The MLA for Moncton Centre has filed an official complaint with Elections New Brunswick, claiming a provincial anti-Liberal online group may have colluded with the Progressive Conservatives and committed financial irregularities.
Robert McKee says he filed the 40-page complaint to Chief Electoral Officer Kimberly Poffenroth, asking her to investigate the operations of New Brunswick Proud during the 2018 provincial election.
“We fear that these third parties, which are not subject to the same financial criteria as other political parties in terms of receiving corporate donations, that they’re just becoming more powerful than they ever were,” McKee told Global News in a phone interview Tuesday.
“That’s why we want [Elections New Brunswick] to investigate this.”
New Brunswick Proud is linked to Proudly New Brunswick and has ties to other anti-Liberal online political action groups such as Ontario Proud and Canada Proud.
Proudly New Brunswick is a registered third party and was identified as the organization behind a series of text messages and unsolicited calls to New Brunswickers during the provincial election.
Third parties take part in election advertising by publicly promoting or opposing a political party or the election of a candidate. They can also take a position on an issue with which a political party or candidate is associated.
If an organization spends more than $500 on election advertising, they must register with Elections New Brunswick.
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In the complaint, McKee claims New Brunswick is funded by outside groups including the Manning Foundation and pro-big oil industry Modern Miracle Network out of Alberta. He also claims the party misidentified themselves in election advertising.
McKee says having groups from outside the province contribute to provincial campaigns is a problem that needs to be addressed.
“The third parties have no financial requirements for disclosure outside of election period … they have complete freedom to do whatever they please,” McKee stated.
“Political parties aren’t subject to the same rules. We have to disclose periodically during non-election years all donations.
“We just want to increase transparency and accountability when it comes to political financing for third parties since we are seeing they are becoming a lot more powerful.”
In addition to the alleged financial complaints, McKee also claims New Brunswick Proud may have colluded the Progressive Conservatives.
“When we look at these groups across Canada, they seem to be formed by former Tory or PC staffers,” said McKee. “The directors of the groups are all former PC staffers … so it raises suspicion that it is a Tory-backed group.
“Whether they’re arms-length or whether there is collusion is debatable and that’s why we’ve asked Elections New Brunswick to investigate.”
Elections NB spokesperson Paul Harpelle confirmed that the chief electoral officer has received the complaint and will look at its merits to determine whether an investigation will commence.
New Brunswick Proud has yet to comment. McKee says he has not heard from the party since the complaint was filed.
— With files from Alexander Quon.