Foreign Lobbyist Transparency Act

An Act to amend the Lobbying Act (reporting obligations)

Sponsor

Cheryl Gallant  Conservative

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

Status

Defeated, as of April 10, 2019

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-278.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Lobbying Act to require lobbyists to disclose

(a) whether they are funded by a foreign national, a non-resident corporation or a non-resident organization; and

(b) whether they use, or expect to use, grass-roots communication to seek to persuade organizations or members of the public to take measures to obstruct, delay or otherwise negatively affect any process that requires the Government of Canada to consult with the public before embarking on a specific course of action, in an attempt to place pressure on a public office holder to endorse a particular opinion.

It also makes a housekeeping amendment to the English version of paragraph 5(2)‍(e.‍1) of the Act.

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

April 10, 2019 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-278, An Act to amend the Lobbying Act (reporting obligations)

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

April 5th, 2019 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, it is such an honour to rise on such an important discussion as lobbying. With all the inappropriate lobbying done by SNC-Lavalin, I would like to think that my colleagues in the Conservative Party would come forward with a really strong bill to deal with the power of lobbyists, but this bill is about going after grassroots people who dare to oppose government policies.

If I read this bill as being something that was proposed in Saudi Arabia, I would not be all that surprised. The Conservatives are so angry about the right of ordinary citizens to talk to international organizations about fundamental issues like human rights and the environment, that if they oppose a government policy then all of their communication has to be registered.

I certainly remember when Stephen Harper was here and he attacked charities across Canada. There were attacks against Amnesty International. Saudi Arabia might attack Amnesty International, but why would Canada? Stephen Harper saw it as a threat.

One of the other charities the Conservatives went after was PEN. PEN, technically, is a very small charity, but it represents writers around the world who speak up for the right of dissent and imprisoned writers around the world. So powerful is the moral affect of PEN, the Conservatives lined up with their evening gowns and tuxedos to be at the PEN gala event while the Stephen Harper government was targeting it to try to shut it down.

What is this bill? This bill is specifically tailored to stop citizen engagement in taking on potential projects that could affect the environment. It is so specific that it says that lobbyists or any international organization, anybody doing environmental work, must identify “grass-roots communication”, which is defined as appeals to organizations or the public that are intended to encourage recipients to “obstruct, delay or otherwise negatively affect” government policy. Welcome to Canada. There we have it.

If one attempts to involve and work with any international organization, to speak up on policies that the government does not approve of, one could be illegally covered under the Lobbying Act. The Lobbying Act, by the way, is supposed to cover people like Arthur Porter. Everyone remembers Arthur Porter, the international criminal who was involved in the SNC-Lavalin kickbacks. Stephen Harper appointed Arthur Porter to the top of the securities oversight committee because that is how powerful Arthur Porter was with Stephen Harper. Of course, Arthur Porter ended up in a Panamanian jail. He was good enough to go to jail and good enough to have all the secrets of the Canadian state. I would think that it is something we would involve in the Lobbying Act, but no, what Conservatives want to go after are grassroots people.

I came into politics by taking on massive environmentally threatening companies that were brought into Ontario by the Mike Harris government. We were rural people, farm families and indigenous communities, and everything that the Harris government did was to limit our ability to even talk about the health affects of detrimental projects in our region.

For example, a small company called TCI came into our region to do what it claimed was local recycling of PCB products in local mines and it seemed like a great idea. It talked about cleanup, because we have many old mills and many mines, and TCI said that it would do that. Then we found a very small article in a U.S. military paper that there was a ship called the Wan He that was carrying 90,000 kilograms of PCB-contaminated materials and it was headed to a facility run by this company called TCI.

TCI was an American company. I always wondered why it came up to Canada and it was that, under American law, it was illegal for the Americans to reimport all the damage of the PCBs that was caused by American bases in the Pacific. We began to ask if it was attempting to bring PCBs into Canada, because it did not have a licence for it. It did not have a licence from the Canadian government or from the Ontario government, but this ship was carrying 90,000 kilograms that were destined for Vancouver harbour.

We were a small rural region. What did we do? How did we deal with international PCB travel? We had to call the Basel Action Network, an international organization and, my God, Stephen Harper would have just railed about them. It is an international organization that ensures that countries respect the rule of law on PCB exports. What we have is the creation of sacrifice zones, where very wealthy companies or very wealthy countries identify poorer regions in which to dump waste. We counted on the Basel Action Network, which is out of Seattle.

We were also looking for anyone who could tell us about the effects of PCBs and how to stop these imports. Of course, Greenpeace had a long history of that. Now, Greenpeace is the devil incarnate to the Conservatives, but to our rural farmers, we called out to them. We worked internationally to stop the Wan He. It was denied access in Vancouver harbour by the longshoremen and by the agents of Greenpeace. Then they tried to move it into Seattle where the teamsters stopped it. Then they shipped it back to Guam. We were able to stop that toxic waste from coming into northern Ontario because of those connections we made.

Then of course it did not stop there. We dealt with the Mario Cortellucci gang and the Adams Mine dump. Mario is back. He is best buddies with Doug Ford. He is attempting to build a massive garbage dump, shutting down public consultations with farmers, first nations and the miners, who all stood together against that project. Then they tried to bring in what was called the Bennett toxic waste incinerator, to bring in toxic waste from Mexico and the United States.

They always tell rural Canadians, “My God, this is such a great project. We are going to bring waste from across North America and give you jobs.” If it is such a great business opportunity, why did Bennett not set it up in Oakville where the company is centred? They did not set it up in Oakville, because, again, they are looking for sacrifice zones, the ability to target poor, rural, marginalized or indigenous communities with toxic waste.

We had to do a major crash course on the effects of these incinerators, which they called state-of-the-art thermal oxidizers. It was basically a burn can with a claptrap on top that spilled dioxins out. We did not know the effects of dioxins, and we had a massive dairy business region right beside this. If dioxin gets anywhere near milk, the dairy industry is done. We saw that happen in France and Belgium with these bad incinerators.

Who did we reach out to? We had to reach out to international experts like Dr. Neil Carman, who came up from Texas, and Dr. Paul Connett, who came up from the United States, who worked with our local organizations and local farmers. I remember meetings where local farm women sat down and went through the EA line by line and learned the bogus science of toxic waste incineration, and learned how to challenge the environmental assessment against very powerful companies, against a government that was committed to making this go through.

It was possible because we were able to work with international organizations. These international organizations and these grassroots people are the direct target of a bill that wants to criminalize dissent, to make any efforts to stand up for the environment, any efforts to stop this kind of thing, whether it is toxic waste or the Trans Mountain pipeline going through indigenous territory, illegal, and to deny the rights of citizens to have public input.

That is what the Harper government did not get. That is why it never got a pipeline. To get a pipeline, there has to be social licence. The National Energy Board was little more than a bunch of hand puppets for the oil industry, and it limited public consultation again and again. Lo and behold, the courts ruled that this was a bogus process because there needs to be fair, open, public consultation: the bigger the risk, the bigger the obligation.

This bill to criminalize the rights of citizens to organize, to work with international organizations on bettering the plan, is fundamentally wrong and goes right to the rot that exists in the Conservative Party, which is to protect its big buddies and not to stand up for grassroots people.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

April 5th, 2019 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-278, an act to amend the Lobbying Act, specifically with regard to reporting obligations.

