Commissioner Of Canada Elections
Canada Elections Act
This notice is published by the Commissioner of Canada Elections, pursuant to section 521 of the Canada Elections Act, S.C. 2000, c. 9.
On July 4, 2017, the Commissioner of Canada Elections entered into a compliance agreement with Mr. Pierre Poilievre, pursuant to section 517 of the Canada Elections Act. The text of the compliance agreement is set out in full below.
July 4, 2017
Yves Côté, QC
Commissioner of Canada Elections
Pursuant to section 517 of the Canada Elections Act (the Act), the Commissioner of Canada Elections (the Commissioner) and Mr. Pierre Poilievre (the Contracting Party) enter into this agreement aimed at ensuring compliance with the Act.
The relevant provisions of the Act are paragraphs 368(1)(a) and 497(2)(e), which make it an offence to knowingly circumvent the prohibition on contributions to a registered party by ineligible contributors set out in subsection 363(1) of the Act.
Statements by the Contracting Party
For the purpose of this compliance agreement, the Contracting Party acknowledges the following:
- In July 2015, the Contracting Party was the federal Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Minister of State for Democratic Reform and was the prospective Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) candidate for the electoral district of Carleton for the 42nd federal general election. In accordance with the Act, polling day for that general election was to be held on October 19, 2015. The writs were issued on August 2, 2015, to provide for a general election on that date.
- On July 20, 2015, the Contracting Party formally announced, on behalf of the Government of Canada, the initiation of retroactive lump sum Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) payments at funding announcements in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia. The UCCB benefits to be disbursed totalled approximately $3 billion and were directed to some 3.8 million families. In an accompanying news release, ESDC described these payments as "the biggest single one-time payout in history." On Twitter and Facebook, the Contracting Party described the payments as "Christmas in July" for Canadian parents.
- The Contracting Party's two announcements at Halifax and Truro were made in his capacity as the Minister responsible for ESDC and hence as the spokesperson for the Government of Canada. The events were organized by federal public servants, who are expected to fulfill their responsibilities in a non-partisan fashion, and whose salaries are paid with public funds from the ESDC departmental budget. The travel, logistical and other expenses related to these events were also paid using public funds from the ESDC departmental budget.
- Ministers were at the time (and still are) prohibited from using public funds from their departmental budgets for partisan purposes. The Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) document Policies for Ministers' Offices, which took effect on January 17, 2011, and which remains in effect, draws an express distinction between a Minister's expenses incurred in connection with departmental business and those incurred in connection with parliamentary business. The policies require that Ministers differentiate between activities and expenses conducted in the discharge of their ministerial duties and in the conduct of other government business, and those conducted in the course of acting as Members of Parliament and members of a political party. It was at the time (and still is) a permissible and required function of the Government of Canada to communicate governmental policies and initiatives to the public at funding announcements by Ministers, as spokespersons on behalf of the Government of Canada. However, these communications must be made in a non-partisan fashion.
- The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner issued reports on April 29, 2010, concerning the use of ceremonial cheques bearing the CPC logo at federal funding announcements. In both reports, she noted that "...government funding is not a partisan activity, so it is not appropriate to brand federal funding announcements with partisan or personal identifiers." In the course of the Ethics Commissioner's investigation, the former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., in response to a question from the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons on October 20, 2009, stated:
Mr. Speaker, I said clearly last week and the government said very clearly, when we heard of this abuse, that the use of a partisan logo on a government announcement was not correct.
- According to the Hansard Official Report of the House of Commons Debates for that date, the Contracting Party was in attendance in the House when the Prime Minister made the remarks.
- At the July 20, 2015, Halifax and Truro funding announcements, the Contracting Party wore a blue golf shirt bearing a CPC party logo. During the media availability that immediately followed the Halifax funding announcement, the Contracting Party stated to the media, in reference to the UCCB payments, that these "tangible benefits" were from "our Conservative government," adding that "if the Liberals and NDP were to take office they would take the benefits away and raise taxes." Journalists from some major national and regional media outlets reported on both the funding announcements and the Contracting Party's subsequent statements.
- In making this positive association between the CPC and the UCCB program, the Contracting Party intended to create favourable publicity in order to gain partisan advantage and improve the CPC's electoral prospects in the upcoming election and to thereby provide a benefit to his political party through the branding of the government event by together doing the following:
- The wearing of clothing bearing the CPC party logo at two significant funding announcements (both in terms of the amount of money to be spent and the number of beneficiaries, many of whom would be eligible electors); along with
- The making of an election campaign style statement during the media availability portion of the Halifax announcement.
