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.