Canadians have a right to know when foreign entities are trying to influence federally elected officials. The intent of this bill is to require the sources of any foreign funding received by lobbyists and grassroots organizations to be reported in the lobbyist registry to provide Canadians with greater transparency about who is actually lobbying their politicians.

This bill aims to make two changes to the current law.

The first amendment requires all corporations and organizations that lobby the government to disclose all funds received from foreign nationals, non-resident corporations and non-resident organizations. Lobbyists would then need to disclose the original foreign source of their funding, rather than hiding behind layers of shell companies or a chain of charities and foundations.

The second amendment expands the types of activities that lobbyists must report, specifically requiring reporting of any activities that appeal to the public directly or through mass media to try to persuade them to communicate directly with public office holders to influence their opinion. Reporting any grassroots communications—and I say “grassroots” loosely—funded by foreign actors that impacts the government's ability to consult the Canadian public on a specific course of action would allow the Canadian public to assess for themselves the motives of these actors.

The bill does not restrict or prohibit any groups from seeking foreign funding, nor does it restrict or prohibit their right to protest; it simply requires organizations that want to participate in our democracy to be honest and transparent. It provides transparency to Canadians and allows them to draw their own conclusions from that clarity.

My colleague from Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke should be commended not only on a well-thought-out and important bill that strengthens democracy in this country, but also on her patience. Nearly three years ago, the foreign lobbyist transparency act was introduced and received first reading. In that time, the Liberal government bought a $4.5-billion pipeline nobody wanted to sell, and now we cannot even build it. The Liberal government killed energy east, a $12-billion pipeline that would have brought economic prosperity to New Brunswick and other provinces right across the country. The government killed northern gateway, an $8-billion project that would have seen Alberta oil get to lucrative markets in Asia to the benefit of all Canadians. The energy sector has lost $100 billion in potential investment, which is equivalent to 4.5% of Canada's gross domestic product. Capital investment in the mining sector has fallen every year that the current government has been in power. The value of total mining projects planned and under construction from 2018 to 2028 has been reduced by 55% since 2014, from $160 billion to $72 billion.

We have seen Bill C-69, the no-more-pipelines bill, and Bill C-48, the anti-tanker bill—which does not stop tankers, just Canadian tankers—pass in this House.

The polices of the Liberal government have doomed the Canadian natural resources sector.

While this bill has floundered in the House, a lot of time has passed for lobbyists to influence the government's policy decisions. We must have robust lobbyist regulations in place so that Canadians can have a clear picture of who is attempting to influence whom.

However, when it comes to the manipulation of domestic policy by foreign entities, the picture is not so clear. A CBC report in mid-February analyzed more than 21,000 tweets from so-called “troll accounts” that had been deleted by Twitter and that had set their sights on Canada, including on the pipeline debate. The report found 245 accounts re-tweeting messages about the pipeline and circulating media articles and re-tweets from the accounts of anti-oil activists.

According to the report, the foreign accounts are suspected of being based in Russia, Iran and Venezuela. It should come as no surprise that these three countries produce large amounts of oil. Russia and Iran are second and third respectively in global oil exports.

The hon. Minister of Natural Resources was questioned by the media about this foreign attack on Canada's oil and gas sector, and he had this to say:

Its always concerning when you have people from outside of your country trying to influence the decision-making. There is a legitimate way of doing that, and that's through diplomacy and other venues and avenues.... Misinformation and information that is not based on facts is never healthy for any democratic process to take place.

I could not agree more, and while this incident might not be caught up in this legislation, it is a symptom of the cold. By having in place a stronger, healthier act governing lobbying activity in this country, we can innoculate ourselves better against all forms of foreign influence in our political decision-making process.

We are all aware of the work of Vivian Krause, who has been researching the oil sands for nearly a decade and believes that there is a concerted push against Canadian oil, funded by U.S. interests, to keep Alberta oil chained to U.S. markets. Over the past 10 years, nearly $90 million in foreign funding, according to Krause, has gone into this endeavour.

Whether one believes that American philanthropists are behind the scheme to keep Canadian oil in the ground, whether one believes it is American industrialists ensuring low prices by restricting access to international markets, or whether one believes the whole thing is just a conspiracy theory, the fact remains that the amendments in the bill will illuminate the matter and provide a clear picture for Canadians to judge for themselves what is really going on.

That is what this bill is all about. It is about giving power to Canadians to judge for themselves. Almost two-thirds of Canadians have identified oil and gas as one of the most critical economic sectors in the entire country. Sixty-nine per cent of Canadians say that the country will face a considerable or significant economic impact if no new oil pipelines are built. Fifty-two per cent support constructing both the Trans Mountain and the now cancelled energy east projects, while 19% oppose both.

Are these opinions influenced by subversives, pro- or anti-oil, or are they based on clear economic, scientific and environmental facts? There are divisions, for sure, and alternate opinions are important in the policy-making process, but it is Canadians' opinions that need to shape Canadian policy, not foreign entities with their own political and economic agendas.

Earlier in the debate, on January 31, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands asked if there was any concern, I believe her word was "disturbed," that the Fraser Institute had received more foreign funding to defend pipelines than environmental groups had received from the U.S. to attack Canadian pipelines. Yes, everyone in the House should be concerned when anyone is receiving foreign funds to influence Canadian policy, but it is far more important, in fact it is our duty here in this place, to be influenced by the 69% of Canadians who are worried about the significant economic impact if no new oil pipelines are built or the 52% for and the 19% opposed to the construction of the Trans Mountain and energy east pipelines.

During the debate on Bill C-278, the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra raised a concern that the lobbyist community might face an increased reporting burden and that any amendments must “respect the principles of the act, which seek to strike a balance between transparency and ensuring that the compliance burden imposed on lobbyists is reasonable and fair.” I believe, as do the vast majority of Canadians, it seems, that protecting our democracy from foreign influence might just be worth increasing the reporting burden for lobbyists.

Bill C-278, the foreign lobbyist transparency act, would achieve financial clarity and improved accountability through the public reporting of payments made by foreigners to lobbyists.This is a non-partisan piece of legislation that would support a healthy, transparent and accountable democracy for Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and I look forward to it undergoing full scrutiny at committee, returning and passing in the House.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

April 5th, 2019 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-278, an act to amend the Lobbying Act (reporting obligations).

The purpose of the Lobbying Act is to achieve a balance in maintaining the transparency of lobbying activities and ensuring free and open access to government. To that end, the Lobbying Act is based on four key principles.

First is that free and open access to government is an important matter of public interest.

Second is that lobbying public office holders is a legitimate activity.

Third, it is desirable that public office holders and the public be able to know who is engaged in lobbying activities.

Fourth, the system of registration of paid lobbyists should not impede free and open access to government.

I would like to take this opportunity to go over the main features of this legislation. The Lobbying Act requires anyone who lobbies federal public office holders to register with the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada.

All lobbyists are obligated under the act to report on lobbying activities, including communications with designated public office holders, on a monthly basis. This information is published on the Internet on the public registry maintained by the Commissioner of Lobbying.

The Lobbying Act identifies two types of lobbyists. A consultant lobbyist is an individual who, for payment, communicates with public office holders on behalf of any person or organization.

