Eliminating Foreign Funding in Elections Act

An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (eliminating foreign funding)

Status

In committee (Senate), as of June 5, 2018

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill S-239.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Canada Elections Act to broaden the prohibition on inducements of electors by non-residents and to clarify the meaning of “induce”. It also makes it an offence for a third party to accept a foreign contribution for any purposes related to an election and expands the list of foreign contributors in section 358.

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.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Bernadette Jordan

Madam Speaker, let me remind members of this House that in a democracy, voting is a fundamental right. Unlike the Conservatives, we believe our democracy is stronger when more Canadians, not fewer, vote.

I now want to touch on the amendments that official opposition members put forward at report stage. Simply put, their amendments would have removed accessibility measures, removed the Chief Electoral Officer's mandate to communicate with Canadians about voting, removed the ability for one voter to vouch for another, and taken away the right from over one million Canadians to vote. It is clear that the official opposition is opposed to more Canadians voting. Sadly, this does not surprise me.

The Conservatives will stand in this place and claim to be champions of Canadian democracy, but I wonder how they genuinely can say that when they have delayed and filibustered throughout the study of this legislation. Let us be honest. The Conservative members attempted to block this legislation purely for partisan purposes. Rather than strengthening our democracy in Canada, the Conservative members of the procedure and House affairs committee wanted unlimited spending ability for political parties in the pre-writ period.

We are levelling the political playing field with Bill C-76 to ensure that our elections are more fair, transparent and secure as a result of this amended legislation. However, the Conservatives insisted on delaying the important work of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and preventing good legislation, which will help more Canadians vote, from proceeding through this House.

Earlier this fall, the committee invited the Minister of Democratic Institutions to appear at the start of the clause-by-clause consideration, but rather than agreeing to set a time and date to begin clause-by-clause, the Conservatives filibustered throughout the minister's appearance during which she waited for, but never received, a single question. To be completely frank, I still cannot see what their reasoning was for these delays, apart from wasting the minister's time, delaying the important work of the committee and preventing good legislation which will help more Canadians vote from proceeding through this House. I just cannot imagine how Canadians could support these games and tactics.

Many Canadians choose to study or work abroad at various points in their lives. With the advancement in technology, Canadians are more mobile than ever before. As it has been said many times before in this House, a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, and regardless if an individual was born in this country or took the oath of citizenship recently, by virtue of being a citizen of this country, that individual is entitled and has the right to have his or her voice heard in our elections. It is puzzling that Conservative members in this House would attempt to prevent over one million Canadians from voting in our elections simply because they are living abroad. In spite of attempts from members opposite, Bill C-76, if passed, will ensure that Canadian citizenship entitles people to vote in federal elections regardless of where they currently reside. It is as simple as that.

During the consideration of this legislation at the procedure and House affairs committee, the Conservatives put forward amendments that would require parental consent for young people to participate in Elections Canada's register for future electors; lower the administrative monetary penalties for those who break election laws; restrict the capabilities and independence of the commissioner of Canada elections in performing his or her duties; and restrict the use of the voter information card to provide one's address. Those are just to name a few.

I will return to an amendment submitted by a Conservative member on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. It had to do with the requirement of parental consent for young people to participate in Elections Canada's register of future electors. Members of this House who are parents will know that parental consent is required for many memberships and to access various online platforms, and certainly for good reason, but to conflate a young person's interest in the democracy of our country and our electoral system with something nefarious is just another attempt by the Conservatives to create barriers to voting in the hopes to suppress the vote.

Members on this side of the House are not surprised by this. The Harper Conservatives attempted to build a case of fear and distrust in our elections through Bill C-23 with the removal of the use of the voter information card to prove address as they felt it was being used by voters to vote multiple times, which as we know, is simply not true. We now see the same fear and divisionary tactics by members of the former Conservative government now being used by the opposition with its proposed amendments.

It should also come as no surprise that the Conservatives did attempt to amend Bill C-76 to restrict the independence of the commissioner of Canada elections. After all, it was the Harper Conservatives who restricted the commissioner's power to investigate in the first place.

