Thank you, and good afternoon. As the CEO of the Kelowna federal Green Party electoral district association, I served here in Kelowna from 2006 to 2015 and was subsequently the chief financial officer of the EDA in 2015 before resigning following the 2015 general election.
I'm pleased to see many of the proposed amendments to the Canada Elections Act, as they address some serious concerns that I raised before, during, and after the 2015 general election, which ultimately led to several complaints being filed with the commissioner of Canada elections. Although not a complainant myself, I provided evidence as part of the investigation that ultimately led to finding Dan Ryder guilty of contravening the Elections Act, for which he entered into a subsequent compliance agreement on May 4, 2018.
Dan Ryder was found to have contravened subsection 363(1) of the act by making a contribution to a candidate while ineligible to do so. This was a result of Green Party signs being purchased and used to support the Liberal Party candidate in the Kelowna—Lake Country riding, which I will explain in a moment. However, I continue to have significant concerns that paragraph 482(b) and potentially other sections of the act and other Canadian laws were violated. Paragraph 482(b) states that every person is guilty of an offence who “by any pretence or contrivance...induces a person to vote or refrain from voting or to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate at an election.”
I have evidence to support that indeed voters were suppressed and induced to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate in the 2015 general election due to a misinformation campaign that Dan Ryder and the local Liberal Party campaign knowingly started and continued to spread beginning in July 2015, in order to confuse voters and influence the outcome of the 2015 election.
I would like to take this opportunity to walk the committee through a condensed timeline of events and statement of facts that support this concern. In March 2015, Dan Ryder and his wife, Zena Ryder, took out memberships in the Green Party. Shortly after, as CEO of the local EDA, I began receiving correspondence from both of them regarding the idea that they had for electoral fusion or co-operation between the Green Party and the Liberal Party to defeat the Conservative candidate in the upcoming election.
Several months later, a nomination contest was held and the Ryders' straw man candidate, Gary Adams, was nominated based on a platform that he would withdraw from the race and publicly endorse and support the Liberal candidate in the name of the Green Party, with the public commitment to the membership of the Green Party in advance of the vote at the nomination meeting that he would seek approval from the Green Party of Canada prior to undertaking such an approach. This commitment was made after concerns were raised that this approach would be contrary to the constitution of the Green Party of Canada. Unfortunately, regardless of this commitment, the so-called co-operation agreement was officially announced to the media immediately following the nomination meeting, and from then on, a misinformation campaign ensued.
Ultimately, it was found that such an approach was indeed contrary to the constitution of the Green Party of Canada, and the Green Party of Canada disapproved of any endorsement of another candidate or party. Through extensive consultation and discussion, a compromise agreement was struck between the Green Party of Canada, the Kelowna—Lake Country Electoral District Association, the candidate, and his campaign team.
This agreement included the following provisions: The candidate would withdraw. There would be no Green Party support in any overt or official way for any other party or candidate. Any communications about this compromise would be jointly drafted, shared, and approved. No money would be spent by the EDA and no Green Party of Canada resources would be used in furtherance of another party's candidate. Unfortunately, every aspect of this agreement was disregarded. One hundred generic Green Party signs were ordered and positioned next to Liberal Party signs along major roads and on private properties to demonstrate some form of partnership. Several of these signs were used during public Liberal campaign events, photo ops, and “Burma shaving” to demonstrate some kind of official support by the Green Party for the Liberal Party candidate.
Several public statements were also made suggesting that there was indeed an ongoing partnership between the two candidates and parties. Ultimately, I would argue that these statements were fraudulent and intended to mislead or suppress voters. In McEwing v. Canada in 2013, the Federal Court concluded:
In the context of the Act as a whole, the object of the Act and the ordinary and grammatical meaning of fraud, it is sufficient to show that a false representation has been made in an attempt to prevent electors from exercising their right to vote for the candidate of their choice:
What I have always been against from the very beginning of this issue is the perversion and manipulation of our electoral process and our democracy.
The Green Party of Canada has already made changes to its bylaws to prevent this kind of thing from ever happening again, and I strongly support clause 323 which amends section 481 of the act, which would help to prevent confusion amongst voters through the use of misleading information and material and would support the further strengthening and clarification of the language in this amendment.
To quote the remarks made by Mr. Marc Mayrand,, Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, on March 29, 2012, to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs at the House of Commons, “These are very serious matters that strike at the integrity of our democratic process. If they are not addressed and responded to, they risk undermining an essential ingredient of a healthy democracy, namely the trust that electors have in the electoral process.”