The Lobbying Act lists activities that are considered to be lobbying when carried out in return for payment. Generally speaking, they include communication with a public office holder in respect of the amendment of any act, regulation, policy or program of the federal government, the awarding of a financial benefit such as a grant or contribution, and, in some cases, the awarding of a government contract.

In addition, for a consultant lobbyist, arranging a meeting between a public office holder and any other person constitutes lobbying.

The commissioner has provided additional interpretation on what must be reported. In-house and consultant lobbyists must report all oral and arranged communications with designated public office holders relating to financial benefits, even when initiated by public officer holders. Likewise, consultant lobbyists must report oral and arranged communications with designated public office holders relating to a contract regardless of who initiated the communication.

For the purposes of the Lobbying Act, communications include oral, written and local communications. Examples of oral communication with a public office holder include organized meetings, telephone calls and informal verbal communications. Letters and emails are examples of written communication with a public office holder. Lobbyists' appeals to the public through letter-writing and email campaigns, advertising, websites or social media are examples of local communication.

Currently, under the act, grassroots communication means appealing to the public directly or through mass media to persuade them to communicate directly with a public office holder to influence their opinion.

Some types of communication do not require registration. These include, for example, inquiries to obtain publicly available information and general inquiries about the terms and conditions of programs and application processes.

Registration is also not required for participation in government-initiated activities such as consultations, hearings, round tables or like-minded activities where transparency is comparable to that of a parliamentary committee, with participants, proceedings and decisions readily made public. The same goes for the preparation and presentation of briefings to parliamentary committees.

The bill before us today would require organizations and corporations that lobby the government to report on funds received from foreign nationals, non-resident corporations and non-resident organizations. This bill would also expand the types of activities that lobbyists must report as grass roots communications.

The proposed bill will expand the definition of grassroots communications to require lobbyists to also disclose if they are encouraging the public or organizations to undertake activities that could indirectly influence public office holders.

When we consider the bill against the principles of the act, which have sought to strike a balance between transparency and ensuring that the compliance burden imposed on lobbyists is reasonable and fair, important concerns become apparent.

For example, lobbyists can face steep penalties for violating the Lobbying Act. Filing a false return can result in a $200,000 fine or two years in jail. As such, it is crucial that the reporting obligations under the act remain clear so that lobbyists are able to comply with the legislation. We believe the proposed bill does the exact opposite.

In addition, the bill's amendments would increase the compliance burden on lobbyists and the enforcement burden on the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying. The limited impact of the bill in terms of transparency must be weighed against these potential costs.

The Lobbying Act makes it possible for Canadians to know who is talking to public office holders and whose interests they represent. I am open to improving the act, but I think that, in this case, the cons of the proposed amendments outweigh the potential pros. That is why I encourage all members to vote against this bill.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

April 5th, 2019 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I am happy to bring us home regarding the debate on Bill C-278 and the important public policy discussion started by our colleague from Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.

I find it quite interesting to listen to NDP members and the Liberals in this debate. The Liberal speaker who preceded me suggested that everything was fine regarding lobbyist registries and that the regulations did not need to be updated. This is after two months of scandal related to intensive lobbying efforts by SNC-Lavalin to change the course of justice in Canada, which has led us to the largest political scandal in Canadian history.

In fact, the OECD has a group looking into the SNC-Lavalin affair. The OECD is an international body that has never investigated Canada before for rule-of-law concerns. This all stems from lobbying that commenced four months into the government's mandate, which led to the insertion of the remediation agreement provisions into the budget implementation act, an omnibus bill.

That lobbying was all above board and done correctly, but to dismiss concerns about the need to ensure our lobbying registries are the most current and effective in the world is a false argument at a time when we have been consumed by a scandal that, at its centre, was the government advancing the interests of a private corporation.

When my friend from Timmins—James Bay stood up, he had a piece of paper in his hand that looked like the bill, but he clearly had not read it. He went on a rant about a lot of his old nuggets from the Harper government days and talked about grassroots efforts. We know that money coming from foreign sources, unions or elsewhere does not represent truly grassroots efforts. At the very minimum, we should expect full transparency disclosure of any monies used to influence public discourse, public debate and the review of legislation in Canada.

Why do I say this? Why is Bill C-278 critical at this time in our history?

Today, at the G7 meeting in Europe, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said, “interference is very likely and we think there have probably already been efforts by malign foreign actors to disrupt our democracy.” This was what the Liberal minister said today at the G7 meeting about foreign influence in elections and democracies. This is why my colleague brought forward Bill C-278.

The last Liberal speaker should get on the phone to correct her minister. Perhaps she could say to her House leader that the Liberals should support what the Conservatives are doing to ensure we prevent interference.

Bill C-278 does two discrete and very easy-to-understand things. It would require lobbyists to disclose the source of their funding as well as disclose the intention of those foreign funds and lobbying efforts to influence proceedings in Canada, be they regulatory proceedings on pipeline review or legislative proceedings on the legalization of cannabis. Last I checked, most Liberal operatives seem to working that industry these days. All that will do is bring disclosure.

What is wrong with a little sunshine? We have this new chamber that allows in a bit of diffused light. That diffused and opaque transparency is what we get from the Prime Minister.

I find this the height of hypocrisy. As a private member, the member for Papineau was not really known for doing much in this place before he became Prime Minister, and I respect the role he has. His one private member's bill from the last session, about which maybe my Liberal friends who were elected in 2015 do not know, was Bill C-613, and I always thought it was ironic that it used the Ottawa area code. That bill was meant to update access to information laws.

When he was in opposition, he talked about having transparency by default. As Prime Minister, he has done the opposite. In fact, he has not lived up to one shred of the intention of Bill C-613.

The last information commissioner chastised the Prime Minister for his conduct with respect to access to information. We have just today debated code words being used within the government to delay disclosure in the Norman affair. We have heard that ATIs asked for by La Presse will not be available from the government on the SNC matter until after the election. There has been zero transparency from the Liberal government, this Prime Minister and the small group of people around him.

Let me say why this sunshine is needed and particularly why l am concerned that we seem to be fine with not tracking foreign money in our country. I would invite members, including Liberal and NDP members, to watch Wendy Mesley's interview with Vivian Krause. Because in the U.S. there is disclosure of tax records, of foundation reports to the IRS, of unions' disclosures of money spent on the legislative process, she is able to analyze U.S. documentation to track the spending of money in Canada.

In fact, it should very much concern Canadians, including in my province, where in the great recession when the auto industry was at the edge, the resource industry in western Canada led to more jobs than the auto sector did in Ontario. People in my community of Durham should be concerned that the Rockefeller Foundation, the Tides Foundation and the Hewlett trust were part of a Corporate Ethics International campaign to, in their words, “landlock Canadian oil”.

In fact, they were putting and syphoning money into Canada, into activist groups, into activities to actually stop regulatory proceedings with respect to resource development and getting those products to market. As a result, last year alone our national interests received $15 billion less than the world price for oil because of a deflated price that has hurt Alberta immensely. That is less tax revenue that we can spend at the provincial and federal levels on things that matter to Canadians. I think people should know if those projects are being delayed, cancelled or influenced by foreign money.

Therefore, what is wrong with a little disclosure, particularly from a Prime Minister who said transparency should be the default setting in government? Today we hear from the Liberals that the regulatory process is in order and the bill is not needed, yet in Europe, the minister is saying there is likely interference going on now with respect to our parliamentary democracy and our election this fall.

