An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (foreign contributions)

Sponsor

Blaine Calkins  Conservative

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

Status

Second reading (House), as of Feb. 21, 2019

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Summary

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

This enactment amends the Canada Elections Act to prohibit foreign contributions to third parties for election advertising purposes.

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.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

February 21st, 2019 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

moved that Bill C-406, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (foreign contributions), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, Canadian citizens hold the basic fundamental expectation that when they vote, that when they cast their ballot to determine their local representative, the composition of the House of Commons and the political direction of our country, their voice will matter. Unfortunately, in previous general elections the voice of every Canadian citizen has been drowned out, diminished and undermined by foreign entities that would unduly influence our legitimate and democratic electoral process.

Foreign interference has been widely reported in elections in numerous other democratic countries, and Canada is by no means different. Our electoral process is just as vulnerable to the sort of undue foreign influence we have seen take place in the United States, in Britain and elsewhere.

This occurs in our country most frequently through the wilful contravention of the Canada Elections Act, whereby registered third parties receive contributions from foreign entities, which are subsequently used to fund various political activities, including for election advertising purposes.

The need to prohibit such foreign influence is clear. Canada's former chief elector officer from 1990 to 2007, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, stated unequivocally:

We simply cannot allow any kind of money that is not Canadian to find its way into the Canadian electoral system...A general election is a national event, it’s not an international event and foreign interests have no place and for them to have found a back door like this, that is not acceptable to Canadians.

I think the overwhelming majority of Canadians care about foreign money playing a role in our elections, regardless of what party they favour. This issue is about the overall fairness of our elections, about keeping a level playing field.

Last year, the former Canadian Security Intelligence Service director and national security adviser, Richard Fadden, confirmed that it was very likely that foreign countries had attempted to influence the 2015 general election.

Looking ahead, a report by the Communications Security Establishment found that foreign entities were well positioned to influence the next federal election and that Canada would not be immune from it.

Indeed, prior to and during the last federal election, numerous registered third-party organizations in Canada received significant contributions from foreign entities to achieve certain political objectives.

For instance, the Tides Foundation, which is based in the United States, donated more than $1.5 million to numerous different third-party organizations in Canada. Leadnow, one such third-party organization, which was one of the most active third parties in the last election itself, attributes more than 17% of its funding from foreign sources. Each of these groups spent thousands and thousands of dollars in elections advertising in the 2015 general election.

Meanwhile, the number of registered third-party groups is higher than ever, as are concerns about them. Between the previous two elections alone, complaints about third-party groups by everyday Canadians increased by 750%, from just 12 in 2011 to 105 in 2015. Sadly, many of the political causes advocated by these groups directly benefit the economic or political interests of foreign countries and directly disadvantage the economic and political interests of Canada.

As the member of Parliament for Red Deer—Lacombe, I am particularly concerned, as are my constituents, that many third-party groups receiving foreign contributions for elections advertising purposes are dedicated solely to undermining the Canadian oil and gas sector. This is no secret. Amid record low oil prices in Canada, foreign entities like the Tides Foundation have trumpeted their accomplishments in preventing Canadian oil from reaching international markets. Their success in doing so can be attributed in part to their ability to finance the elections advertising of collaborative third-party groups.

Numerous instances of this kind of foreign influence have been revealed through the dedicated work of researcher, Vivian Krause. Vivian has worked tirelessly to follow the money trail and uncover the many connections between U.S. oil interests and Canadian environmental groups that are working together and making use of elections law loopholes against the interests of the broader Canadian public.

However, this is just one of many issues related to foreign influence. Foreign influence in all our elections should be of concern to all members of the House and all Canadians, regardless of their political persuasion.

Why are we allowing foreign entities to influence our elections in this manner?

This question was formally investigated by the Commissioner of Canada Elections at the behest of my colleague, the hon. member for St. Albert—Edmonton. The commissioner's office determined that third parties are subject to much less stringent regulations than other political entities but concluded that there was no technical breach of the Canada Elections Act, as it is currently written.

