An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (election advertising)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Kevin Lamoureux  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of Dec. 10, 2014
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Elections Act to require candidates and registered parties that transmit election advertising to the public, whether during an election period or not, to specify in the advertising that they authorize its content. It also requires third parties that transmit election advertising to the public, whether during an election period or not, to specify in the advertising that they are responsible for its content.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Dec. 10, 2014 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2014 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

moved that Bill C-524, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (election advertising), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today to begin the debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-524.

Bill C-524 proposes to makes changes to the Canada Elections Act, specifically to sections 320 and 352. Broadly, I believe that the changes outlined in the bill would result in greater transparency and accountability with regard to the output of political advertising. As a result, I believe this bill will allow voters to be more informed about the nature and origins of political advertisements. I would like to stress that in no way is this bill about censorship or about limiting the speech of candidates, parties, or third parties.

Currently sections 320 and 352 of the Canada Elections Act provide broad guidelines for authorization of messages transmitted during election periods. Bill C-524 proposes to mandate explicit requirements governing the transmission of advertisements. These proposed changes would be applicable to advertisements during both election and non-election periods. Current guidelines only pertain to election advertising during the election period.

I believe this first measure would go far in ensuring that Canadians are consistently well informed about the source of political advertisements. To this end, the bill proposes to make substantive amendments to sections 320 and 352 of the act.

Bill C-524 would amend the act to specify the nature in which authorizations must be made and who is responsible for authorizing advertisements made by candidates, political parties, and third parties.

Under the proposed changes in Bill C-524, advertisements would have to be endorsed explicitly; those transmitted by candidates would have to be personally endorsed by the candidates themselves, while advertisements transmitted to the public by registered parties would have to be endorsed by the party's leader. Finally, advertisements produced by a third party would require endorsement by the authorized representative.

For messages in print form, a written statement that identifies the sponsor would have to be included. In cases where the advertisement is produced solely by the candidate, the advertisement would have to include a message that identifies the member and their authorization of the advertisement. For advertisements that are produced for a registered political party, the party leader would have to identify himself or herself and the represented party. Finally, messages by third parties would have to be sponsored by an authorized representative of the third party, identify the third party, and specify that the party is responsible for the content of the message. The endorsement in print form would have to be legible by the recipient of the message and utilize a reasonable degree of colour contrast between the background and the printed statement.

For advertisements transmitted in audiovisual form, the endorsing message would have to be conveyed by an unobscured, full-screen view of the candidate making the statement, or the candidate could provide the endorsement in voice-over with a similar image of the candidate. All advertisements would also have to be accompanied by an endorsement in print form that is displayed for at least four seconds at the end of the message.

I have already mentioned the importance of Canadians being able to identify the source of information when they are exposed to a political advertisement. I do not believe anyone in the House can provide a convincing reason as to why we should not implement changes that would make it easier for Canadians to discern who or what group is responsible for a particular advertisement. Not only do I believe—and I am sure many in the House today would agree with me—that advertisement transparency with regard to the transmission of political messages is essentially the right thing to do, but I would also like to point out that research suggests that sponsored advertisements are beneficial to both the viewer and the candidate.

In a study by James Druckman that looked at the process by which individuals develop their conceptualization of issues, Druckman found that credibility and trustworthiness are factors in how viewers of advertisements or messages form their opinions on the content of those messages. His study found that sponsored advertisements allowed the viewer to ascribe a certain level of credibility to the source.

In these cases where it was clear where the information was coming from, participants were able to evaluate the credibility of the claims made based on that source, so adding a requirement that advertisements be clearly endorsed by their source would further enhance the process by which Canadians make informed decisions.

While the main objective of this bill is to increase transparency and accountability, I can appreciate that many individuals listening to me speak are interested in how the bill relates to attack ads and its likeness to the U.S. “stand by your ad” provision.

Again, I can understand that some see attack ads as a political strategy, and that is fine. I am not trying to take away the ability to produce negative ads. What I am doing is trying to ensure that candidates take full responsibility by making it clear to the viewer that they are the producer and endorser of their ad.

This bill is not about censorship. Its aim is not to affect the frequency of attack ads. A point of criticism often lobbied against the U.S. provision is that it has not made much of a difference in decreasing the number of negative or attack advertisements utilized by candidates and parties; therefore enacting similar legislation here in Canada would be of little use.

However, I would argue that Canada's political system and the prevailing attitudes that Canadians in general hold toward the use of attack ads differ from those in the United States. The difference, I believe, is what would make these changes I am proposing in Bill C-524 far more effective in a Canadian context.

A paper published and political studies by Annemarie Walter from the University of Amsterdam in 2014 found that the use of attack ads was lower in multi-party systems versus the more adversarial two-party systems, such as the United States.

Thus, in Canada, where we have a multi-party system, the attitude toward the use of negative ads differs from that in the United States, and I believe, as a consequence, the provisions I have proposed in Bill C-524 would have an impact on the type of advertisements that candidates, political parties, and third parties would be willing to produce and endorse.

While the intent of my bill is to increase transparency and accountability, I think it is also necessary to discuss what Canadians are saying across the country about the use of attack ads by parties and elected officials.

I have heard from Canadians in my riding about the general need for civil discourse in Parliament and in our democratic system, and no doubt, other members here today from both sides of the House have heard from their own constituents as well.

We can recall that the members for Edmonton Centre and Don Valley East, for instance, refused to send out mailers that originated from their party that attacked the member for Papineau last year.

While my bill does not target ten percenters, I believe the spirit of their actions reflects what many Canadians feel. In our efforts to represent Canadians, let us discuss policies and proposals that would contribute to a better Canada. Now, if parties, candidates, and third parties want to continue to utilize attack ads, then that is their choice to do so.