Bill C-278 is intended to address that. Let us at least get it to committee so we can talk about this situation. If we go on social media, on Twitter, what we see would probably keep most of us up at night because of the terrible environment. The last Clerk of the Privy Council called it a vomitorium.

The influence of paid operatives on Twitter may have influenced other elections before ours. Should we not know if some of those foreign influences are paying organizations on the ground here in Canada to impact Canadians and our decisions on our resources, on our projects, on our infrastructure, on whether indigenous Canadians will be able to benefit from resources on traditional lands. It is impacting our indigenous peoples and our democracy.

Bill C-278 is a modest proposal. I know the grassroots members of the NDP will survive without foreign money. They should support the bill. If the Liberal members listened to their own minister today, talking to G7 leaders about interference by foreign actors in political elections, then the Liberals should also support the bill. That is why I want to thank the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke for bringing it to Parliament.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

April 5th, 2019 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour, on behalf of the people of the riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, who work hard, play by the rules and pay their taxes, to conclude the debate on Bill C-278.

Bill C-278, which would amend the Lobbying Act, would require lobbyists to disclose whether they are funded by a foreign national, a non-resident corporation or a non-resident organization and whether they use, or expect to use, grassroots communication to seek to persuade organizations or members of the public to take measures to obstruct, delay or otherwise negatively affect any process that requires the Government of Canada to consult with the public before embarking on a specific course of action, in an attempt to place pressure on a public office holder to endorse a particular option.

It is ironic that on this day, Parliament is debating allegations of political interference by the Prime Minister in relation to the trial of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. Bill C-278 seeks to strengthen our democratic institutions from foreign influence. The controversial figure in those corruption allegations is Scott Brison, whose resignation from the Liberal cabinet is the excuse used to somehow justify how this fake feminist Prime Minister mistreats principled female members of Parliament.

I mentioned the controversial ex-cabinet minister in the context of Bill C-76, which she sponsored in the House. Bill C-76 is a regressive piece of legislation that very controversially removes the Commissioner of Canada Elections from the independent office of public prosecution. The independence of that office has proven its worth in the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal. What Bill C-76 also does is implement a section on foreign influence and the threat that influence poses for the democratic process in Canada. Most controversially, what government legislation Bill C-76 does not do is address the same threat between elections. Bill C-278 would fill that legislative oversight.

Bill C-278 would require transparency from foreign-funding sources. Canadians have a right to know who is trying to influence their opinions. Bill C-76 brings in a new provision that would prohibit the distribution of material intended to mislead the public as to its source. While Bill C-76 claims to be closing the loophole that has allowed foreign entities to spend money in Canadian elections, the government is allowing the biggest loophole to remain open by not identifying who these same foreign entities they will now prohibit are and what they are spending to influence Canadians between elections.

Andrew Coyne, of the National Post, wrote, which I think is worth repeating:

But let’s examine those much-hyped measures to “protect and defend” Canadian democracy. For example, we are told the bill will prohibit foreign entities “from spending any money to influence elections.” Wonderful, you say: how much were they allowed to spend until now? Er, $500.

But then, the real scandal, to borrow Michael Kinsley’s phrase, is not what is illegal—direct foreign spending on Canadian elections—but what’s legal: foreign money, by the millions, funneled through Canadian intermediaries, which pass it on to domestic advocacy groups to spend.

For the upcoming election, the government has stated that it is running on the carbon tax and man-made global warming. The government owes it to Canadians to provide information to Canadians about the environment in an unbiased way. That means free from foreign money.

In Canada's most recent reports to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Environment and Climate Change Canada listed over 300 existing federal programs and other measures designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Natural Resources Canada website recently listed an additional 280 programs and measures implemented by provincial and territorial governments. That is a large sum of taxpayers' dollars being spent and has caused the Canadian deficit to skyrocket.

The announced goal of Canadian climate policy is to reduce national emissions by 30% from 2010 levels by 2030 and then to go on reducing them to perhaps 50% of 2010 levels by 2050. That would mean a massive and costly transformation of the Canadian economy and a sharp reduction in transportation use and resource industry activity, with devastating consequences for consumers in provinces like Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Emissions reductions of that magnitude will not be achieved at low or moderate carbon tax levels. The taxes would need to be high enough to shut down entire industries.

Let us have an honest discussion about this policy, free from foreign money looking to cash in on Canadian climate programs.

In closing, I thank all members who participated in this debate and I look forward to a more detailed examination of Bill C-278 at committee.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2019 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

moved that Bill C-278, An Act to amend the Lobbying Act (reporting obligations), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour on behalf of the hard-working people of the great riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke to rise in my place and lead off the debate on legislation I have proposed before the House, Bill C-278.

Bill C-278, which would amend the Lobbying Act, would require lobbyists to disclose whether they are funded by a foreign national, a non-resident corporation or a non-resident organization, and whether they use or expect to use grassroots communication to seek to persuade organizations or members of the public to take measures to obstruct, delay or otherwise negatively affect any process that requires the Government of Canada to consult with the public before embarking on a specific course of action in an attempt to place pressure on a public office holder to endorse a particular option.

I was encouraged to propose this legislation by my concern to protect the jobs of my constituents in the working forest. The forestry industry is a significant employer in my riding, as it is in many other parts of Canada.

It was brought to my attention that certain organizations were disseminating false information about the forestry industry in Canada. While some of the organizations operate under the pretext of having their anti-forestry activities financially supported by Canadians, careful research that was only possible by examining filings in countries outside Canada confirmed these organizations were being funded by non-Canadians, foreign actors with a hidden agenda.

As it has been noted by Canadian author Robert Lyman in “Dark Green Money: A Glimpse Inside the Big Green Funding Machine”:

Canadians should not have to find out about the funding by foreign foundations of political interest groups in this country as a result of a various citizens researching tax filings to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service....

This problem is not confined to the anti-forestry lobby or those individuals who lobby to support or oppose the building of pipelines, to use a different example, and this challenge to Canadian democracy is not confined to any one country. This challenge, which my legislation would seek to address by requiring funding transparency, cuts across all levels of Canadian activity.

This past weekend in one of Canada's leading national newspapers, the National Post, in a full page article, the following question was asked, “'The long arm of influence of China in Canada': Is a shadowy agency shaping opinion here?” The shadowy agency in question is the United Front Work Department, a so-called shadowy offshoot of the Chinese Communist Party. That article proceeded to give specific examples of foreign funding, such as the Confucius Institute, described as a propaganda or espionage arm of the Chinese state, and how it is now operating at three school boards and on nine university and college campuses across Canada.

I quote political scientist Charles Burton from that story about a cultural association he was familiar with:

An organization that once had another purpose has gradually been taken over to serve China’s national interest. Where United Front work becomes problematic is when it’s engaging persons of Chinese origin who have Canadian citizenship...to serve the interests of the motherland, when in fact the motherland should be Canada.

This is a concern in the Chinese Canadian community. I quote Cheuk Kwan, head of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China:

A lot of people don't think of the long arm of influence of China in Canada, because they're under the influence, to put it mildly.... Outsiders like me, who is a Hong Kong immigrant...we see very clearly that this is a United Front effort, a very subtle, soft-power kind of advance into Canadian society.