Members of the House will remember that through Bill C-76 we are reinstating the commissioner's independence and empowering him or her with the ability to better investigate possible violations of elections law. We are giving the commissioner the power to seek a warrant to compel testimony and the power to lay charges. We are doing this following the recommendation after the 2015 election where the Chief Electoral Officer stated, “The inability to compel testimony has been one of the most significant obstacles to effective enforcement of the act.” Following the Chief Electoral Officer's compelling argument, I find it deeply concerning that all members of the House would not support this measure in Bill C-76.

What is stranger yet is that Conservative members on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs did not support the amendments submitted by the hon. member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, which would add additional punishment for third parties using foreign funding for regulated activities. Under this amendment, third parties who are found guilty of offences related to the use of foreign funds could be subjected to a punishment equal to five times the amount of foreign funds that were used.

The reason I find it surprising that they did not support this amendment is that it can also be found in Bill S-239, which was introduced by one of their Conservative caucus colleagues, Senator Frum. Given that the proposed amendment is the same punishment as set out in Bill S-239, I have to wonder if the amendment was purely not supported because it came from a member on this side of the House, or if it was not supported because it actually would strengthen the legislation. Either reason is completely unacceptable.

This fall the new Conservative critic for democratic institutions, the member for Calgary Midnapore, brought a new collaborative tone to our work and I want to thank her for that. Collaboration from all three parties at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has made this a stronger bill. Members will not always agree on everything in this chamber; in fact, it is disagreement and debate which can produce better policies for all Canadians.

That is why I want to highlight some of the amendments brought forward by opposition members that the committee was able to come together and agree on. These include more protection for information contained in the register of future voters; creating a better definition for third party activities in Canada; and expanding vouching so that any voter on the list in the same polling station can vouch for another voter.

This builds on other important amendments brought forward by the Liberal members on the committee. I would like to highlight just a few of the amendments presented by my colleagues on this side of the House that further strengthen this legislation. These include a complete ban on foreign money spent at any time, not just during the writ or pre-writ periods, for third parties; a new obligation on social media platforms to create a registry of all digital advertising published and paid for by third parties, political parties and nominated and prospective candidates during the pre-writ and writ period; and, as previously mentioned, allowing employees of long-term care facilities to vouch for residents.

During debate on the bill at report stage, we heard concerns from the member for Thornhill with regard to foreign funds in our elections. He said:

Bill C-76 would double the total maximum third party spending amount allowed during the writ period, and it would still allow unlimited contributions from individual donors and others, unlimited spending by third parties and unlimited foreign donations outside the pre-writ and writ periods....

In wrapping up, while there are, admittedly, some modest improvements made to Bill C-76, it remains a deeply deficient attempt to restore fairness to the Canadian election process.

Simply put, this bill, as amended at committee, would prohibit the use of foreign funding in all third party partisan activities and advertising regardless of whether they take place during the pre-election or election period. As a result, I am proud that this bill would ban all foreign money all of the time to further protect our elections from foreign influence. I must also note for the member's reference that this amendment was supported by all members of the committee, including the member's own caucus colleagues.

On the subject of pre-writ spending by virtue of the creation of these timelines during an election year, Bill C-76 has created a maximum writ period of 50 days. I have heard from constituents in my riding of South Shore—St. Margarets that while levelling the political playing field is important to keep our electoral system fair, they also think that the fixed election date rules cannot be abused again. The previous government rigged the system to its own advantage and many Canadians were frustrated to be in such a gravely extended campaign period.

Before I wrap up, I want to go into detail on one other aspect of Bill C-76, which is Canadian Armed Forces voting. The women and men of the armed forces make tremendous sacrifices on behalf of our country and to protect our free and fair Canadian elections, yet they vote at a lower rate than the general population. This is likely in part because the Canadian Armed Forces' voting system is terribly outdated. Canadian Armed Forces members are required to vote on a base ahead of election day. Often they are required to vote in a different manner than their families. This system made sense when it was established, but it is no longer practical.