This bill is not about censorship, but I think it reflects what many Canadians across the country believe in; that is, civil discourse within our democratic system. This bill would ensure that, whether or not an advertisement is negative, the responsibility for its content is accounted for through the obligation to explicitly sponsor the message.

I ask my colleagues to reflect on my statement. I am sure everyone is very much aware. Hopefully we will be able to generate the support by allowing for a free vote on all sides of the House, and hopefully this bill will, in fact, garner enough support to allow it to go to committee, at the very least, where I know there is a great deal of interest in having direct public input from stakeholders and many others.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2014 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on Bill C-524, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, which was proposed by the previous speaker, the member for Winnipeg North.

The bill proposes to extend the regulation of advertising by parties, candidates, and third parties to periods between elections and to establish new advertising identification requirements for parties, candidates, and third parties.

The House should be aware that the Canada Elections Act already provides that parties, candidates, and third parties must identify themselves in their election advertising messages.

In my opinion, Bill C-524 is a solution in search of a problem. As a result, and due to the way the bill is drafted, I cannot support it.

I wish to identify four problems with the bill. In my view, the problems are serious and should give all members reason to oppose the bill.

The bill is too broad. The first problem with the bill is its long reach. In my view, it is overly broad. I will provide an example.

The bill targets not only partisan advertising but also issue advertising; that is, advertising on an issue with which a party or candidate is associated. Issue advertising can raise some difficult questions. All parties in this House have policies dealing with the various issues our country faces, and who is to say which party or candidate is uniquely associated with a particular issue?

Consider a fictitious organization that has as its mandate the elimination of the $2 coin. It has an advertising campaign in print media and has undertaken this campaign for some time. The question is this. How would one know if this becomes an issue associated with a party or a candidate? If a party leader in an interview said that the $2 coin was here to stay, would that be sufficient to make this an issue associated with the party? What if a senior member of the party said that eliminating the $2 coin was an idea worthy of consideration? It is not altogether clear, outside of an election period, when an issue becomes associated with a party such that the fictitious organization now becomes caught by Bill C-524. Once caught, the organization would have to comply with the new identification requirements in its advertising messages. Failure to do so would make it liable to prosecution and penalties.

These examples go to show that instead of bringing transparency, the way in which the bill is drafted risks bringing confusion and uncertainty to the regulation of third parties on matters that have nothing to do with a federal election.

The bill also would impose new costs on political expression. As mentioned earlier, the Canada Elections Act already provides that parties, candidates, and even third parties must identify themselves in their election advertising messages, yet Bill C-524 would add an American-style requirement that would impose additional costs on parties, candidates, and third parties. This would lead to less time by parties and candidates to get their messages across. Here is why.

One provision in the bill provides that, in the case of audiovisual messages, there must be an unobscured, full-screen view of the candidate, party leader, or authorized representative of the third party, as the case may be, who is making the statement. If the statement is made in a voice-over, it must be accompanied by a photographic image of the person making the statement. In addition, the statement must be clearly displayed in print form for at least four seconds at the end of the audiovisual message.

This is no small requirement. Four seconds of air time is potentially of great monetary value. That would be more than 10% of a 30-second television ad. For a 15-second spot, it represents more than 20% of the duration of the advertising. That means that a party, third party, or candidate looking to television advertisement would have to reduce the length of its already short message or may have to give up on this form of advertising altogether. The bill would unnecessarily restrict a party's freedom of speech in this regard, even when the leader already features prominently in the ad. It is a political party's choice whether to include its leader in advertising or not. There is no evidence that adopting the U.S. approach solves anything. Anyone watching U.S. political ads will immediately understand this.

Another problem with this is signage respecting electoral district associations. Even if we accept the goal of the bill at face value, the fact that it does not say anything about electoral district associations is a problem. Members will know that electoral district associations are prohibited from advertising during an election. Bill C-524 does not propose to extend this prohibition on advertising by electoral district associations outside of the election period. Instead, it proposes new regulations on parties, candidates, and third parties.

What about electoral district associations? There is a loophole that would allow them to avoid the new identification requirements proposed by the bill. A party could simply avoid the new rules by running ads through an electoral district association on the party's behalf. I am not sure that is what is intended by the bill, but it is nonetheless another way in which the bill fails to achieve the objectives of transparency and accountability that it sets out for itself.

I would like to take a moment before I close to highlight the successful record that our government has had as part of its democratic reform agenda. We have taken big money out of politics with the introduction of stricter contribution limits. We have also eliminated corporations and unions from making contributions to candidates and parties. All of this has increased the accountability of political actors in our political system.

In addition, transparency has been improved with the passage of the Fair Elections Act. We have banned the use of loans to evade donation limits. We created a voter contact registry to protect voters from rogue calls and impersonation. I was proud to have supported these measures.

I hope I have made it very clear as to why the House should not support Bill C-524. It is in part because of the many deficiencies, but primarily because it risks undermining the very goals it aims to realize.

Canada Elections ActRoutine Proceedings

June 4th, 2013 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-524, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (election advertising).

Mr. Speaker, the time has come for us to look at the way political advertising is done in this country. I will make it very clear that this is not about censorship. Any political party can have any type of advertising it wants, whether it is during or outside of the election period.

What this amendment to the Canada Elections Act would do is obligate the leaders of the respective political parties to authorize that they are aware of the content of the advertisements and that they are comfortable with it. This is something Canadians would like to see. It is taking responsibility.

An ad on TV, on the radio or in newsprint would have to be authorized and approved by the leader of that political party. We have seen it in the United States. What it would do is ensure there is more accountability and transparency so the viewer, the listener or the reader clearly knows that the leader of the political party is taking responsibility and has approved of the content of the ad.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)