Again, on privacy and on third parties, these are two areas that may warrant, in my view, some further discussion and examination by the committee.
Before I get into the table, I just want to say a few words about the third party rules.
Overall, the proposals in Bill C-76 are a major improvement on the rules governing third parties. They expand the scope of the rules to include not just advertising activities but also all kinds of partisan activities. The scope is expanded. They also provide for rules that not only apply during the writ period but also the pre-writ period. They contain a number of measures to deal with foreign funding.
I want to note that there is some imbalance between the rules as they apply to third parties and parties in the pre-writ period. Parties would be limited only in their advertising expenses. Third parties would be limited in all of their partisan activities. They would have to file up to two pre-writ reports, and parties don't have to do that. I just note that. I don't have recommendations to that effect, but I did want to bring that to the attention of the committee, when you consider the overall regulatory burden on third parties.
While there are some important rules to deal with foreign funding, there is in my view a residual opening for foreign funding through third parties. There are some ways that this can be addressed. I will be making one particular recommendation in that regard.
I've not made a recommendation on the table in terms of the contribution rules to third parties. I think this is an area where there are a range of options. You need to balance Charter of Rights considerations. You need to look at the overall regulatory burden. I'm quite prepared to have a discussion on those topics with the committee, but I have not made a specific recommendation.
If you turn to the table, I'll take them in the order they appear on the table.
The first issue is a narrow but important issue. There is now in this bill a solemn declaration for voters. Voters would be required in some circumstances to say that either they are 18 or will be 18 on voting day. That's quite correct. However, they also are required to say that they are citizens or that they will be a citizen on polling day. That's something that they cannot make a declaration for. They do not know whether in fact they will become citizens on polling day. They don't control that. The ceremony has not taken place. It may not take place. My view is that certainly only citizens should be able to vote, even in the advance vote or special ballot. The oath should be amended to reflect that. Someone should not be called upon to say that they will be a citizen on polling day.
The second point is one of the issues related to foreign funding of third parties. One of the ways in which the bill improves the regime is that not only does it ban contributions made by foreign sources for the purpose of regulated activities, but it in fact bans the use of foreign funds. In some cases a third party may receive foreign funds and not be able to use them. They could have turned around and passed it on to another third party. That third party could then spend it. I would recommend that there be an anti-avoidance clause in the bill. There are other examples of such clauses in this bill, and the Canada Elections Act. That would deal with those kinds of situations where a third party is turning around and passing on foreign funds to avoid the restrictions in the act. That's an improvement that I'm recommending on the bill.
The third point relates to convention fees. The rule right now is that when a person buys a ticket to participate in a convention, the contribution that this person makes is then determined by looking at the price of the ticket minus the tangible benefits that he or she receives at the convention, such as the meals, beverages, and so forth. The bill recommends to also deduct from the ticket price a reasonable allocation of the overhead costs of doing the convention. It also allows for another individual to not only pay for that ticket but also deduct from the amount the overhead costs. The effect of that is that a wealthy person could, by buying all or most of the tickets, essentially pay for all of the party's convention costs.
There are number of ways to deal with that. The first way would be to simply not accept that there be a deduction of the overhead costs from the amount that constitutes a contribution. That is my preferred approach. In the alternative, one could say that this deduction only is allowable for a single ticket, not multiple tickets. It's a bit more complicated to administer. If that is not acceptable to this committee, then perhaps the law should be amended so that the party's annual return reflects the fact that a person has paid for tickets for more than one person to attend a convention, so that if a person buys a slate of tickets for a convention, that is simply reported in the annual report. At least there is some transparency in this regard.
The fourth point I want to raise is in regard to the issue of privacy that we have discussed. As I indicated last week, I am concerned by the fact that there are no minimal standards. Each party would decide which standard is appropriate for them. Perhaps more importantly, I'm concerned about the absence of oversight. On the first issue, the standards adopted by the parties in their policies should be consistent with those set out in the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which is usually referred to as PIPEDA, and I do believe that the Privacy Commissioner is the appropriate person to provide oversight. I have discussed this with the Privacy Commissioner and he is in agreement with that.
The fifth point that I want to raise is.... This is actually a recommendation that came from Elections Canada. It's reflected properly in the bill. It's a recommendation to deal with the possibility of disinformation in cases where there's a publication that claims to be made by a party or a candidate, but it is not. In our recommendation, we should have made an additional element to that, which is that publications, whether electronically or traditionally made, that are claimed to be by Elections Canada, but are not, should be covered by the same prohibition. That's just an expansion of that same rule to cover false Elections Canada material.
The sixth one relates to an important clause in the bill dealing with cyber-attacks. I believe that is an important issue. There is a proposal in the bill relating to the misuse of or interference with a computer. However, in order for an offence to be committed, there is a requirement to show that there was an intention to affect the result of the election. In some cases, a foreign state or a third party may wish to interfere simply to disrupt the election or simply to undermine trust in the election, so the requirement to prove an intent to change the result goes too far. I think it needs to be expanded to cover other intents, which I've just mentioned.
Finally, the last one is a really technical one. It's a transitional provision regarding the reporting obligations for candidates. There should be a clause in the bill that says that if the rules come into force midway into the campaign or after the campaign, the reporting obligation at the end of the campaign should match the substantive obligations during the campaign. That's sensible. The drafting of this clause can be improved and should be improved. There are similar clauses in the bill that we feel are better drafted in that regard and we refer to those in the table. That is strictly a technical amendment.