That is why we worked closely with the armed forces and the Department of National Defence to modernize forces voting. Under Bill C-76, Canadian Armed Forces members would be able to choose to use the civilian voting program. Those who wear the uniform face some of the most dire consequences of government policy. We have an obligation to ensure that their voices are heard during elections.

I will close by reiterating that this is important legislation. Bill C-76, as amended at committee, would make voting easier and more accessible to Canadians. It would make it easier for Canadians to run for office. It would make it easier for our women and men in uniform to vote. Bill C-76, as amended, would ensure that Canadians enjoy a democratic system that is more accessible, more transparent and more modern than ever before.

I encourage all members to support this important legislation, which would modernize our elections for future generations to come.

Impact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2018 / 9:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Lakeland, I oppose Bill C-69, which would have wide-ranging, significant impacts on Canada's oil and gas, nuclear, and mining sectors, and by extension on every other sector in the country.

Bill C-69 does not involve minor tweaks. It is a major overhaul of multiple laws and regulations related to Canada's assessment processes, and it would damage Canada's capacity to attract investment that benefits everyone. Canada is a resource-based economy and is a world leader on responsible resource development.

Those facts are among Canada's greatest strengths and contributions to the world. Canada's exploration and mining sector is a major driver of the economy. In 2016, it contributed $60.3 billion directly to Canada's GDP, 19% of Canada's total domestic exports worth $92 billion, and the employment of nearly 600,000 Canadians. As a sector, it is the largest private employer of indigenous people in Canada, often where jobs and opportunities are scarce, in remote and northern regions.

At the end of 2015, the value of Canadian mining assets at home and abroad totalled $171 billion across 102 countries. From remote and indigenous communities to large cities across Canada, and the Toronto Stock Exchange, the mining sector generates significant economic and social benefits for Canadians. Of course, the oil and gas sector is also a key generator of middle-class jobs and Canada's high standard of living.

The International Energy Agency projects global oil demand will continue to grow, with oil maintaining the largest share of any energy fuel source in the global energy market for decades. The average energy demand is predicted to increase approximately 30% by 2040. For context, that is the equivalent of adding another China or India, the most populous countries in the world, to the current level of global energy consumption.

Canada is home to the third largest oil reserves in the world, with recoverable reserves of 171 billion barrels. Canada is the fifth largest producer of natural gas and has the 19th largest proven natural gas reserves in the world, enough to supply consumers with natural gas for more than 300 years.

The Canadian Energy Research Institute says that every job in Canadian upstream oil and gas creates two indirect and three induced jobs in other sectors across the country. Scholar Kevin Milligan notes that without income derived from the resource boom, Canadian inequality and the well-being of Canada's middle class would be much worse.

The Liberals talk a big game about making life better for middle-class Canadians, but, in fact, the Prime Minister has turned his back on the hard-working men and women who have given so much to our country through responsible resource development. Last year, the Prime Minister talked about phasing out the oil sands, and a couple of months ago, he told the world he regrets that Canada cannot get off oil “tomorrow”. The cumulative impacts of the Liberal-caused uncertainty and their imposition of layers of cost and red tape are driving investment out of Canada.

The Liberals have imposed a carbon tax on everything, which is something that major oil and gas producers are not imposing on themselves around the world, and the anti-energy legislation and policies like removing the tax credit for new exploratory oil and gas drilling last year was at a time when more than 100,000 energy workers had lost their jobs after the Prime Minister chased more energy investment out of Canada than in any other two-year period in 70 years, more than half a century.

The Liberals killed the nation-building energy east pipeline with last-minute rule changes and a double standard of upstream and downstream emissions assessments that they would now formally be imposing on all pipeline reviews with Bill C-69. The Liberals outright vetoed the already approved northern gateway pipeline. Both of those were the only actual new stand-alone proposals for exports to markets other than the U.S. in recent history. They are forcing a tanker ban on B.C.'s northern coast, which is really just a ban on the oil sands and on pipelines, and they have imposed an offshore drilling ban in the north.