Crucially, the office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections noted that pursuant to subsection 359(4) of the act, there is no requirement for a registered third party to report to Elections Canada funds used for election advertising if those funds were received outside the period beginning six months before the issue of the writ and ending on election day. Therefore, in effect, foreign entities or organizations like the Tides Foundation are currently permitted to make unregulated financial contributions to third-party organizations for election advertising outside the pre-writ period. These sorts of contributions would otherwise be prohibited at any other time.

From this it is clear that there exists a serious loophole in the Canada Elections Act that must be addressed. We must stem the significant flow of foreign money in our elections and help restore the full sovereignty of our democratic process. It is for this reason I introduced the legislation before us.

Bill C-406 would address the growing issue of foreign influence in Canadian elections by prohibiting foreign entities from contributing to third parties for election advertising purposes at any time. Bill C-406 would also amend the Canada Elections Act to include this prohibition and would require any ineligible contributions to be either returned by the domestic third party to the contributor or to the Receiver General. With this prohibition in place, foreign entities would no longer be able to shamelessly flout the Canada Elections Act. Consequently, their ability to undermine our electoral process and unduly determine the political discourse in this country would be severely diminished. These measures would preserve the sovereign principle that Canadians, and Canadians alone, should decide who governs on their behalf.

The issue of election reform, including the undue influence of foreign entities, was debated in this chamber recently as we considered the provisions within the government's bill, Bill C-76. At that time, members on the government side explicitly stated that they consider this to be an issue of real concern. I note that the hon. member for Whitby declared that “Canadian elections belong to Canadians, and it is not the place of foreigners to have a say in who should have a place in this chamber.” Similarly, the hon. member for Humber River-Black Creek admitted that the last federal election was subjected to foreign influence and expressed her desire to see legislation that makes it “more difficult for the bad actors that we have out there to influence our elections.” Even the hon. Minister of Democratic Institutions stated that she supports measures that will “prevent foreign interference in our elections that could undermine trust in our democracy.” These are Liberal MPs.

I could go on, but regardless of my objections to aspects of Bill C-76, while debating that legislation, members opposite made it clear that they believe foreign influence to be a problem that needs to be addressed, particularly as another election will soon be upon us.

Members on the government side might like to suggest that Bill C-76, the elections modernization act, which is now being studied in the other place, renders the provisions to eliminate foreign influence in Canadian elections within my bill, Bill C-406, redundant. However, I can assure members that this is not the case. While Bill C-76 contains provisions to prohibit third parties from utilizing foreign money for the purposes of election advertising, Bill C-406 would prohibit the foreign entities themselves from contributing to domestic third parties in the first place. Therefore, the enactment of the provisions in Bill C-76 and Bill C-406 would be complementary, rather than contradictory or redundant.

Given that foreign entities are currently contravening the existing prohibitions concerning elections advertising in the Canada Elections Act, having further measures in place to prevent this from happening would be the most sensible thing to do and would prevent any uncertainty about compliance for domestic third parties here in Canada and for foreign entities elsewhere.

By ensuring that the legal prohibitions apply both to the contributing foreign entities and the recipient domestic third parties, Canadians will be much more assured in the security and sovereignty of our electoral process and in the legitimacy of their government.

It is undeniable that we live in an age of rampant misinformation, political disruption and an acute lack of confidence in traditional institutions. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, Canadians' trust in media, NGOs, businesses and government declined in 2017, and more than half of Canadians lost faith in the system. This should be concerning for all members of the House, especially since the barometer also indicates that the credibility of its own leadership is also declining among Canadians.

It is for this reason that Canadians especially deserve to have full confidence that our elections will not be tampered with or interfered in by foreign entities.