While China may be in the news because of Meng Wanzhou and Chinese infotech giant Huawei in the ongoing Canada-China diplomacy crisis, let us not be too smug in Canada to dismiss the Russian meddling controversy playing out south of the border.

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute has prepared a paper entitled “Stemming the Virus: Understanding and responding to the threat of Russian disinformation”.

This document gives examples of Canada being a victim of Russian disinformation, including planted stories about the Minister of National Defence and in the case of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, focusing on her Ukrainian heritage. The stories about the Minister of Foreign Affairs were planted in order to discredit Canada's position on the illegal occupation of Crimea by Russia.

Another example cited by the article is the Russian foreign policy priority to use misinformation to put pressure on our Parliament to repeal the Magnitsky legislation, which targets human rights abusers with targeted sanctions.

In addition to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, my colleague on the national defence committee, the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, has been targeted by Russian propaganda for his Ukrainian heritage and his championing of international Magnitsky legislation. I also understand the member for Scarborough—Guildwood received a letter attacking his support for the Canadian Magnitsky legislation.

Another Russian foreign policy priority, which I am personally aware of as a veteran member of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association, is the targeting of NATO. NATO has been a pillar of peace and stability since the end of World War II. It is one of the most important world organizations for peace and security, and perhaps the most important one.

While not in the media lately as prominently as China and Russia, another country that is mentioned as being active in Canada is Iran.

When it comes to foreign disinformation, there is one thing in common: Canadian democracy is under attack. The purpose of using the Chinese and Russian examples was not intended in any way to single out members of those communities, the majority of whom are model Canadian citizens. It is as Cheuk Kwan stated: The problem is that many Canadians do not even realize they are under the influence of a disinformation campaign. While Parliament has focused on lobbying once the writ drops, many Canadians have already been influenced by a subtle misinformation campaign paid with foreign money that has been ongoing for years, so it is not good enough to look only at measures to combat election interference; Parliament needs to deal with foreign interference between elections also, which is the intent of Bill C-278, the bill we are debating today.

When members of the public think of lobbying, they think of the so-called public relations companies and the advertising firms that go along with those organizations. It goes far deeper than that. The announcement this week that five environmental non-profit groups are lobbying the Senate environment committee not to consult directly with the Canadian public is an attack on democracy.

While it was reported that one of the environmental groups has received significant taxpayer funding from the federal government, what was not reported were the millions of dollars the other environmental organizations received from foreign sources.

Let us start with the non-governmental organization Ecojustice, formally known as the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, which is the name of its American parent. According to the Canada Revenue Agency, this particular NGO, in the 2000 to 2017 time period, had gross revenues of $115,319,392.

That is a lot of money.

Where did it get all its millions? Ecojustice received eight direct grants from the controversial U.S. Tides Foundation, totalling $545,380. The U.S. Tides Foundation flows money to its Canadian subsidiary, Tides Canada. CRA records show that Tides Canada gave 10 grants, totalling $903,845. They even tell us what Tides U.S.A. expected Ecojustice to use the money for: The money was used to attack the Canadian oil sands and the thousands of jobs that go with the oil sands.

The next question that needs to be answered is, who is donating millions of dollars to Tides U.S.A., and what do they expect to get for their money?

Could it be American pipeline interests? Could it be American oil and gas interests? Could it be the owners of American rail who financially benefit when oil is shipped by rail rather than by pipeline? Canadians have a right to the answers to these questions. Bill C-278 would provide those answers. In an era when foreign interests can launch a million emails with the push of a button, we need those answers now more than ever.

In a democracy, a free and independent press is counted on to provide unbiased information and informed opinions that aid public debate, expose corruption and highlight major social issues to enable an informed public to make participatory decisions. Today's reality is far from that ideal. In Canada, media is looking at an almost $600 million government bailout that their corporate owners claim they need to operate. This creates more opportunities for foreign entities with deep pockets to buy public acceptance for policies that promote their interests.

The role played by foreign governments as well as foreign foundations and campaigns to influence public policy in Canada should be of interest to all concerned about the independence and integrity of Canadian political and governmental processes.

The increasing globalization of corporate, institutional and geopolitical interests would seem to require that Canadian democratic institutions be more vigilant about these possible intrusions. This, in turn, demands that reports on the activities of foundations, other non-profits and charities seeking to influence policy be made more transparent to the public and more useful to parliamentarians who wish to exercise oversight.

Greater transparency afforded in two areas that would benefit greatly from a more open system of reporting and increased oversight are the lobbyist registry and the reporting requirements to the CRA by non-profit and charitable organizations. In addition to the concerns expressed previously about the role of foreign and corporate actors, the transparency of disclosing by lobbyists and charities is being increasingly obscured by the efforts of various interests to mask self-dealing and self-vested interests.

Within the United States, there is a large body of academic studies examining the strategies and practices used by private foundations to influence public policy. Many of these foundations have enormous financial resources, including billions of dollars in assets and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues. Increasingly, U.S. studies have addressed the strategies used by private foundations and the many other groups they fund, most of which have charity status, which is non-taxable, in influencing policy.

The strategies include broad communication and education programs to influence public perceptions of policy issues and to garner public support for specific actions, the lobbying of governments at all levels, infiltration of the media and concerted, coordinated action to achieve specific objectives.

While there is less information and academic analysis available in Canada, some private researchers have made efforts to follow the money in terms of how foundation and charity funding is used. These efforts are impeded by superficial reporting requirements and the lack of publicly available information from organizations like Canada Revenue Agency, which administers provisions of the Income Tax Act related to charities, and the lobbying registry compiled by the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada.

Researchers such as Vivian Krause, who have endeavoured to find out more about the use of domestic and foreign foundation funding for anti-oil and anti-pipeline campaigns, have learned that they must often rely on the U.S. Internal Revenue Service records, since the information they seek is not available from Canadian sources.

In the United States, a donor-advised fund, DAF, is a charitable giving vehicle administered by a public charity created to manage charitable donations on behalf of organizations, families or individuals. Although DAFs are more developed in the United States, they are increasingly being used in Canada.

To participate in a DAF, a donating individual or organization opens an account in the fund and deposits the cash, securities or other financial instruments. The donor surrenders the ownership of anything put in the fund, but retains advisory privileges over how the account is invested and how it distributes its money to charities. In the charity sector, the increased use of DAFs makes it increasingly difficult to determine the ultimate source and purpose of funding.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2019 / 5:30 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her efforts in a private member's bill for greater transparency.

I wonder if the member is disturbed that the Fraser Institute has received $4.3 million in foreign funding to run campaigns that include ones that defend pipelines, and amounts of money staggeringly larger than the ones that U.S. foundations have given some environmental groups.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2019 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, obviously, for the member in the back corner, this is disturbing to her, which is why this really should be a non-partisan bill. Transparency should include all parties. It should unite us all. If foreign donations to an organization that is Conservative in nature are of concern, then I hope that she too will lend her support to this bill so that not only Conservative-oriented foundations and institutes declare where they are getting their money from but other foundations and charities as well.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2019 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, within the Lobbying Act there is a statutory review of the legislation. My question to the member is related to that aspect of the legislation. Has she looked into the possibility of how she might be able to bring this type of issue up once that act is under review by the House of Commons?