Even before Bill C-69 has been implemented, the Montreal Economic Institute says that “The message being conveyed to investors is: ‘Don’t come here to do business. Even if you fulfill all regulatory requirements, you’ll still face many obstacles.” That is exactly what happened to the Trans Mountain expansion because of the Liberals' failures and the Prime Minister's response was to pay $14.5 billion tax dollars for Kinder Morgan to take its $7.4-billion private investment plans out of Canada. It is clear, the Prime Minister's anti-energy policies are chasing energy investment away at historic rates.

Now, the Liberals would pile on even more regulatory uncertainty for investors in Bill C-69. The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association said that “If the goal is curtail oil and gas production, and to have no more pipelines built, this legislation may have hit the mark.”

In a recent letter to Alberta MLA, Prasad Panda, several associations directly impacted by Bill C-69 outlined the following criteria essential to attract investment to Canada: “Certainty in regulations, in order to plan capital investments of large magnitudes and reach final investment decisions in Canada's favour. Permanence, because if programs or policies are temporary or have an expiry date, they will be deemed too high risk to factor into capital planning life cycles, which span approximately 6-8 years. Certainty in the form of timelines. Performance-based policies, ensuring benefits to communities by tying incentives to performance-based measures such as job creation, research and development, innovation and capital investment.”

These criteria were hallmarks of Canada's regulatory framework for decades, with the most rigorous assessment, comprehensive consultation, highest standards, and strongest environmental protections in the world.

A 2016 WorleyParsons study echoes conclusions of the 2014 benchmark analysis of Canada against the top major oil and gas producing jurisdictions in the world. It confirmed: “Canada is a global leader in environment, Aboriginal relations, and governance of resource use, with state of the art processes, practices, and legislation. Canada is recognized internationally as a nation that has contributed significantly to the development and advancement of regional and strategic environmental assessment since the introduction of the Canadian Directive in 1990 requiring federal departments and agencies to consider environmental concerns at the strategic level of policies, plans, and programs.”

However, every time the Liberals attack the last 10 years of Canada's energy and environmental assessment and evaluation for politics, trying to keep the NDP and Green voters who helped them win in 2015, they empower foreign and domestic anti-Canadian energy activists who are fighting to shut down Canadian resources. It is becoming a crisis, and this debate is a critical policy question for the future of our country. Canada must be able to compete.

Of the top 10 most attractive jurisdictions for oil and gas investment, six U.S. states rank at the top 10 global jurisdictions: Texas, Okalahoma, North Dakota, West Virginia, Kansas, and Wyoming. According to a 2017 World Bank report, Canada ranked 34 out of 35 OECD countries in the time required to obtain a permit for a new general construction project. There are real impacts of falling behind in competitiveness.

In committee, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers representative said:

Canada is attracting more uncertainty, not more capital, and we will continue to lose investment and jobs if we do not have a system of clear rules and decisions that are final and can be relied upon.

...Unfortunately, CAPP and the investment community today see very little in Bill C-69 that will improve that status.

Suncor said, “The competitiveness improvements that we're achieving as an industry through ongoing innovation are being largely negated by the continuously increasing cost of new regulations.”

Paul Tepsich, founder of High Rock Capital Management Inc., said, “I'm not crazy about Canada. We've got taxes going up and regulations going up.”

In committee, the president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada said, “Proponents making billion-dollar investments need to know what the rules are and how they will be implemented. You can't have this certainty knowing that the rules may change midstream in some way.”

The Liberals have already caused a regulatory vacuum for major resource developers since January 2016, and they have exacerbated uncertainty for investors and for workers. With Bill C-69, the Liberals might as well hang a sign in the window that says, “Canada is not open for business”.

Clear timelines and requirements, and predictable rules and responsibilities provide certainty. The Liberals claim Bill C-69 would implement short and clear timelines for reviews, but that is not true. The planning phase, during which the impact assessment agency would determine whether a project is in the public interest, for which Bill C-69 sets some guidelines but leaves wide arbitrary discretion for the minister to define, would add an extra 180 days, which could be extended by 90 days at the request of the minister or Governor in Council. That is before a project can even get approved to start an impact assessment. Bill C-69 also does not establish criteria that a project must meet, or what constitutes a complete application for it to be granted an assessment in the first place.