Members should take their seats here following an election only because they have the confidence and trust of their constituents who placed them here. Members should not have a seat here because some foreign entity preferred one candidate or party over another to pursue its own personal objectives and was able to use its significant resources to sway certain elections from abroad.

In less than a year's time, Canadians will have returned to the ballot box once more to have their voices heard. Enacting Bill C-406 before then to prevent foreign influence in our elections would go a long way in rebuilding the trust of Canadians in their institutions and, in particular, the validity of our election process and the credibility of the government.

The alternative is troubling to consider. Without the prohibitions within Bill C-406, our elections will be determined not by Canadians alone, not by those who have a vested interest in what is best for our country, but by those who have a vested interest in their own objectives, which almost certainly will not be in the best interests of Canada.

Worse still, if this practice continues unabated, Canadians will lose all faith in their electoral process and in the government itself, regardless of which party is in power. Such a profound loss of faith will be very difficult to earn back once it has been lost.

In the past few months, we have heard from the experts and officials responsible for administering our elections, as well as those who are tasked with keeping our nation and its institutions secure. Each of them has said that the issue of foreign influence in our elections is of concern, and is something that needs to be addressed prior to the election next year. Members from both sides of the chamber have echoed this sentiment and have shown support for other measures that would help curb foreign influence in our elections.

It is my sincere hope that all members of the House will take this warning to heart and join me in supporting Bill C-406. By doing so, members of Parliament will not only be ensuring that foreign entities can no longer unduly influence our elections, but they would also be sending a clear and specific message to all Canadians, that their voices matter and their voices will not be undermined or drowned out by those who should have no place or no say in our electoral process.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

February 21st, 2019 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Madam Speaker, the policing of this would be a lot easier.

The issue that I brought up in my remarks, the investigation initiated by my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton, was an inability for them to find any fault in the current legislative gambit that Elections Canada had in front of it. That is because when the money comes across the border, it becomes much more difficult to police and enforce. If we police it before it comes across the border, if we make it illegal for the foreign funding to come across the border in the first place, it is much easier to detect, much easier to track and much easier to enforce.

As I said, the legislation I am proposing, Bill C-406, builds on some of the things that were done in Bill C-76, but it would add and strengthen our elections and make them more secure. That is why I am hoping all members of the House will help pass it.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

February 21st, 2019 / 5:45 p.m.
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Arif Virani Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House today as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions and as the member of Parliament for Parkdale—High Park to speak to the second reading of Bill C-406, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act.

This bill, which was introduced by the member for Red Deer—Lacombe, seeks to amend the Canada Elections Act to prohibit foreign contributions to third parties for election advertising purposes.

The spirit of Bill C-406 is part of a broader conversation regarding the role of money in Canadian politics and the potential for foreign actors to influence Canadian elections. The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs issued a report last year expressing concern that the Canada Elections Act did not “...sufficiently protect Canadian elections from improper foreign interference”. That said, the report further argued that the third party regime needed to be modernized to ensure transparency and fairness in our democratic system.

Our government takes this issue very seriously, and it is a pleasure to be addressing this topic in the House this evening.

When it comes to the issue of foreign interference and influence more generally, we are taking a whole-of-government approach to protect the integrity of our democracy by defending the Canadian electoral process from hacking and malicious cyber-activities.

More frequently than ever before, we are learning in the media about how western democracies are dealing with new types of threats and new types of attacks. There have been allegations of undue foreign interference in the British Brexit referendum, the United States' 2016 presidential election and the French 2016 presidential election, to name but a few. Canadians are rightly concerned about the potential impact of foreign interference in our elections as well.

I have heard from the engaged residents of my riding of Parkdale—High Park, and indeed from Canadians from around the country, that we cannot be complacent. In 2019, we need to anticipate and ward off the threat of foreign interference in order to secure and strengthen our democracy.

