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

6:50 p.m.

Researcher and Writer, As an Individual

Vivian Krause

The American organization. It's a charitable organization.

As far as I can tell, this American organization is the parent organization of Leadnow.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

Oh, I see.

6:55 p.m.

Researcher and Writer, As an Individual

Vivian Krause

It's called the Citizen Engagement Laboratory, and it has a program called the Online Progressive Engagement Network.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Do they consider themselves as having—pardon the expression—given birth to Leadnow?

6:55 p.m.

Researcher and Writer, As an Individual

Vivian Krause

They have a program called strategic incubation. The executive director is an individual named Ben Brandzel. He came to Canada and worked with Leadnow here to help them with the launch. His organization, OPEN, provides a number of types of assistance. I can give you a couple of examples, if you give me a minute.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Yes, absolutely.

6:55 p.m.

Researcher and Writer, As an Individual

Vivian Krause

There are a couple things about OPEN. This is the American organization that appears to me to be the parent organization of Leadnow. They say they work seamlessly across borders. They say in writing that they keep a low profile because of the sensitive political implications of their work. They say they provide “special access to best-in-class external resources ranging from video production to management coaching”.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

I'm sorry to cut you off, but I don't have a lot of time. I know I just gave you the time, and I'm now taking it back. I apologize.

They say it's seamless activity they're doing between the two, right? In this bill we're trying to pinpoint, become more transparent, and try to catch right there where they're being directly involved in the election. To me it seems that Leadnow is the one that's being directly involved, and the association with the American organization is really—

6:55 p.m.

Researcher and Writer, As an Individual

Vivian Krause

I would argue that it's a pretty blurry line between Leadnow and OPEN, because they work seamlessly across borders and because of the type of activity that the American organization provides. It's everything from ghostwriting and video production to coaching, strategic support, training, etc.

Here's another example. After the 2015 federal election, in January 2016, the spokesperson for Leadnow, Amara Possian, who is currently running for office in the Ontario provincial election, travelled to Australia where she was given an award by the American organization for helping to defeat the Conservative Party. That's the type of thing they do. It's right from the get-go, from creating the original organization to continuing....

Then, just to give you another example, Canadian members of Leadnow went to Australia to help on the American campaign in Australia. So it's not just Canada.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

I'm not trying to evade the subject. Don't get me wrong. I'm just short on time, and I'm trying to pinpoint—

6:55 p.m.

Researcher and Writer, As an Individual

Vivian Krause

The point I'm trying to make is that they're working behind the scenes—

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

When you look at the legislation that we're to put in place, where would you go to make that line less blurry? Where would you go to make sure there's a true delineation between what is a foreign entity and its Canadian counterpart?

6:55 p.m.

Researcher and Writer, As an Individual

Vivian Krause

That's a very difficult question, but I'll tell you the way I see it.

As I mentioned, it's in proposed paragraph 282.4(1)(b). That paragraph defines a “foreign entity”. It says that you're not allowed to influence elections if you are “a corporation or entity incorporated, formed or otherwise organized outside Canada”. If you were to end it there, then OPEN and all these other groups would be identified as foreign entities.

The trouble is that it goes on to exclude from that any entities that carry on business in Canada or “whose only activity carried on in Canada during an election period consists of doing anything to influence electors during that period”.

In other words, the foreign organization just has to do something—it could be bottle collecting, recycling, anything—so that it's not only conducting election-related activities.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

I see what you mean.

6:55 p.m.

Researcher and Writer, As an Individual

Vivian Krause

It's because of the way that is written that pretty much any organization can be exempt.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

I'm sorry. I wasn't being dismissive of you. I just realized that I'm out of time, but I thank you for that. I appreciate it.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you very much.

We'll now go to Mr. Richards.

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Thanks, Mr. Chair, and thanks to all of you for being here tonight.

