David Akin, Postmedia Network
, Last Updated: 8:55 PM ET
OTTAWA — As voters get set to head to the polls Monday in five federal by-elections, new evidence has emerged that the New Democrats have provided strategic help and research to a third party that is endorsing NDP and Green candidates.
The National Post has obtained e-mails and memos written by the president and other members of Fair Vote Canada, a third-party group which has been a strong advocate of electoral reform. The documents acknowledge that the NDP campaign in the riding of Ottawa-Vanier provided maps and research to Fair Vote to help that organization decide where to deploy its resources to assist the electoral efforts of the candidates it has endorsed.
Contacted Saturday, Fair Vote Canada confirmed that it sought and received the NDP’s help and the NDP did not challenge that view.
Fair Vote Canada has publicly endorsed both NDP and Green candidates in all five ridings that vote Monday for new members of parliament.
“The aim would be to send the Liberal government a message that voters were not going to forgive them for reneging on their promise of making 2015 the last (first-past-the-post) election by encouraging voters to support either the NDP or the Green Party for their positive stances on proportional representation,” a Fair Vote Canada volunteer writes in a memo, obtained by the Post, that was distributed to Fair Vote supporters. The document’s title is “FVC flyer distribution project, 2017 Ottawa-Vanier by-election: Lessons Learned: A guide for similar efforts by Fair Vote Canada chapters across Canada in future by-elections and general elections.”
Fair Vote Canada president Real Lavergne confirmed the authenticity of the memo and that his group got help from the NDP to organize its anti-Liberal campaign in Ottawa-Vanier.
Federal elections law prohibits third parties and political parties from colluding if that collusion has the effect of helping a political party exceed mandated spending limits. It is less clear if a political party is allowed to provide advice and materials to a third-party or if that third party is allowed to receive such direct assistance.
Elections Canada officials were not available Saturday.
Certainly, third parties like Fair Vote Canada are free to endorse any candidate or party they choose but Conservative Party spokesman Cory Hann said the arrangement between Fair Vote Canada and the NDP appears to go beyond that.
“This certainly would appear to blur what should be a clear line between the work of an official political party and the efforts of third-party groups,” Hann said in a statement Saturday. “Third-party groups should remain exactly that — third-party, and not some covert arm of any one political party.”
Liberals were similarly unimpressed. “These appear to be very troubling actions, and it’s essential that every party follows the clear rules that keep our democratic process transparent and accountable,” said Braeden Caley, a party spokesman.
Lavergne said Fair Vote Canada has done nothing wrong and is well under the spending limit imposed by Elections Canada.
“We’re very sensitive to the the third-party issue,” Lavergne said in a telephone interview Saturday.
For their part the New Democrats did not dispute that they gave assistance to Fair Vote Canada and made no apologies for it.
“I imagine that the Liberals are not very happy about this but I can’t imagine they are surprised given the Prime Minister decided to abandon the electoral reform commitment he made,” Sarah Jordison, NDP campaign manager in Ottawa-Vanier, said in an e-mailed statement.
In addition to Ottawa-Vanier, by-elections will be held Monday in a Montreal riding, in Markham, Ont., and in two ridings in Calgary.
All are considered safe seats for their incumbent parties: The Liberals in Ottawa, Montreal and Markham and the Conservatives in Calgary.
Nonetheless, Fair Vote Canada hopes to boost the number of NDP and Green votes as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Trudeau government’s decision to shelve electoral reform plans.
In Ottawa-Vanier, Lavergne sent Fair Vote Canada supporters an e-mail — a copy of which was obtained by the Post — in which he discussed the content and distribution strategy for 15,000 postcard-style flyers.
But with about 87,000 eligible voters in Ottawa-Vanier, Fair Vote Canada needed some help to identify how it could best distribute thise flyers to maximum effect — so it turned to the NDP.
The memo obtained by the Post acknowledges that Fair Vote Canada got “some help from the NDP campaign of candidate Emilie Taman to identify priority ridings,” a fact confirmed by Lavergne.
Later in that memo, the author writes “The NDP office also helped us with Elections Canada maps that we might have had trouble getting ourselves” and “The NDP had prepared maps for us of their recommended priority 50 polls. These were very useful.”
Again, Lavergne confirmed these facts.
Lavergne also wrote: “The NDP … gave us a high-resolution pdf map of the whole riding, which indicated the boundaries of all the polls. This would prove invaluable later on.”
In addition to providing help with maps, the NDP also provided strategic advice to Fair Vote Canada about where to deploy its canvassers.
“We ended up covering 48 of the 50 priority polls on our blitz day … and asked the NDP for more maps,” the Google Document’s author wrote. “They provided eight more on the spot, but ran dry after that. They suggested that we not bother leafleting zones that were quite conservative or with low voter turnout. And that we should focus on the U of O campus and getting into some of the apartment blocks within the zones already identified.”