This is why our government recently announced its plan to safeguard the upcoming election. The plan is built on four pillars. One is enhancing citizen preparedness. The second is improving organizational readiness. The third is combatting foreign interference, and the fourth is working with social media platforms. In particular, Canada's security agencies will work to prevent covert, clandestine or criminal activities by foreign actors.

I would like to remind members of this House that Canada also has a robust political financing regime. We know that to date there is no evidence that foreign actors have unduly influenced previous elections in this country. As a result, Canadians can feel confident in the outcome of our past elections and in our democracy as a whole, but that does not mean we will rest on our laurels. To the contrary, we are being vigilant to address potential threats. Our government has already taken action to address potential avenues of undue influence in advance of the upcoming 2019 federal election.

In addition to the government's recent announcement, our government has passed Bill C-76, the Elections Modernization Act, which received royal assent on December 13 of last year. The Elections Modernization Act strengthens Canada's democratic institutions and restores Canadians' trust and participation in our democratic processes. This generational overhaul of the Canada Elections Act will allow it to better address the realities facing our democratic system in the 21st century, including requiring organizations selling advertising spaces to not knowingly accept election advertisements from foreign entities.

Our legislation draws heavily on the recommendations in the Chief Electoral Officer's report on the 2015 general election and on studies by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

The member for Red Deer—Lacombe opposite has already outlined a number of measures in Bill C-406, measures that are redundant when one considers Bill C-76. This is because Bill C-406 has already been considered by our government as part of the Minister of Democratic Institutions' commitment to review spending limits for both political parties and third parties.

This review also examined third party financing and the potential impacts of foreign contributions and interference in Canada.

While Bill C-406's objective of preventing foreign interference in Canadian elections is worthy in principle, the mechanisms outlined in this legislation would be ineffective.

Allow me to explain. A major issue with Bill C-406 is that it seeks to legislate the actions of people outside Canada, such as foreign entities or persons making a contribution to a Canadian third party. These provisions have an extraterritorial aspect, which would be extremely difficult to enforce. We know of these difficulties from other acts that have attempted to legislate actions outside of Canada.

It is clear that the measures in Bill C-76 are enforceable, whereas those in Bill C-406 are problematic, because Bill C-76 addresses the problem from a different perspective. While Bill C-406 seeks to prohibit someone outside of Canada from contributing to a third party, Bill C-76, which has received royal assent, prohibits Canadian third parties from using these contributions. In this way, the problem of foreign influence is brought under the umbrella of our established domestic regulatory regime for third parties.

There are also a number of unfortunate drafting errors in the bill, which would further make the argument that the provisions are difficult to enforce. In one case, the bill refers to subsection 363(1.1) of the Canada Elections Act, which is a provision that does not exist in either the act or in Bill C-76. As well, while the bill creates two new prohibitions on foreign contributions, it neglects to enact corresponding offences, which would lead to significant enforcement difficulties. The two must go hand in hand, and the latter is absent here. There are no corresponding offences listed in the bill.

Further, Bill C-406 misplaces the new rules regarding third party election advertising in part 18 of the Canada Elections Act, the part that deals with financial administration of political entities, instead of placing them in part 17 of the act, which deals with third party election advertising. This would lead to confusion for Canadians and political actors about which sections of the Canada Elections Act apply to which entities.

I would like to mention that certain measures in Bill C-76 that have to do with foreign interference were strengthened by amendments adopted by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. When Bill C-406 was introduced in June 2018, the measures in Bill C-76 had not yet been improved by the committee's meticulous work.

Bill C-76 initially only limited the prohibition against using foreign funds to an election period, something I mentioned in my first contribution to this debate. However, there is now a new provision that stipulates there is no explicit time limit to this prohibition, thanks to helpful amendments brought forward at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. This change brought Bill C-76 in line with the measures introduced in Bill C-406, which also do not stipulate any time limit. Canadians can therefore be assured that foreign influence will be guarded against at any time, rather than only during the pre-writ or writ periods of an election.