Second, has the member anticipated what the additional costs incurred would be? Surely to goodness if we were to expand in this area, there would be a fairly substantial cost to it. I am sure she is not trying to imply that we would in any way not properly resource the current commissioner in being able to do the fine work that this office currently does.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2019 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, once again, I appreciate my greatest fan being here when tabling another piece of legislation. I appreciate his input immensely.

In fact, we are approaching an election and time is of the essence. We know the Liberals are very concerned about foreign interference, because earlier this week they put forth a plan to ensure that there was no interference in the electoral process. However, even before the election starts, we have active campaigns that are trying to influence Canadian policy under way. While a review may happen in another few years, we need this to pass now.

It does not involve a lot of money. It is just doing more reporting, which we are already doing. The reporting should be done on the part of the people lobbying. Therefore, the lobbyists, instead of just putting the list of partner organizations, parent organizations, would have to indicate all the organizations, the ultimate donors, the individuals. If they are going to engage another grassroots organization to influence the opinion of Canadians, they would have to report what that grassroots organization is and the method it is going to use to convince people to go to their way of thinking. Any foreign income coming towards this would have to be reported.

Also, on the part of the grassroots campaigners and non-profit organizations, if they are going to be accepting foreign dollars to influence how Canadians are going to form our own laws, they would have to report it. We are not saying they cannot accept money from foreign entities. We are saying, if they do accept money from foreign entities, they would have to disclose it.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2019 / 5:35 p.m.
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Joyce Murray Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, Canada has achieved remarkable success as a free, open and prosperous democracy. We can be proud of our reputation as one of the best countries in the world to live in. We have world-class cities, and I would be remiss if I did not mention my own city, Vancouver, which was recently ranked the sixth most livable city in the world out of the top 140.

Many have played a crucial role in the success of our country, including our public service, which was recently ranked as the most effective in the world. That was the finding of the International Civil Service Effectiveness Index, which is a joint project of Oxford University and the U.K. Institute for Government.

The public service operates as part of the executive in a well-functioning system that consists of a number of important components. These include the legislature, the judiciary, civil society actors and lobbyists. In fact, legitimate lobbying has played a key role in ensuring that the government remains responsive to the needs of Canadians.

The public perception of lobbying is often negative, but lobbying is not about influence peddling or bribery. Lobbying is the process through which individuals and groups articulate their interests to parliamentarians and to government in order to inform public policy or decision-making. In fact, I have learned that they also educate, because they are deeply knowledgeable about their subject, and I as a parliamentarian may not be that deeply knowledgeable about so many subjects.

Many interest groups, such as non-governmental organizations and advocacy groups, have government relations staff or consultants who speak with the government on their behalf.

Take the environmental movement. Many of these organizations lobby or hire lobbyists to advocate for a range of causes, such as reducing greenhouse gases, conserving our wildlife and protecting our lakes and rivers. These lobbying efforts help government to develop policy that better reflects the views and interests of Canadians. This is an important aspect of lobbying that is often forgotten.

Clearly, lobbying, when done ethically and transparently, is a legitimate and fundamental part of our democratic system. We cannot ignore the significant contribution from good and ethical co-operation among diverse interests. It can lead to the collaborative development of sound policy that reflects the expectations and needs of Canadians.

Furthermore, individuals, organizations and businesses can and should communicate their opinions and ideas to government decision-makers and policy-makers. The challenge for us as lawmakers is establishing clear rules to ensure that lobbying is done openly. That is why the Lobbying Act is so important.

The purpose of the act is ensure transparency in lobbyists' activities without restricting access to government institutions. It requires lobbyists to register and report their lobbying activities every month. That includes communications with designated public office holders. That information is available online in a public registry maintained by the Commissioner of Lobbying.

The bill before us today proposes two changes to the act as it stands now.

The first amendment would require all corporations and organizations that lobby the government to disclose all funds received from foreign nationals, non-resident corporations and non-resident organizations. The act currently requires any entity that lobbies the government, whether domestic or foreign, to register with the office of the Commissioner of Lobbying. The act also currently requires corporations to disclose their parent company and subsidiaries, which may include foreign companies.

Second, Bill CC-278 would also expand the types of activities that lobbyists must report as “grassroots communications”. As it now stands under the act, lobbyists must identify the techniques they use to communicate with public office holders, including whether they use grassroots communication. Under the Act, “grassroots communication” means appealing to the public directly or through mass media to try to persuade them to communicate directly with a public office holder to influence their opinion.

Bill C-278 would expand the definition of grassroots communication to include situations where lobbyists are encouraging the public or organizations to undertake activities that could indirectly influence public office holders.

Any proposal to amend the Lobbying Act should be assessed against the principles of the legislation itself, which state, first, that free and open access to government is an important matter of public interest; second, that lobbying public office holders is a legitimate activity; third, that it is desirable that public office holders and the public be able to know who is engaged in lobbying activities; and fourth, that a system for the registration of paid lobbyists should not impede free and open access to government.

The amendments proposed by Bill C-278 could increase the reporting burden on lobbyists. They could also generate additional costs for the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying to implement the changes to the registry and to monitor compliance. It is important that any amendments to the Lobbying Act respect the principles of the act, which seek to strike a balance between transparency and ensuring that the compliance burden imposed on lobbyists is reasonable and fair.

I welcome consideration of any measures to improve transparency in lobbying. Our government is committed to raising the bar on openness and transparency in government. For example, our government was the first to open the door for Canadians to see cabinet ministers' mandate letters, which under previous governments were kept secret. We publicly report on how far we have come in keeping the promises we made, and government departments track the outcomes of their programs with indicators and then publish the results online for public scrutiny. We have an open data portal, which makes vast amount of government data accessible, and we have taken this data portal from being a pilot project to being a permanent program.

We are also trying to take the idea of open by default to a deeper level through a pilot portal that provides public access to internal working documents. We recently proposed important changes to the Access to Information Act, such as mandatory proactive publication for 240 government institutions as well as ministers' offices.

Accomplishments like these are what led Canada to being elected chair of the Open Government Partnership Steering Committee for 2018-19. Our track record on openness and transparency speaks for itself.

Make no mistake; we are committed to the continuous improvement of the Lobbying Act, and we welcome this debate on the subject. I encourage all members to look carefully at these proposals with a view to balancing the interests of all stakeholders, the rights of lobbyists to advocate, the rights of those they represent, and the rights of Canadians to know how their government does business.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2019 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Today l am proud to rise in the House of Commons as shadow minister for democratic institutions to speak to Bill C-278, also known as the foreign lobbyist transparency act. This private member's bill, brought forward by the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, would make crucial adjustments to the Lobbying Act to counteract foreign interference in our free and democratic system. The bill would be an effective and invaluable piece of legislation that would increase transparency of foreign lobbyists and their influences, seen and unseen, on Canadian politics.

Bill C-278 would accomplish this with two primary legislative changes. First, lobbyists who are funded by a foreign national, a non-resident corporation or a non-resident organization would be required to publicly disclose that information. Second, these entities would also have to disclose whether they were using grassroots communication that could negatively impact the government's ability to consult the Canadian public on a specific course of action. Together, these changes would provide Canadians with information necessary to see how foreign lobbyists could be impacting Canadian politics.

Currently, the Canadian Registry of Lobbyists gives Canadians important information on the companies and organizations that try to influence government policy. Canadians can know who is lobbying on behalf of these organizations and see which topics are discussed, and even which lobbying activities are taking place.

