Tides Foundation Spent Millions To Defeat Conservatives: Report

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
Font Size:

According to a report from Elections Canada and obtained in part by the Calgary Herald, leftist U.S. advocacy groups poured millions of dollars into the 2015 Canadian federal election with the objective of defeating former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Liberals under the leader Justin Trudeau won that election.

The report, entitled Elections Canada Complaint Regarding Foreign Influence in the 2015 Canadian Election, says that left-wing third parties — dominated by the environmentalist Tides Foundation — coordinated their efforts and may have bypassed election spending limits — a violation of the Canadian law and the Canada Elections Act. “Electoral outcomes were influenced,” the report says.

The Canada Elections Act also states: “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 Canadian citizen or a permanent resident.

The report is a consequence of a complaint from a group called Canada Decides, which charged “the outcome of the 2015 election was skewed by money from wealthy foreigners.”

The number of third parties registered during the 2015 federal election stood at 114 — more than double the 55 that existed for the 2011 election. Those 114 groups spent $6 million affecting the election, and at least $1.5 million of that came from the Tides Foundation — which has been a vocal opponent of Canadian petroleum exploration, especially in the Alberta oil sands.

The report specifically sites former Calgary Member of Parliament (MP) Joan Crockatt, who says she was one of 29 Conservative MPs targeted by an group called Leadnow through its 2015 Vote Together campaign. Leadnow is alleged to be awash in foreign money.

Mount Royal University political science professor Duane Bratt told Postmedia that these concerns raised by Elections Canada should worry Canadians. “The whole concept and idea of foreign influence in an election is an important issue and is something that Canadians should not tolerate,” Bratt said Monday.

In December 2015, Leadnow prepared a report entitled Defeating Harper that specifically discusses its success in influencing the Oct. 19 election: “The Conservatives were defeated in 25 out of 29 ridings, and … in the seats the Conservatives lost, our recommended candidate was the winner 96 per cent of the time.”

Many of the tidings where Leadnow claims victory were won by small margins of less than 100 votes.

Crockatt, who was a journalists before entering politics, says researchers spent 18 months gathering evidence for the complaint.

“Foreign money meddled in a big way in our election and that’s not right,” Crockatt told the Calgary Herald. “Americans are rightly concerned about Russia hacking into U.S. government emails. Well, this appears to be much worse — foreign money, in many cases by very wealthy people — was donated and arguably changed the outcome of our Canadian election. It needs to be taken seriously and investigated.”

The 2015 annual report of the Online Progressive Engagement Network (OPEN) — home base for Leadnow founder Ben Brandzel — stated: “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.”

Canada Decides’ recommendation to Elections Canada is that Commissioner Yvette Cote eliminate “the threat to Canadian election sovereignty.”

Cote suggested during an appearance before a Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee on Apr. 13 that he is prepared to assess the evidence after being questioned by Conservative Senators Linda Frum and Bob Runciuman.

“Issues of significance have been raised,” said Cote, during the senate committee hearing, “which in my view deserves Parliament taking the time to looking at the situation, trying to understand what has happened, what is likely to happen and then taking measures .. to make sure there is compliance.” Cote added that “the Supreme Court of Canada said the objective of maintaining a level playing field is, for them, a very important objective.”

Follow David on Twitter