Strengthening and protecting our democratic institutions should not be a partisan issue. On that, there is agreement. In Canada, our free and fair elections contribute to our strong democracy, which is revered around the world. Canadians rightfully expect their elected officials to come together and work hard to ensure our elections are accessible and we are doing our utmost to ensure foreign money has no place in our elections, which is essential to the health of our democracy.

I want to thank the member for Red Deer—Lacombe for the chance to continue this important discussion on foreign influence in our elections. We can expect that Canadians will become more interested in this topic in the lead-up to the federal election this fall.

To conclude, while Bill C-406 identifies an important issue for Canadians, the tools the bill proposes cannot be effectively enforced, which is why the government will not be supporting Bill C-406.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

February 21st, 2019 / 6:05 p.m.
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Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-406, tabled by my colleague from Red Deer—Lacombe, which would amend the Canada Elections Act to ban foreign contributions to third parties for election advertising purposes.

Some of the comments we heard prior to my intervention go to the very reason I think this legislation is so important. I want to point to the comments from the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, who was very clear that he is not going to support this legislation, but then said that there is no proof whatsoever that there has been any interference in Canadian elections in the past. That just proves how naive the Liberal government is in the situation we are facing right now. We have a group out there, Leadnow, that is, on its website, bragging about how many ridings it influenced in the 2015 election. It is a third-party group that spent more than $1 million in the 2015 election, and almost 20% of those dollars were raised by foreign actors.

The government is saying, and I guess we really should not question this, because it has sort of been the government's theme all week, as well as in the last couple of weeks, when it comes to SNC-Lavalin, “There is nothing to see here, nothing to fear. We have everything under control. Just go to bed at night and sleep well.”

The proof is there that there was certainly influence in the 2015 election by foreign entities funding third-party groups in Canada that were going to specific target ridings and having an impact on the Canadian election.

If this had come up four years ago, I was one of those who would not have thought it was an issue. However, that changed significantly during the 2015 election campaign. Many of us here in this House helped our colleagues and friends in other ridings when they were doing their door knocking and canvassing. I remember going to Calgary Centre during the 2015 election, and I was shocked by the number of lawn signs I saw on public boulevards and public spaces. What surprised me was the fact that those lawn signs outnumbered every political party two to one. These signs were not Liberal, New Democrat, Green or Conservative. These lawn signs were put up by Leadnow and Tides. The amount of money those groups spent in that one riding was incredible. We had third parties spending more than $1 million in a campaign.

Let us put that in perspective. The average party in a constituency probably spends about $50,000 to $75,000. This group spent 30 times that in our election. To say that there is nothing to see here and that there is no proof of foreign funding having an impact on Canadian elections is extremely naive. It shows why this private member's bill, Bill C-406, brought by my colleague, is so important. I am very proud to support it.

When we talk about the activism that is going on in our country and having an influence on our elections, that should be extremely concerning to Canadians. In the presentations we have heard so far, I think everyone has said that Canadian elections should be decided by Canadians.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to travel to Brussels and meet with many of our NATO partners and representatives from those countries. We talked about foreign influence in their elections. It was a top priority for our NATO partners, who are doing everything they can to address cybersecurity and tightening up their own elections legislation to limit the opportunities for foreign influence.

Canada is not immune to this. We have a Liberal government that passed Bill C-76 with minimal strategies to address foreign funding. That is concerning. This private member's bill, Bill C-406 would close that loophole when it comes to the influence foreign funding would have on future Canadian elections. We are not immune. It has happened. If we do not do something about it, it is going to happen again. Elections are sacrosanct in a free and sovereign country.

Times have changed. Unfortunately we have seen it in the United States and in other western democracies. We have seen it in Canada. Our elections are open and vulnerable to foreign influences, whether at the cyber level or through the funding of third party organizations that are well organized and target specific ridings to make an impact.

