards, the practice of Elections Canada workers that replaces the work that was once done by scrutineers to inform the political parties as to who has voted when. They don't tell them how they voted, but with data analytics, we're very close to that situation.

The Conservative Party wanted the ID numbers so as to make data integration and micro-targeting easier. The bingo cards were designed to address the problem of not having enough volunteers, which is a problem that all political parties are facing. In our opinion, again, this violates the principle of informed consent. It is just wrong. Electors should have the right to not have their unique ID numbers handed over to political parties to facilitate uploading their information into elector databases. They should also have the right to opt out of having their names put on the bingo cards, so that parties know whether they've voted or not voted.

Finally, I want to make a different point about these developments. Privacy is one concern, but the significance of this development in campaigning, which involves tracking electors and building profiles about them, is of greater concern to us. In our opinion, it does nothing to raise the level of political discourse in the country. It's not enhancing the involvement of people in the political process. The privacy debate, which is focused on things such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal or Facebook and how it's being used, clouds precisely how micro-targeting is impacting the process and particularly how it relates to political parties fulfilling their purported role of being primary political organizations and being the organizations through which people are involved in debating and discussing the problems facing the society, and in deciding the agenda and policies the society needs.

Our conclusion is that these developments, along with the fact that there hasn't been a serious study of what's going on in the electoral process since 1991-92, requires that we have public deliberations on all the fundamental premises of the electoral process to renew it once again: how mandates are arrived at; how candidates are selected; the use of public funds; and the fact that all people and all members of the polity, regardless of whether or not they belong to a political party, should be treated as equals.

How do we achieve this? Our position is that funding the process should take priority and should replace funding political parties. We think political parties should raise funds from their own members and not be recipients of state funding. So long as state funds are allocated, they have to be allocated on an equal basis. Otherwise, we have a situation where power and privilege are influencing the outcome of elections.

Those are the opening remarks I wanted to make.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you very much. You can rest assured that you've brought some views to us that we haven't heard before.

We'll go to Mr. Brauns from the Marijuana Party. Hopefully, we're making you obsolete.

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

6:45 p.m.

Talis Brauns Mediation Officer, Marijuana Party

[Witness speaks in Latvian]

I am Talis Brauns. I am a Canadian Latvian born in Montreal. I have spent half my adult life working on foreign aid projects in eastern Europe on the development of non-governmental society and the acquis communautaire program in the European Commission.

Why am I here today? There was a sad incident in my private life that resulted in a deer tick infection, Lyme disease, and encephalitis that affected my family members. In doing research and in contact with the medical community, I began checking out the possibilities of the cannabis plant.

For the last 10 years, I have studied and actively participated in most of the major marijuana court cases. With the cannabis act, I see big loopholes and I see lots of opportunities for the Marijuana Party, which, by the way, is the most popular party in Canada.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

On division.

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

6:45 p.m.

Mediation Officer, Marijuana Party

Talis Brauns

I'd like to quickly read an article. We are a party of eccentrics. It's kind of like herding cats. We have a full range from orthodox Christians to narco-socialists, and our previous party whip, Marc Boyer , only had a statement of birth and with that he was able to become a candidate and an officer of the Marijuana Party. He did not have a driver's licence. He did not have any bills to his name. His father was a municipal accountant who in World War II served in the Canadian Forces. With the end of the war and the turmoil in the British Empire, the king promised the officer corps that their children would not be liable for the war debt.

At the age of 65, Marc requested his pension and it went from the pension office to the Prime Minister's Office, to the Speaker of the House, and right now I believe it's on Brigadier-General Rob Delaney's desk. He's the Canadian Forces provost marshal.

Another extreme in our party is the futurists. These are computer literates who want to be able to have direct democracy, to be able to vote with their phones, to have electronic online identification as in the Estonian model, which I am aware of and well versed in.

I would like to read a small article. It's called “Persons For Idiots”, “The Tender for Law: Persons for Idiots”, (c) 2014, Rogue Support Inc., under a Creative Commons attribution-noncommercial-noderivs. 3.0 unported licence:

All of you reading have, at one point or another, encountered the term “PERSON”. After very little investigation, you are forced to accept the realization that you are not a PERSON, rather you HAVE a PERSON. This distinction is the first “lie of ommission” that you will encounter in the world of the “LEGAL”. THE TENDER FOR LAW axiom “LEGAL=SURETY AND ACCOUNTING” makes navigating “law” a lot simpler, and it’s very easy to spot the lies of ommission/ambiguity.

You did not create this PERSON and it has nothing to do with you. THIS ONE FACT is lost on most, and can lead to JOINDER if you are not careful.

When asked if you are a PERSON, some of you will answer that you are a NATURAL PERSON. This is a really dumb thing to claim in COURT because you are making several DECLARATIONS by saying so! First, you are DECLARING that you are in their JURISDICTION. Not only are you DECLARING that you are in their JURIDICTION, but you are also DECLARING that you do NOT enjoy LIMITED LIABILITY. This, of course, means you have 100% SURETY. Let me say that again: If you DECLARE in COURT that you are a NATURAL PERSON, you DECLARE that you accept 100% SURETY. NATURAL PERSON = “picking up the tab”. INDIVIDUAL=SURETY

This is something that comes from the futurists. It was penned by someone who has run for public office in the city of Toronto. He has two trust law degrees and for five hours gave me a dressing down, accusing me of being a complete fraud whose attempts to represent the public would not be to the good.

This is my situation.

Thank you for inviting me.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you all very much for coming.

Now we will do some rounds of questions from the parties.

We will start with Mr. Simms.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Thank you, Chair.

Ms. Krause, I was very interested in the example you gave. That's why I like doing this exercise of bringing in witnesses, because we get to hear examples we have not heard before.

I know of Leadnow. I don't know about the company in California. You made the statement that they would not be captured under the new bill we're studying here today. In this new bill, however, one of the few things we're attempting to do is to look at partisan activity, election spending, and election surveys, expanding the definition of what they were before. On foreign parties, in the case of the company in California, what specific activities were they involved in with Leadnow? Of those three categories, was there one or all?

6:50 p.m.

Researcher and Writer, As an Individual

Vivian Krause

Could you remind me of the three categories?

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

They are election activity—basically events of that nature; specific advertising, whatever form it may be, through whatever media; and of course, election surveys, expending to get information from within.

Can you drill down on how they were involved?

6:50 p.m.

Researcher and Writer, As an Individual

Vivian Krause

This is the thing. The way that foreign influence is occurring is by having most of its impact outside of the election period. By the time the writ is dropped, they have accomplished so much.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

I'll get to that in a moment, but I want to get back to the activity they were doing. I just want to figure out exactly what they were doing, because I know what Leadnow was doing.

6:50 p.m.

Researcher and Writer, As an Individual

Vivian Krause

I can't tell you exactly what they did during the election period, but I can tell you the types of things that they do.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Leadnow or the company in the U.S.?