- Shortly before the Halifax announcement, a Minister's Office staff member questioned the Contracting Party on whether he should wear the golf shirt with the party logo. The Contracting Party confirmed that he wanted to wear that shirt.
- The Contracting Party's intention in wearing clothing bearing the CPC party logo during the government funding announcement was to link the UCCB benefit to the party and the Conservative government and to provoke the media to cover CPC involvement in the funding. The Contracting Party subsequently acknowledged that, in retrospect, he would have worn a suit.
- As the Minister for ESDC, and consequently the spokesperson for the UCCB program, the Contracting Party converted two Government of Canada funding announcements into partisan events promoting the CPC, at no cost to the party. This caused the expenses related to the funding announcements to become a de facto non-monetary contribution to the CPC. This had the effect of circumventing the rule, in subsection 363(1) of the Act, that only a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada may legally make a contribution to a federal political party. The Government of Canada is not eligible to make such a contribution to the party.
- In response to a question from an Ottawa Citizen reporter on July 21, 2015, regarding the Halifax and Truro announcements, a spokesperson for the Conflicts of Interest and Ethics Commissioner confirmed that "while it may be seen as inappropriate", neither the Conflict of Interest Act or the Conflict of Interest Code for MPs forbids MPs — or Ministers — from wearing party-branded apparel at a government funding event. That said, pursuant to subsection 2(1) of the Act, the commercial value of a service provided to a political party, other than volunteer labour, constitutes a "non-monetary contribution" to that party. The known quantifiable costs associated with the planning and holding of the government funding announcements were calculated to have a commercial value of approximately $4,800.
- The Contracting Party understands that acknowledgement of non-compliance does not constitute an admission of guilt in the criminal sense and that no record of conviction is created as a result of admitting responsibility for acts that could constitute an offence.
- The Contracting Party acknowledges that the Commissioner has advised him of his right to be represented by counsel and has given him an opportunity to obtain counsel.
Factors considered by the Commissioner
In entering into this compliance agreement, the Commissioner took into account the factors set out in paragraph 32 of the Compliance and Enforcement Policy of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which is available on the Commissioner's website, including the fact that
- Before entering into this compliance agreement, the Contracting Party prepared a notice, in both official languages, for the purpose of publication as directed by the terms herein, the contents of which were approved by the Commissioner.
Undertaking and agreement
The Contracting Party undertakes to display a link to the notice described above on the "News and Headlines" page of his personal website (http://pierremp.ca), for a minimum period of 30 days from the publication of the compliance agreement on the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections website, and to transmit a link to the Contracting Party's web page via his official Facebook and Twitter accounts. This transmission shall occur on the day the notice is first displayed, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
The Contracting Party further undertakes to provide evidence to the Commissioner in writing that this undertaking has been complied with as soon as practicable.
The Contracting Party undertakes to distribute the contents of the notice, referred to in the preceding paragraphs, in the form of a bilingual news release to the national news media as soon as practicable after the Commissioner has signed the compliance agreement, once the Commissioner has approved the contents of the release. The Contracting Party must provide a copy of the release to the Commissioner as evidence of compliance with this undertaking.
The Contracting Party agrees to comply with the relevant provisions of the Act in the future.
The Contracting Party consents to the publication of this agreement in the Canada Gazette and on the Commissioner's website.
The Commissioner agrees that the fulfillment by the Contracting Party of the undertakings in this agreement will constitute compliance with the agreement.
Under subsection 517(5), the compliance agreement and the statements it contains are not admissible in evidence against the Contracting Party in any civil or criminal proceedings.
Pursuant to subsection 517(8) of the Act, the Commissioner and the Contracting Party recognize that once this agreement is entered into, the Commissioner will be prevented from referring this matter for prosecution to the Director of Public Prosecutions unless there is non-compliance with an undertaking of the compliance agreement, and in any event, the Director of Public Prosecutions cannot institute such a prosecution unless non-compliance with the agreement's undertakings has been established.
Signed by the Contracting Party in the City of Ottawa, in the province of Ontario this 30th day of June 2017.
Hon. Pierre Poilievre, P.C., M.P.
Signed by the Commissioner of Canada Elections, in the City of Gatineau, in the province of Quebec, this 4th day of July 2017.
Yves Côté, QC
Commissioner of Canada Elections