I'll pick up with you as well, Ms. Krause. I want to ask some questions of a similar nature, but I want to start with this one, because a number of people, you included, have raised these issues about the last election in particular in terms of the concerns about foreign funding, what that might mean, what kinds of implications there might be if something isn't done to try to deal with what might be a problem out there, and what the implications might be for future elections. There has been a lot of talk about the current election in Ontario, which is going on right now, in terms of what might be happening there.

I might get to that in a second, but I wanted to start with this question: would you say it's possible that foreign funding may have changed the outcome of the last federal election?

June 6th, 2018 / 7 p.m.

Researcher and Writer, As an Individual

Vivian Krause

Is it possible?

7 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Yes.

7 p.m.

Researcher and Writer, As an Individual

Vivian Krause

Well, if we do the math, the answer is clearly yes, right? I don't mean for a moment to take away from the efforts of the political party that won, but if you do the math.... Leadnow, for example, takes credit for defeating 26 Conservative incumbents. Well, of course they didn't do that, but as I mentioned, they probably may have had an impact in a few ridings. How many ridings? Well, that depends, but it may have been enough to make the difference between a minority and a majority government.

The important thing to note is that I don't think it's so much.... I wouldn't make that argument, but here's the thing. Basically what they did in the 2015 election was their first crack at it. This was a brand new organization. It was just starting. That's what they accomplished in basically their kindergarten year. What are they going to be able to accomplish in the next election? They managed to engage half a million Canadians. That never would have been possible, I don't think, if they hadn't had the assistance of their American parent organization.

What we have is a system that isn't robust to this sort of outside influence. If we want to deter it, then we need to change our system.

7 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Okay.

Obviously, when you talk about the kinds of numbers they are bragging about, it would have had an influence. You're right. It's hard to measure whether what they're saying is accurate or not, but I think the one thing we can do is try to determine to what extent there was involvement by foreign funding. You've obviously taken a pretty good look at this. What can you tell us about that? To what extent...? What kinds of numbers are we talking about here?

7 p.m.

Researcher and Writer, As an Individual

Vivian Krause

I'll give you an example.

This organization, Leadnow, claims that it is the brainchild of two university students and a throughly Canadian youth-led movement, but that is not the whole story. The truth is that their original business plan, which I stumbled across on the Internet, had a $16-million budget over 10 years. That's the kind of scope that they set out to work with from the get-go.

I've spoken with the founders of Leadnow, the individuals who refer to themselves as the founders, Adam Shedletzky and Jamie Biggar. They told me that, yes, they had an anonymous donor. I encouraged them. I said, “Look, you guys, you had a significant influence in the election, so how about talking with your anonymous donor and at the very least telling us whether that donor was Canadian or from outside the country?” I said, “At the very least, clear up that question.” No answer was forthcoming.

7 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Sure, and I think this goes without saying, but I would love to hear your opinion: is this something we should be worried about? I don't mean just that specific instance you're referring to. I mean the fact that there is the ability for people to give potentially unlimited amounts of money from outside of Canada and there's no way to know who the individual or organization might be. Is that something we should be concerned about?

7 p.m.

Researcher and Writer, As an Individual

Vivian Krause

I think the important point or perhaps one of the most important points I could leave with you is that this wasn't done for no reason. This wasn't done because of how Canada has treated aboriginal people or because of how we've treated immigrants. This was done because of oil.

The American charitable foundations that fund the Citizen Engagement Laboratory, in fact created it. It is funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Tides foundation, and other donors who fund an entity called the tar sands campaign.

When this campaign first began 10 years ago, we didn't know what it was about. The motivations of the funders were not clear, but now they are, because the individual who has been directing this campaign for more than a decade, Michael Marx, said, “From the very beginning, the campaign strategy was to land-lock the tar sands so their crude could not reach the international market where it could fetch a high price per barrel.”

That is the campaign that has been funding Leadnow. Leadnow was funded and supported behind the scenes as part of the American-funded campaign to landlock our crude and essentially keep Canada over a barrel.

I think the thing that's significant is that this wasn't done for no reason. It was in fact done for the sake of something that's costing us billions.