We should not allow that to happen. Third party associations should not be allowed to accept foreign funding for use in Canadian elections. Bill C-406 would close that loophole to ensure that third party groups cannot not accept foreign funding, period. This would make things easier to enforce and track, ensuring that Canadian elections are protected.

However, we should not be surprised that the Liberals are leaving this loophole there. They have been quite clear that they have no issues with foreign entities and actors influencing Canadian policy. We have a Liberal government that ensured that Canadian taxpayer dollars were used to fund summer jobs for Leadnow and Tides, groups that actively protested against Canada's energy sector. Liberals should not allow these foreign funds to impact our decision-making on our own economy, on massive infrastructure projects, and on nation-building projects like pipelines.

We have seen what has happened with Trans Mountain, a project that is integral to Canada's economy, but they tell us not to concern ourselves with foreign actors influencing the Canadian economy and our natural resource sector, or with the more than 100,000 jobs that have been lost as a result of the activism that most often comes from foreign entities.

If Liberals are going to turn a blind eye to that, it only makes sense that they would turn a blind eye to foreign influences in Canadian elections. This is no mystery. Foreign money has been used, and as I said, these third party groups are actively, in the public and on their websites, bragging about how successful their efforts have been in influencing a Canadian election.

This is not a conspiracy theory. This is not speculation. It is proven. In fact, as I said, Tides spent more than $1.5 million on influencing the Canadian election. That got the attention of the Canada Revenue Agency, which is investigating Tides regarding how that money was raised and spent. For the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions to say this has never happened is very disconcerting. He is parliamentary secretary to the minister, who should be extremely concerned about the influences foreign entities and actors could have on the Canadian election. The parliamentary secretary was being quite honest when he said it was not an issue or a problem, and that we did not need any legislation to protect ourselves from this. In all honesty, I find that to be ridiculous. It is proven that this is happening.

We are now in an election year, and it is quite clear that the Liberals are not going to take this issue seriously. This is not something they are addressing earnestly. They are refusing to take steps to close the loophole.

I find it interesting that the Liberals and my colleague from the NDP keep talking about this being a non-partisan issue. I am not saying this is a partisan issue. I am saying there is a very clear void in the legislation. We are bringing forward an opportunity to correct the mistake in Bill C-76, which did not have the teeth needed to ensure that Canadian elections are protected.

Elections are a foundation of Canadian democracy, plain and simple. If we cannot trust that our elections are fair and that Canadians alone are deciding who forms our government and who represents them in their constituencies, we have a very serious problem.

Bill C-406 would end any opportunity for foreign influence in a Canadian election. The integrity of our democracy and of our electoral system is at stake, and I would ask all members of the House to support Bill C-406. It is a priority.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

February 21st, 2019 / 6:15 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I would like to address a number of the points my colleague across the way raised this evening.

The first is something we do not do enough, which is to recognize the incredible role Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections play in ensuring one our fundamental pillars of democracy is healthy. I would argue that it is envied around the world.

People from many countries around the world come and visit our election officials. Apolitical election officials are often requested to visit numerous countries so they can explain why Canada has been as successful as it has been over the years at ensuring it has a very healthy and vibrant democracy.

I appreciate and recognize the importance of the independent offices, whether it is the Ethics Commissioner, or the ombudsman or Elections Canada. We appreciate their contribution to our system of parliamentary procedures and democracy as a whole.

One of the most interesting comments I heard about the bill was by the parliamentary secretary, and members should take note of it.

A great deal of effort was put into bringing forward Bill C-76. When it was debated at second reading, we clearly indicated that if members had ideas on how to improve the legislation, they should bring them to committee. We often hear that from this side of the House, something we never heard when Stephen Harper was prime minister. The Prime Minister and other members have talked about bringing issues to committee.

In fact, there were a number of ideas raised at committee. It was interesting that the parliamentary secretary made reference to Bill C-76. The original bill only prohibited the use of foreign funds during an election period. However, once it went to the procedure and House affairs committee, amendments were put forward to make it illegal for third party to use foreign funding at any time to engage in partisan activities.

