Convoy Finance: 25% Foreign Funded, but Questions Still Remain
Estimating finance from the POEC report
Last week, the Public Order Emergency Commission treated us to their overview of convoy finance. There’s lots of good stuff in the overview, and a few omissions. I looked at the report with two main questions in mind: how much did the organizers actually have access to, and how much of the money came from foreign sources. There’s plenty more to unpack, but let’s start here. And of course a warm welcome to the new subscribers to Insight Intelligence — our community is growing by the day, and we’re now over 2500 strong!
So let’s start with the first question: how much money did the organizers actually have access to, and how much of that money made it ‘on the ground’ during the convoy protest? You’ll remember that I originally estimated that the convoy organizers had access to roughly $ 3 million. Of that money, I was only able to account for $36,000 having been distributed to convoy participants. You can read my analysis here:
Based on the overview provided by the commission, I estimate that the organizers actually had access to a little less — closer to $2.5 million.
Of that, about $1.7 million was frozen in escrow. Roughly $800,000 in cryptocurrency was distributed to convoy participants, but I’ve been told by reliable sources that this money has not been touched. Based on numbers provided by the commission, about $246,000 was actually received by protesters — not very much in the grand scheme of things!
The commission also told us that Chris Garrah’s adopt a trucker email money transfer campaign raised about $31,000. I was only able to account for about $23,500 using the bank statements that were entered into evidence, so presumably there’s more information that the commission hasn’t released publicly. These transactions are interesting: there was a huge spike in donations on the 9th of February. There were 171 email money transfers to his account, and the average donation was $177. The largest donation was $2,022, while the smallest was $8.
Point of interest: in two days, Garrah paid out over $10,550 in hotel fees for those staying at the Swiss Hotel. If we extrapolate these costs over the course of the occupation, the Swiss Hotel fees alone (and there were several other hotels being used by the convoy, including the Alt Hotel) would account for most of the money. For instance: on one day, Garrah paid over $8k in hotel fees at the Swiss. The next day he paid another bill for over $2,300. However, at least some of the hotel fees appear to have been paid by Joseph Bourgault. Paul Champ, the lawyer for the civil action relating to the convoy, told us:
This is pretty interesting. It seems as though the “grass roots” protesters (those actually doing the majority of the protesting) were left to their own devices to cover their expenses, while the convoy leadership racked up hotel fees.
So what about foreign funding?
Back in February, I wrote the following about foreign influence:
There is no doubt that there has been a significant amount of foreign influence on the convoy protests in Ottawa and beyond. The vast majority of the overt influence has come from US influencers, Canadians abroad, and politicians, including the former President himself. That influence has driven attention to the convoy, and has likely helped spark copy-cat protests in other countries and cities around the world.
There’s been plenty of speculation about foreign funding as well. I outline it here, but the big takeaway for me has always been that most of the crowdfunding money never made it to the organizers, and the main operational financing costs were covered through cash donations and email money transfers. I stand by that assessment.
HOWEVER. We now know that the convoy organizers actually got access to about $83,100 from the GiveSendGo crowdfunding campaign. That campaign had a foreign donation rate of about 54% (but value-wise, about 44% of the money was not from Canada.) The majority of these funds were from the United States, but some were from other countries. According to numbers I was able to pull from the commission report, the protesters had access to about $246,000 from Canadian sources. The foreign component of the GiveSendGo campaign amounted to about $83,100, meaning that approximately 25% of all the money the protesters had access to originated outside of Canada.
Foreign funding for the Ottawa occupation and protest accounted for about 25% of funds raised. But this doesn’t account for other donations like hotel rooms being paid for, or other “in-kind” donations.
So what can we conclude from this? This was still a primarily Canadian-funded protest and occupation, with some foreign funding and influence.
What the commission missed
The commission did a pretty good job of unpacking the finances, but there were a few key things they missed. They didn’t delve into how much of the cryptocurrency fundraisers were funded by people outside of Canada, for instance. While the vast majority of those funds were never accessed, it would be interesting to know how much money came from outside Canada. We know that at least a little bit did.
The commission also didn’t look into the PayPal campaign that was set up in the early days of the convoy, nor did the commission estimate how much cash was being raised.
This report is just a snapshot of the finances of the convoy. To really get to the bottom of the financing, we’d need a number of different things:
direct access to convoy organizers’ and participants bank account and credit card statements to determine how much they were getting and using for the protest, as well as a full attribution of the crypto donations.
some way to estimate how much cash was being provided. This might be possible using estimative techniques using historical average cash withdrawals for Ottawa during the same time period, and attributing the delta to the convoy, although this would of course be rather imprecise.
direct access to the bank and credit card statements of those supporting the convoy, but not in Ottawa, like Bourgault.
So for now, convoy finance is still shrouded in a bit of mystery…not only for us observers, but also likely for some of the organizers themselves.
This is a simple analysis based on the amount of money the organizers had access to from GiveSendGo, multiplied by the estimated foreign funding. In reality, it’s unclear how much of that money (specific transactions) originated outside of Canada. For that, we’d need direct access to GiveSendGo accounts.
What happens to the $1.7 million in escrow? Can the govt take it and use it to help pay for costs of protest?