The Conservative Party and Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby group stand accused of “colluding” in violation of the country’s elections law, according to a complaint made to a federal commissioner.
Ethics watchdog, Democracy Watch, said Thursday it was calling on Commissioner of Canada Elections Yves Côté to investigate whether the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and the Tories broke the Canada Elections Act.
The complaint centres on the fact the lobby group and the Conservatives have both done business with an advertising firm co-founded by Hamish Marshall, who is Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s campaign manager.
These connections, along with revelations about three events this past spring involving Scheer and oil industry executives, “point to a relationship of collaboration and support” that would give Côté “reasonable grounds to investigate,” the complaint reads.
3 months – 3 events
Democracy Watch said three events in particular provided supporting evidence for an investigation. The events took place in April, May and June of this year, and each one occurred at a hotel.
On April 11, Scheer gave a keynote speech at a private, daylong meeting at the Azuridge Estate Hotel in Alberta, attended by oil executives and CAPP’s president. At that event, Marshall also spoke on a panel about “rallying the base.” CAPP disputed that the event was related to the election.
On May 15, Imperial Oil CEO Rich Kruger had a conversation with Scheer at the annual Politics and the Pen dinner at the Château Laurier hotel in Ottawa. The company, which sponsored the dinner, later filed a lobbying report for that date related to the dinner. (Kruger, who is still listed as a member of CAPP’s board of governors, is retiring from his post at the end of December.)
On June 4, Scheer attended a fundraising event at the Westin Hotel in Calgary, organized by energy-firm executives. The Conservative party’s fundraising report for that event, where Scheer spoke, lists some industry representatives involved in the April meeting, Democracy Watch said. The party told the Globe and Mail the event was not a fundraiser and open to non-donors.
“There’s enough there, I think, for (Côté) to go to court and try to get a subpoena.” – Duff Conacher, Democracy Watch co-founder in an Oct. 10 interview.
As part of its evidence to the commissioner, Democracy Watch cited a National Observer story that a member of the CAPP board of governors lobbied Scheer during a gala dinner event sponsored by one of CAPP’s member companies, Imperial Oil.
The April 11 Event
The April 11 event didn’t just feature Mr. Scheer as keynote speaker. The Conservative campaign manager, Hamish Marshall, spoke in a section on “the new third-party campaign model” – a reference to campaigns by organizations that are not political parties. So did Mark Spiro, a veteran Conservative organizer who helped run the ground game in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s campaigns.
The agenda noted those discussions would include “network campaigns” and “campaign techniques,” like rallying the base. Some of the other items on the agenda included the Conservative Party lawyer, Arthur Hamilton, talking about using litigation as a tool to “get tough” on environmental NGOs and former Donald Trump aide Mike Roman talking about countering such groups through opposition research, which is the political euphemism for digging up dirt on adversaries.
Certainly that looks like Conservatives and oil-industry execs giving each other tips on political campaigning.
Karina Gould, the Minister of Democratic Institutions, told The Globe and Mail in an interview, there are new laws that prohibit parties from colluding with third-party interest groups that conduct partisan political activities in the official pre-election period.