The bill has been amended so the minister would no longer have the power to veto a project before it can move on to the impact assessment stage, which I support. However, under proposed paragraph 17(1), the minister could still interject opinions about the potential environmental impacts of a project that may or may not influence the impact assessment agency's decision to review. So much for objective, independent, expert-based decisions. Even after the Liberals pass Bill C-69, the parameters of the project list would not even be revealed to the public until fall, and regulations would not be fully implemented until 2019.

When the Liberals ram through this legislation, there will still be ongoing uncertainty for potential proponents of long-term, capital-intensive, multi-billion dollar, major resource projects, following almost three years of the same.

If a project is granted an assessment, there are still no concrete timelines in Bill C-69. Proposed subsection 37(6) states, “The Minister may suspend the time limit within which the review panel must submit the report until any activity that is prescribed by regulations made under paragraph 112(c) is completed.” Bill C-69 would allow the assessment to be stopped and started, and for timelines to be extended indefinitely. Obviously, there would be yet more uncertainty for potential proponents and investors.

In committee, the director of environmental services at Nova Scotia Power, Terry Toner, stated, “while the timelines in the bill provide some guidance for project proponents, the government's goal of process predictability is significantly diluted by provisions in the acts that permit limitless extensions and suspensions.”

Time is of critical value, and it can make the difference between a project built and a project abandoned. We accept that there must be some flexibility, but there must also be discipline and transparency in order to ensure investor confidence in Canadian infrastructure projects.

In committee, the president and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission stated, “It is important that we all know, from the get-go, the length of time to get project approval. From our experience, industry can accept a quick 'yes' or 'no' decision. What is unreasonable is to get a 'maybe'.”

Unfortunately, Bill C-69 is ripe for a swath of “maybes” on project applications, because of the potential for suspensions, delays, and uncertainty about measures for applications and outcomes. Clearly, Bill C-69 will not deliver on discipline and transparency in all aspects of the assessment of major resource projects.

According to proposed subsection 183(5) in part 2 of the bill, the regulator may exclude any period of time from the time limit calculations so long as reasons are provided. If resource development proponents have a choice between multiple “maybes” over years of review in Canada and a timely “yes” south of the border, where do the Liberals think their investments will go? Unfortunately, the answer is already obvious in the flight of investment capital from Canada, with U.S. investment in Canada falling by nearly half and Canadian investment in the U.S. going up two-thirds.

While the Liberals claim that Bill C-69 would streamline and clarify the approval of major federal resource projects, its requirements create confusion and unanswered questions. For example, Bill C-69 mandates that proponents must demonstrate “health, social and economic effects, including with respect to the intersection of sex and gender with other identity factors”.

Obviously, job creation, research and development, innovation, and capital investment from resource development reduce poverty, benefit the economy, and provide revenue for governments and public services such as health, education, and social services, as well as funds for academic and charitable organizations, but I think proponents can be forgiven for uncertainty around how their investments and initiatives relate to identity factors.

It is rich for the Liberals to argue that Bill C-69 would enhance scientific evidence in reviews, beyond what has already been done in Canada's regulatory system. In fact, during committee, Mr. Martin Olszynski of the University of Calgary pointed out that the terms “science” and “scientific” are mentioned only five times in all the 400 pages of this major omnibus bill that the Liberals are using all procedural tools to push through, while rejecting the vast majority of the over 400 amendments submitted by opposition members.

In the process of issuing certificates, the Canadian energy regulator is tasked with establishing a commission and undertaking public consultation. At committee, one of my amendments was adopted, which requires the commissions to make public any reasons for holding a hearing about the consideration of issuing a certificate. However, there still remains uncertainty around the assessment, and Bill C-69 would open the door to foreign influence in these public hearings.

Bill C-69 would enable increased foreign influence on Canadian resource development decisions because of the removal of the previous standing test, which ensured that intervenors in the process either were impacted directly by the project under review, or had specific knowledge or expertise that would contribute to the assessment.