This change to the Lobbying Act simply adds two new categories to the long list of information already collected by the Officer of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada. It is a small change that will offer some big advantages.

When implemented, this bill will give Canadians a better overview of the lobbying done by foreign entities and a greater awareness of foreign influence over public policy-making.

Healthy democracies provide their citizens with transparency. Canadians deserve an open government that can assure them that they are not being unknowingly manipulated by foreign entities. We cannot assume that foreign corporations or organizations do not have malicious motivations. Canadians and the government need to know what organizations or corporations are foreign funded so we have a greater understanding of the possible conflicts with the issues that they may be lobbying on behalf of. We cannot have foreign lobbying groups pretending that they have domestic concerns when in reality they represent foreign interests. Canadians should be the only ones determining their domestic policies.

Foreign lobby groups can be especially malicious when using grassroots lobbying strategies. Grassroots lobbying occurs when lobbyists persuade the public on a given issue instead of government officials. Public support of an issue can aid in the persuasion of policy makers. Foreign lobbyists using grassroots strategies can be alarming since the public may not be receiving the bigger picture of the issue and can be manipulated into believing in a policy that is beneficial for these foreign entities, but bad for Canadians.

Grassroots campaigns also have the ability to interfere with government consultation processes. The government and Canadians deserve a fair and accurate consultation. If this is being impeded by groups with foreign interests, Canadians should have the right and ability to know this.

The use of grassroots lobbying is easier than ever. With social media, lobbyists can deliver information to citizens faster than ever before. Individuals are posting and sharing constantly whether the information is real or fake. Canadians deserve to know not only if foreign corporations or organizations are lobbying Canadian officials, but whether they plan to use Canadians to do their bidding. When these groups are internationally funded, their motivations should have the opportunity to be questioned. Canadians deserve transparency and the ability to know when they are being manipulated.

The government needs to start taking foreign interference seriously. The members on that side of the House tried to prevent foreign interference in Canadian elections with Bill C-76, but they left some significant shortcomings in the bill.

Canadians should be the only ones to determine the outcome of elections in Canada, not foreign entities. The Liberal government is not doing enough to eliminate the possibility of foreign interference. Canadians deserve to know where the money spent on elections is coming from, and it is up to the government to ensure that all third parties are completely transparent. If third parties decide to do any advertizing during an election, they must be transparent and tell Canadians where that money is coming from.

The government is not taking foreign interference in third-party campaign financing seriously enough in Bill C-76. Today we are offering an opportunity to at least impede foreign influence exercised through lobbying. The laws currently in place simply do not go far enough. Our democracy is at stake. Canadians, and only Canadians, should have any influence over our democracy. As Conservatives, we believe that every Canadian vote counts, but the government needs to work harder to prevent foreign entities from undermining our democratic institutions.

We need to continue working on keeping our democratic institutions safe. Foreign influence in elections is a credible and global threat. The Communications Security Establishment has already recognized, as well as the Prime Minister himself, that foreign influence took place in the 2015 election and is expected to increase significantly in 2019 as it has in recent elections around the globe. We cannot have our elections or our domestic policy influenced by foreign entities. Our democratic institutions and government will begin to crumble if we let them succumb to foreign influence.

Canadians deserve a system of government they can trust. This bill put forward by my hon. colleague is a way for Canadians to be confident that Canadian policy is not being unduly manipulated by foreign entities who wish to interfere. It is essential that Canadians maintain trust in their democratic systems for our government to be effective in protecting Canadians and providing them with services. When foreign actors start having an impact on domestic policies behind closed doors, that trust begins to fade.

Canadians should be the only ones making the decisions for Canada. When foreign-funded entities are getting involved with lobbying the government or getting involved in our elections, Canadians have the right to know.

My colleague mentioned Vivian Krause, who has been researching the oil sands for nearly a decade, and this touches dearly upon my home in Alberta. She said that her studies have led her to believe that the push against the oil sands is funded by American philanthropists in an effort to landlock Alberta oil so that it cannot reach overseas markets where it would obtain a higher price per barrel. She estimates that about $90 million over the last 10 years has gone towards various efforts to restrict oil and gas development and exports from Alberta.

Again, Canadians in my home province of Alberta and also across the country have a right to know when their democratic institutions are being compromised.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2019 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address the legislation introduced by the member opposite. It provokes a great deal of thought that collectively, as a House, we should be looking at the broader issues related to lobbying, especially if we take into consideration, for example, technological changes. When I look at social media today and compare it to the day I was first elected back in the late 1980s, there has been a great deal of change. One needs to be aware of the potential influence that lobbyists or even, to a certain degree, individuals can carry nowadays through social media.

I listened to members on all side of the House address the issue and a couple of things came to my mind.

We need to recognize that lobbyists have rights also. We do not want to in any way prevent lobbyists from being able to approach public officials. There needs to be accountability for that. Let me provide a specific example I have really appreciated over the last couple of years.

The constituents I represent are very much in tune with the idea of having a national pharmacare program, in which prescribed medicines are made available to Canadians. This is long overdue. For the first time in decades, we now have a government that seems to be sympathetic to it.

Having said that, I use it as an example because I have been lobbied on this very issue. I was lobbied by unions and different types of health care workers. A few individuals have advocated as to why we should not move in this direction. I have tabled a number of petitions in the House, probably a couple of dozen, on pharmacare. In fact, I tabled one from my constituents earlier this week.

When we think about how policy comes to be, we often need to take into consideration that it is multi-faceted. Everyone has a role to play, even multinationals. For example, a corporation like Pfizer would have a vested interest in not having a national pharmacare program in Canada. I would be very interested in knowing the possible lobbying efforts in that area. Equally, in order to ensure the sense of fairness, we should know when lobbying takes place from different organizations, whatever they may be, that advocate for a national pharmacare program.

I invite and welcome all those interested in this subject matter. I know pharmacare is an important issue for my constituents. I know the government is, and I suspect all members are, following this issue very closely. The critical component is transparency. This is all about that. We need to know when money flows and when individuals, or corporations or non-profits are engaged in lobbying.

To me, that is very important. I believe we have seen a prime minister and a government demonstrate a great deal of goodwill, and even more than goodwill: We have seen legislation dealing with enhancing transparency for Canadians on issues such as lobbying, and in particular legislation dealing with election financing. That is something that I think is worth noting.

With regard to the question I forward to my colleague across the way, there is a statutory study that is done on the Lobbying Act. I would like to think that the issues she and others have raised this afternoon will come before the committee when it comes time to review the act, with the idea of coming up with some ideas and recommendations that would improve and enhance the position of lobbying commissioner. Part of that discussion also needs to incorporate the potential costs and value.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2019 / 6 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.

Kevin Lamoureux

A cost-benefit analysis: The former Treasury Board minister knows this stuff like the back of his hand.

When it comes to accountability and transparency and the whole nine yards, I can assure members that this is a government that takes it all very seriously. That is one of the reasons I believe we need to recognize right up front that when we deal with issues of this nature, what we really need to spend a great deal of time talking about is the issue of transparency. Let me give members an example of something tangible that we saw in the last year from the government that dealt with the issue of transparency.

