An investigation by the Commissioner of Canada Elections has concluded Warren Kinsella and his Daisy Group consulting firm did not violate the Canada Elections Act when it worked to “seek and destroy” People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier by portraying him and his supporters as racist.
The Globe and Mail reported in October that the Conservative Party hired Mr. Kinsella’s firm for an assignment called “Project Cactus” that aimed to tarnish the reputation of Mr. Bernier and his party and to keep Mr. Bernier out of the national leaders’ debates.
Internal Daisy Group records obtained by The Globe showed that one condition of the work was that the identity of the client would not be revealed. The documents said the firm would use various means, including through Twitter posts, to “seek and destroy” Mr. Bernier up until June 30, when a new legal requirement kicked in requiring third parties to register with Elections Canada and disclose their spending and revenue.
Neither Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, nor Mr. Kinsella, have publicly confirmed or denied that the Conservative Party was the client that hired Daisy Group.
Under Canada’s election laws, specific details related to contracting by political parties are not made public. Parties are only required to release total campaign spending figures for broad categories, such as advertising or professional services.
Just hours after the Oct. 21 election results were revealed, Mr. Kinsella wrote to the Commissioner of Canada Elections to request an investigation of Daisy Group’s work.
Mylène Gigou, the director of investigations for the commissioner, sent a one-page letter to Mr. Kinsella this week confirming that an investigation was conducted and informing him of the decision.
“I am writing in relation to allegations concerning the Daisy Group’s activities related to the 43rd federal general election. These allegations were reported in the media and resulted in complaints to our office,” she wrote. “All complaints received by the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections are reviewed to determine whether they raise issues under the Canada Elections Act. Based on the outcome of our review and the information available, we have determined that neither you nor the Daisy Group contravened the Act. We now consider the matter closed.”
The letter does not mention the Conservative Party of Canada. A spokesperson for the commissioner’s office confirmed the letter was sent but declined further comment.
“We thank the Commissioner of Elections for their review and their letter," Mr. Kinsella said in a written statement Thursday. “For us, the result was never in doubt, but it was wonderful to hear that the Commissioner agreed in such a clear decision. Daisy Group is proud to run campaigns opposing racism, homophobia, misogyny and anti-Semitism, and we are never going to stop doing that.”
The Globe reported in December that Mr. Bernier is preparing a defamation case against Mr. Kinsella over the accusations of racism.
Lawyer and former Ontario ombudsman André Marin, who has been hired to represent Mr. Bernier, said Thursday that the details of the lawsuit are being finalized and should be made public later this month. Mr. Kinsella has said he will defend himself “vigorously.”
Mr. Bernier is a former Conservative MP and cabinet minister who finished a close second to Mr. Scheer in the Conservative Party’s 2017 leadership race. As the leader of the new PPC, he succeeded in gaining access to the national debates, but his party received only 1.6 per cent of the popular vote and failed to elect any MPs.
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