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A third-party organization linked to a series of robocall and text campaigns in Canada is now officially registered as a third party for the upcoming federal election.
Canada Strong and Proud first came to public attention when it sent out robocalls in late June asking for information about recipients' voting intentions and support for pipelines.
Some complained about receiving the calls without having provided the group with their phone numbers.
Now, Canada Strong and Proud is one of 26 organizations — so far — that will be spending money on advertisements or other political activity in the coming months.
According to Elections Canada's website, the group was registered July 23 by Chris Russell of St. John's, N.L.
Russell is listed as a director for the group in its incorporation documents, which are available through the Corporations Canada website. Two other directors, Kenneth W. Hayden and Nicolas Gagnon are also listed.
The Canadian Press attempted to reach Russell through the group's website and other forums but could not.
Russell is also a director of at least two other political action groups that operate at the provincial level. He is a director of NS Proud (based in Nova Scotia), as well as NL Strong (in Newfoundland and Labrador).
Both these organizations were responsible for robocall, text-message or advertising campaigns prior to provincial elections in their respective provinces.
The other directors for Canada Strong and Proud are linked to groups across the country who have also employed automated messaging tactics around provincial campaigns over the last year.
Kenneth W. Hayden shares an address with a Bill Hayden, who is listed as a director of Alberta Proud. Alberta Proud is also registered as a third-party group by Elections Canada for the fall's federal election.
Nicolas Gagnon is also involved in Quebec Fier, which similarly intervened in the Quebec provincial election last year and has since continued to use automated messages to reach Quebecers.
Canada Strong and Proud and its provincial affiliates all have websites with almost identical designs and tend to advocate against the current Liberal government.
Ontario Strong, another third-party group, sent mass automated texts to Ontarians around the same time as the robocalls from Canada Strong and Proud. The messages, which began with the message "Hi, this is Sue from Ontario Strong," asked if residents agreed the federal carbon tax should be scrapped.
Ontario Strong does not appear to be registered with Corporations Canada but it is similar to the other groups in its design and the date its web domain was registered — one day after Canada Strong and Proud was incorporated as a not-for-profit.
The various groups do not appear to be connected with Ontario Proud, another third-party group run by former Conservative staffer Jeff Ballingall that played a major role in the last Ontario election. Ballingall has launched a federal iteration of his group, Canada Proud, to advocate in the upcoming federal election.
The registration of Canada Strong and Proud and Alberta Proud with Elections Canada means they may soon need to disclose the sources of their income and where they are spending money.
If the groups have already spent or received more than $10,000 for regulated political activities, they must submit interim reports to Elections Canada five days after they are required to register with the federal agency.
Those interim reports are to include all contributions received by a third-party organization between the last federal election and when it registers, and any expenses for political activities that have taken place since June 30.