We talk about the engagements that ministers or leaders of political entities conduct. They call them fundraising events. Not that long ago, the Prime Minister indicated that we wanted to open the doors of accountability and transparency so that even during fundraising events, media members would be afforded the opportunity to participate and observe. We have nothing to hide. We want Canadians to know who is financing and lobbying the party once it hits a certain level.

We even went further than that. For people who ultimately want to become a prime minister—for example, the Leader of the Opposition or leaders of other political entities—there should be an obligation. That is why we brought that in through legislation. It was because there was resistance from opposition parties to making sure the public knows who is attending and lobbying our leaders, whether they are ministers or leaders of political parties. Therefore, not only are we a government that talks about the importance of transparency; our record clearly shows that we have acted on it.

One of the nice things about the House of Commons is that we have independent offices. The lobbying commissioner has done outstanding work. When we talk about ways we could possibly expand that responsibility, it is important that we go back and reflect on the issue of resources, because at times there may be a need for us to expand, whether in this area of Elections Canada or with other independent offices of the House. We want to make sure that they are properly resourced and that the ideas that ultimately flow into the legislation have been well vetted, not only by parliamentarians but also by our constituents. The constituents of Winnipeg North are very much opinionated when I go out to ask for their thoughts on issues, and the different stakeholder groups themselves have a great deal of input on issues of this nature.

I appreciate the bill coming forward. I look forward to the ongoing debate on the matter.

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2019 / 6:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour today to rise in this place and contribute to the debate on Bill C-278, an act to amend the Lobbying Act, regarding reporting obligations, proposed by my colleague from Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. The goal of Bill C-278 is to expand the lobbying registry, to make public the sources of funding for all lobbying conducted here in Canada.

Within the United States there is a large body of academic studies examining the strategies and practices used by private foundations to influence public policy, and that is important to understand. Many of these foundations have enormous financial resources, including billions of dollars in assets and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues, and they are influencing federal governments. Maybe that is fine, but the legislation would help us make sure there is transparency and that the public understands it.

Increasingly, U.S. studies have addressed the strategies used by private foundations and the many other groups they fund, most of which have charity status in influencing public policy. The strategies include broad communications and education programs to influence public perceptions of policy issues and to garner public support for specific actions, the lobbying of governments at all levels, the infiltration of the media, and concerted, coordinated action to achieve specific objectives.

While there is less information and academic analysis available here in Canada, some private researchers have made efforts to “follow the money” in terms of how foundation and charity funding is spent. These efforts are impeded by superficial reporting requirements and the lack of publicly available information from organizations like the Canada Revenue Agency, which administers the provisions of the Income Tax Act related to charities, and the lobbying registry, compiled by the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada.

Researchers such as Vivian Krause, who has endeavoured to find out more about the use of domestic and foreign foundation funding for the anti-oil and anti-pipeline campaigns, have found that they must often rely on United States Internal Revenue Service records, as the information they seek here in Canada is not available from Canadian sources. That is a shame.

ln my riding, we have seen the first-hand influence these new strategies and practices can have on Canadian industries and jobs.

Vivian Krause has been interviewed throughout Canada, certainly by Global. I saw an interview done by her where she showed how monies went to charities and then went directly to campaigns against Alberta's goal of seeing more pipelines to tidewater and of seeing more of our energy go to new markets around the world. We see people from the United States, as Vivian Krause has pointed out, doing all they can to prevent that goal of Albertans seeing their energy sold around the world, while the world needs new access to our energy. This is very much an issue for my province of Alberta but it certainly is an issue for all of Canada.

ln recent years, we have witnessed a real change in how Canadians participate in our democracy. The rise of social media and the ubiquity of mobile devices has dramatically empowered individual Canadians. Many children in junior high have iPads or mobile phones. Each one of us has the ability to access any type of information we want but we also have access to influence a certain issue.

While many, if not most Canadians, might not appreciate the extent of their personal political powers, members of Parliament never forget it, and they better not forget it or they will become former members of Parliament. However, if most Canadians are unaware of the influence they can have over their elected officials, foreign actors have been quick to realize it.

Twenty years ago launching a grassroots movement to affect some policy change required considerable manpower and massive amounts of resources. Today, these campaigns can be launched for the cost of a domain name. In the past, one would have to spend millions of dollars on advertising and direct mail just to reach out and persuade a few thousand people on whatever issue or whatever topic they wanted.

Now, for a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, one can launch a Facebook ad campaign with the potential to reach literally millions of people. It can be targeted to certain areas specifically, but broadly, it can go around the world. This is more and more becoming an issue Canadians are attuned to. They know that a foreign actor can launch a million emails with just the push of one button.

Social media and mobile technology are enabling Canadians to participate more meaningfully in our political and policy debates. If that is true for Canadians, it is also true for non-Canadians. It is true for non-Canadians that most people, when they see their ad, might actually believe that they are Canadians. Foreign actors have access to the same tools and can have the same impact.

Just when Canadians are awakening to the opportunities to influence their own laws, they could find those efforts swamped by foreign interests without even realizing where this attack or this campaign was coming from. The role played by foreign governments as well as foreign foundations in campaigns to influence public policy in Canada should be of interest to all concerned about the independence and integrity of the Canadian political and government processes.

The increased globalization of corporate, institutional and geopolitical interests would seem to require that Canadian democratic institutions be more vigilant about these possible intrusions. This, in turn, demands that reports on the activities of foundations and charities seeking to influence policy be made more transparent to the public and more useful to the parliamentarians who wish to exercise oversight.

While the foreign lobbyist transparency act would not block foreign actors from launching fake grassroots campaigns, requiring disclosure of their funding of Canadian organizations to do so would give additional tools to public officeholders in understanding where the latest round of form emails may really be coming from or where they originated. A transparent registry of foreign lobbyists and their campaigns would provide journalists and researchers with a new way to follow the dollar.

I would also add here that when we give to charities in this country, we expect a certain return. We expect that they abide by certain rules. However, many charities in other countries may well not apply those same restrictions and rules, and they may indeed be the ones that start some of these campaigns. Rather than taking an approach that attempts to restrict or regulate the speech of foreign actors, restrictions that would inevitably hamper Canadians' own rights and freedoms, Bill C-278 would simply require disclosure. Foreign entities would need to report when they were funding campaigns to influence federal officeholders and officials.

Truth and transparency are always our best defences in preserving an open and democratic Canada. It is my genuine hope that these are changes that all members of Parliament can support.

One can say that there are Conservative organizations that may be doing it, there are Liberal organizations, there are socialist organizations, and there are Green-backed organizations that may well be doing this. Some of that may be all right, but let Canadians know who they are. Too often, questions about foreign funding of different sides of a policy debate are dismissed as being partisan by one side or the other. We can all play that game. The foreign lobbyist transparency act would cut through the partisan divide by applying equally to all foreign actors, whether they were supporting a cause we hold dear or opposing a policy we would prefer.

This bill would not limit Canadians' ability to solicit foreign financial support for an issue they were pursuing. It would simply require them to disclose to their fellow citizens the ultimate source of those funds. Individual Canadians could then assess for themselves whether the source of funding was material to the issue.

The digital transformation of our democracy is still in its infancy. Who knows what the next year or the next five years will hold for the digital world? It presents an opportunity to meaningfully increase Canadians' participation in our laws, but only if we have faith in it. By ensuring greater transparency for foreign funding of lobbying and public relations campaigns, we can restore a measure of trust in our democracy. I know we all want to do that.