Some claim that foreign groups have always been allowed to participate in Canada's environmental assessment processes, but that is just not true. This has only rightfully been the case for projects that cross international borders. Canada has never permitted foreign interference in the environmental assessment process for interprovincial pipelines or other resource projects in federal jurisdiction that do not cross international borders. However, the removal of the standing test now opens up this process to groups that are either directly or indirectly backed by foreign dollars or by Canada's competitors.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association warned that “[t]here are recent examples in Canada where the absence of a standing requirement has led to highly inappropriate participation that had no probative value with respect to the issues to be decided in the review” and that the elimination of the standing requirement could “be used to clog the hearing process in an attempt to delay projects to the point that they are abandoned”.

Foreign interference in Canadian resources is already growing, to the detriment of all of Canada. Millions in foreign money is funding opposition to the Trans Mountain expansion. It was used to challenge Canadian LNG development opportunities, too, and it is growing as a barrier to Canadian mining.

The Financial Post recently revealed that “Tides has granted $40 million to 100 Canadian anti-pipeline organizations”, which, in return, fight to stop Canadian energy development and access to export markets, disadvantaging Canada against the U.S., its most significant energy competitor and primary energy customer.

Foreign funds are interfering in and influencing electoral outcomes in Canada, too. A report to Elections Canada and Senator Frum has highlighted foreign funding funnelled to third party groups, such as the Dogwood initiative and Leadnow, to defeat incumbent Conservative MPs in certain ridings in the 2015 election, and to fight Canadian resource development.

I support Senator Frum's bill, Bill S-239, which would define foreign contributors, add classifications of foreign contributions, and make it an offence for any third party to accept foreign dollars “for any purposes related to an election”.

However, the Prime Minister defends using Canadian tax dollars to fund jobs specifically for activists to stop the approved Trans Mountain expansion, and he is resisting Conservatives' calls to ban foreign funding in Canada's elections, too, which makes the case that he seems to welcome foreign influences to deliver on his stated objective of phasing out Canadian energy.

Bill C-69 would put Canada's economic future at risk.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers warns that Bill C-69 would harm Canada's reputation as a transparent, stable, predictable, and fair place to do business, and this would risk Canada's ability to be a supplier of choice for world demand of responsible energy in the future.

Suncor's CEO warns that “Canada needs to up its game” to attract investment and to compete with the United States. Instead of upping its game, Bill C-69 is the equivalent of the Liberals folding Canada's hand.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association warns that Bill C-69 would damage Canada's reputation as a priority choice for energy investment. It says:

[I]t is difficult to imagine that a new major pipeline could be built in Canada under the impact assessment act, much less attract energy investment to Canada.

Investment in oil and gas is projected to drop 12% this year from 2017, and the Bank of Canada already says that there will be no new energy investment in Canada after next year, 2019. In the last two years, at least seven multinational companies have divested from Canada's energy sector completely, and many more have frozen existing operations or shelved future plans.

CEPA's CEO says:

Currently there is profound uncertainty in advancing new major pipeline projects. We now have a significant problem as a sector and as a country in accessing new markets for our products around the world. The development of new projects is grinding to a halt. CEPA member companies that have material assets in other countries are actively pursuing those opportunities because of the uncertainty and potential implications of further potentially seismic regulatory changes that will directly impact the pipeline sector. Our sector is suffocating because of it.

It is clear that Liberal red tape and uncertainty are already forcing investors and developers to seek out other markets, causing hundreds of thousands of Canadians to lose their jobs. Bill C-69 would make it worse. The Prime Minister must stop sacrificing Canada's interests to the rest of the world. Canada already has the highest environmental standards in the world and the most responsibly produced oil and gas.

Canada will continue to do so long into the future, if only governments would allow energy, and all responsible resource development, to continue to fuel Canada's economy and contribute public revenue for all levels of government.

Resource jobs are middle-class jobs, so if the Prime Minister truly cares about the middle class, he will stop increasing red tape and imposing policies that drive out investment and the hundreds of thousands of middle-class jobs in every corner of the country that go with it.