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Warren Kinsella’s Daisy Group settles with former employee accused of Project Cactus leak

Daisy Group, the consulting firm run by political strategist Warren Kinsella, has reached a settlement with a former employee it was suing for $1 million for allegedly revealing details about the company’s work in the lead-up to the 2019 federal election.

“Daisy and Aziza Mohammed have resolved all disputes between them,” says a statement posted on the Daisy Group website Wednesday afternoon. “None of the allegations of either side has been proven in court, and on some things — like the various allegations of discriminatory attitudes in the workplace — they have simply agreed to disagree.”

Daisy Group drew media attention during the 2019 election when the Globe and Mail first reported, and CBC News confirmed, it had created a campaign on behalf of a political client to “seek and destroy” the People’s Party of Canada and its leader, Maxime Bernier.

Dubbed Project Cactus, the campaign saw Daisy Group use social media to draw attention to xenophobic or racist statements by members and supporters of the party.

Two weeks after the Globe and Mail and CBC News reports, Daisy Group launched a $1 million lawsuit against Mohammed. Daisy accused Mohammed of breach of contract and breach of confidentiality for allegedly sharing information about the campaign with media, according to a statement of claim filed with the Ontario Superior court.

The suit sought punitive damages, alleging Mohammed acted maliciously against Daisy and that media reports about the campaign caused the firm to lose three clients.

“Both sides are happy with this and my client is very happy with this (agreement),” said Mark Bourrie, the Ottawa lawyer representing Mohammed, who did not file a statement of defence.

In response to a request from CBC News, Mohammed said in an email: “I am happy to have resolved this issue and would like to affirm that it falls upon all citizens to uphold the principles of democracy in whatever way they can.”

Neither Kinsella nor Henein Hutchison LLP, the law firm that was representing Daisy Group, responded to a request for comment Wednesday.

In the statement posted on Daisy’s website, both parties acknowledge the other’s point of view on the dispute.

“Daisy acknowledges that Ms. Mohammed’s actions with respect to Daisy were informed by a desire to do what she believed was right,” the joint statement said. “Ms. Mohammed acknowledges that client confidentiality for Daisy clients is a legitimate concern, and advises that no other Daisy clients need be concerned in that regard. Neither Daisy nor Ms. Mohammed will have any further comment on this issue.”

Mohammed worked for Daisy from early March to early June. 

In October, the Globe and Mail and CBC News independently reported, citing a source, that the Project Cactus work was done on behalf of the Conservative Party. Both the party and leader Andrew Scheer have refused to say whether it hired Daisy Group.

CBC News reported Tuesday that in meetings last May, Kinsella referred to “Hamish and Walsh” as he discussed Project Cactus with Daisy employees, according to recordings shared with CBC News.

Hamish Marshall was the 2019 federal election campaign manager for the Conservatives, while John Walsh is the former president of the Conservative Party and was a co-chair of the election campaign.

Marshall denied having had any oversight or monitoring role in Daisy Group’s campaign. Walsh declined to comment on Daisy’s work but said he was proud to be the party’s election co-chair.

“You’re asking for us to comment on our election strategy, which we don’t,” Cory Hann, a spokesperson for the Conservative party, said in an email Tuesday, adding that the party follows “all elections rules, regulations, and laws in the implementation of our strategy.”

Wednesday afternoon, Kinsella tweeted that his office had been evacuated and police had been called after a staff member received a bomb threat by phone. Kinsella later posted audio to his website of a man, who claimed to be a member of a far-right group, making anti-gay and other slurs and accusing Kinsella of serving “foreign interests” in his reported work against Bernier.

Toronto police confirmed to CBC News that a call came in around 3:30 p.m. ET to Daisy’s office and that units responded. There was no public safety concern, according to a police spokesperson.