Government Pledges to Support Observers for 2019 Ukraine Election

Pledge follows Conservative release that states funding for observation missions has been cut.

Marco Levytsky, Western Bureau Chief.

The Government of Canada has pledged to provide election monitors for the 2019 election in Ukraine despite charges that they have stopped funding election observation missions, says a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“We are committed to supporting Ukraine, including in democratic capacity building, and will provide substantial support for election observers during its 2019 election,” Adam Austen told New Pathway – Ukrainian News (NP-UN) in an emailed message, March 31.

“Through the PSOPs (Ed. Note: Peace and Stabilization Operations Program, launched on August 26, 2016) programme to which our government has already provided $450 million and announced a further $150 million in Budget 2018, we continue to fund election observers, and other programmes to strengthen and protect democracy around the world.

“Details on support for Ukraine’s 2019 election will be announced in due course,” he noted in a second email message, April 2.

Austen was responding to a March 31 press release issued by Conservative Shadow Ministers Erin O’Toole (Foreign Affairs) and James Bezan (Defence) in which they stated “the Trudeau Liberal government has completely abandoned international election observation”.

“According to CANADEM, the arms-length, non-partisan organization that organizes election observation missions for Canadians, no division of Global Affairs Canada is currently responsible for election observation, and the Trudeau Liberals have stopped funding election observation missions, entirely giving up on these critical projects,” read the release.

They were referring to a CANADEM email sent out two days earlier which stated “the Government of Canada has disengaged from supporting international electoral observations”, referring to an OpEd piece which appeared in the Ottawa Citizen a day earlier.

In it Basia Puszkar, a veteran of several Ukraine Election Observer Missions, said the reason Canada was absent from the international observation mission for the March 25 Russian Presidential Elections is “that the federal government has cut all funding for participation in electoral observation”.

“This means that Canada has effectively pulled out of not only the Russian election, but also upcoming Hungarian elections, next year’s elections in Ukraine, and all future elections to be held in partner states,” she added.

Austen told NP-UN that “for the 2018 Russian election, the Embassy of Canada in Moscow worked with the OSCE to support the participation of two Canadian staff members in election monitoring”.

“Canada’s leadership and participation in international election observation missions was severely damaged when the Conservatives ended dedicated funding for election observation in 2013,” he added.

When asked by NP-UN to clarify that statement, in particular as there were 300 Canadian elections observers at the May 2014 Ukraine Presidential elections, plus 200 at the October 2014 Parliamentary elections as well as 10 long-term and 60 short term ones at the October 2015 municipal elections, Austen replied:

“When the Conservatives merged the former Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade they had a choice, and they chose to eliminate dedicated funding to election monitoring.”

He did not, however address the question about the 2014 and 2015 elections.