Dan Ryder —Image: UBCO

Green Party agent says no rules broken in 2015 deal with Liberals

Despite “longstanding” Elections Canada provision, Dan Ryder remains defiant

The man at the centre of a controversial move by the federal Green Party in Kelowna-Lake Country to have its candidate drop out of 2015 election race in order to help the Liberal candidate beat his incumbent Conservative rival, says despite a signing a compliance agreement with Election’s Canada that says part of the plan was illegal, he does not accept that.

The agreement says Dan Ryder, who acted as official agent for Green Party candidate Gary Adams in the 2015 vote, signed it to ensure compliance with the relevant provisions of the Act are followed in future. But Ryder says he does not consider an admission that anything wrong was done.

“My position, expressed in the compliance agreement and based on a legal analysis I received, is that there was no contravention of the Act in our case,” wrote Ryder in an email to the Capital News Monday. “The (Elections Canada) commissioner disagrees, but was unable to support his position with a legal analysis.”

Ryder said he does not consider the compliance agreement he signed as containing an admission a contravention of the Elections Act occurred.

Ryder posted the same statement on Facebook over the weekend.

Last week, Yves Côté, commissioner of Elections Canada, released the compliance report, which states that under a longstanding position of Elections Canada, the Green Party purchase of signs used to support Fuhr in 2015 was an “illegible” campaign contribution to Fuhr. And it constituted an offence under the Elections Act.

But Côté said he believed the contravention was unintentional and he will not forward the matter for prosecution.

Cote said when Fuhr’s official agent was informed of the ineligible contribution,$772.40—the amount the Adams campaign paid for the signs—was paid to the Receiver General, as required under section 372 of the Election Act.

Fuhr defeated long-time Conservative incumbent Ron Cannan in the 2015 election, part of a “red wave” that spread across Canada on election day, returning the Liberals to power in Ottawa after 9 1/2 years in opposition.

In his statement, Ryder said it appeared Election Canada was concerned about “an unscrupulous party” possibly subverting the rules in the future by exceeding campaign spending limits.

He pointed out similar attempts have been made in the past, to use ineligible campaign contributions, such as the infamous “in and out” scheme employed by the federal Conservative Party in 2o06, when it funnelled money from the party to individual Conservative candidates’ campaigns so it could be doled out to volunteers to cover expenses. That money was then donated back to the party as campaign contributions.

Charges were dropped against the Conservative Party of Canada when its fundraising arm pleaded guilty exceeding election spending limits, submitting fraudulent election records and paying a $230,000 fine.

Here is Ryder’s statement:

The 2015 cooperation between Greens and Liberals in Kelowna-Lake Country was grassroots democracy at its finest. Since it was a first in Canadian politics, it isn’t surprising that the Elections Act contained no language specifically applying to it. My position, expressed in the compliance agreement and based on a legal analysis I received, is that there was no contravention of the Act in our case. The Commissioner disagrees, but was unable to support his position with a legal analysis. I refused to sign a compliance agreement containing an admission that a contravention had occurred.

The Kelowna Green Party electoral association nominated Gary Adams on a transparent platform of cooperation as the best way to support Green principles, and the resulting campaign is one we are proud of. Based on consultations with Elections Canada at the time, it was understood that we would not contravene the Act by waving some Green signs alongside Liberal signs at the roadside.

More recently, Elections Canada has had misgivings. In particular, they are concerned about an unscrupulous party possibly subverting our idea so as to evade campaign spending limits. (This has happened before: the Conservative Party of Canada pleaded guilty to evading spending limits in connection with the in-and-out scandal, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.) It was this concern, and not the couple of hundred dollars’ worth of signs we used at Liberal events, which led the Commissioner to seek a formal compliance agreement. It is also why I agreed to sign it, and to caution against using signs in this way until legislation catches up.

I support Elections Canada’s aim to maintain equitable spending limits, and I also wish to defend the democratic right to engage in transparent political cooperation. I have requested that Elections Canada clarify on their website how future cooperative efforts may proceed.

The media attention to this took me by surprise, as the compliance agreement is, in itself, utterly uninteresting. Unfortunately the Conservative Party of Canada has chosen to twist this non-offense into an opportunity to smear a sitting MP, with little regard for truth and accuracy. For example, they have conveniently ignored the fact that Elections Canada found no reason to seek a compliance agreement with MP Fuhr. The agreement is with myself alone.

Dan Ryder

Kelowna

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