This brings it in line with what Bill C-406 proposes. It is not a perfect alignment, as has been pointed out. The opposition believes that if we pass a law here, we will have no issues in implementing it outside Canada's jurisdiction. That is questionable.

What Bill C-406 hopes to achieve was achieved by Bill C-76. There was debate and presentations were made at committee to enhance the bill and make it stronger. This should have been taken into consideration with respect to the bill before us now.

Bill C-76 has now received royal assent. The member who introduced Bill C-406 was not necessarily aware of that. We need to reinforce the fact that it is now the law of the land.

I have been around for a number of years. I can remember the legislation that was brought in by former prime minister Stephen Harper in regard to reforming the Canada Elections Act and the incredible resistance to the changes that the Harper government received. There was very little support for the legislation. There was a great deal of opposition from political parties. More importantly, many different political stakeholders in Canada, whether they were academics or average citizens, were talking about issues such as the identification cards and how people were being disenfranchised and so forth. That was the type of legislation that Stephen Harper brought in when he was Prime Minister.

As to the support that we have for Bill C-76, and when I say “we” I am referring to something more than just the Liberal Party or the Government of Canada, there was widespread support for many of the changes for the modernization of our elections act. It received wide support.

I talked about changes at committee stage then and it fell on deaf ears. Today we have a government that is committed to more transparency and more accountability, especially when we talk about the issue of elections—

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

February 21st, 2019 / 6:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to take a few minutes to speak to Bill C-406 and more specifically to two clauses of the bill that are essential to any self-respecting democracy that wants to manage its own democratic affairs and that does not want to give others the chance to influence its democratic process.

I just listened to my colleague's speech and I have to wonder whether he agrees with the Clerk of the Privy Council and cabinet secretary, who shared his concerns with the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights this afternoon.

He said, “I worry about foreign interference in the upcoming election, and we're working hard on that.”

The purpose of the bill introduced by my colleague from Red Deer—Lacombe is to prevent this foreign interference in the next election. Groups like Tides Foundation and Leadnow invest millions of dollars to defeat candidates and influence the democratic process even here in Canada. If a Canadian group took Canadians' money to try to influence the election, it would be part of the democratic process. We have a major problem when we let foreigners interfere in our elections, with money obtained who knows where, by targeting very specific ridings where candidates are standing up for their values and their country and hoping to represent their constituents.

The interests of these groups are not those of the voters. These groups become involved because they perhaps have a chance to beat someone in a riding, to get out their message and to score points on the international scene by stating that they influenced the outcome of an election in Canada. That is something that happens and it will happen again if we do nothing. Therefore, we must guard against this interference.

I am pleased that the Clerk of the Privy Council raised his concerns this afternoon about the major role that this foreign interference could play in the next election. That is why our colleague from Red Deer—Lacombe is asking that we prohibit any foreign entity from making a contribution to a third party for election advertising purposes. It also proposes to prohibit any foreign entity from making a contribution to a third party for election advertising purposes that comes from money, property or the services of another person or entity that was provided to that person or entity for that purpose.

That is clear. I believe that Canadians are mature enough to make their own decisions. I believe that Canadians who want to influence the election can make a donation to the various political parties and strictly Canadian organizations. Why would we allow foreigners to meddle in our electoral process? That is completely unacceptable.

Canada Elections ActRoutine Proceedings

June 4th, 2018 / 7:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-406, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (foreign contributions).

Madam Speaker, I am certainly pleased to stand in my place. This is the third time in four parliaments that I have been able to have a private member's business item. I am taking this opportunity to address something that every patriot in Canada ought to be concerned about, which is the influence of foreign money coming into third-party organizations and advertising during our federal election campaigns.

I am certainly glad to have a seconder, my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton, who is also very knowledgeable on this issue. I look forward to the healthy debate on this most important piece of private members' business.

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