Evidence of meeting #125 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site.) The winning word was election.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Trevor Knight  Senior Counsel, Legal Services, Elections Canada
Jean-François Morin  Senior Policy Advisor, Privy Council Office
Anne Lawson  Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Regulatory Affairs, Elections Canada
Stephanie Kusie  Calgary Midnapore, CPC
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Andrew Lauzon
Jennifer O'Connell  Pickering—Uxbridge, Lib.
Linda Lapointe  Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, Lib.
Manon Paquet  Senior Policy Advisor, Privy Council Office
Philippe Méla  Legislative Clerk

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Okay. We'll go to Ms. Sahota first and then to Mr. Graham.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

I have a question for Mr. Cullen.

In the amendment, you're requiring political parties to be clear and to label their advertising as having been done by them.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

That's right.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

You're saying in the specification that you want to alert social media to this. Is that why you want to do this?

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

This would be so that social media doesn't accept ads that.... It goes on through NDP-17, NDP-18 and NDP-20 to capture the full range of who would be buying ads. It's that a social media platform.... Again, the large ones I'm actually not as preoccupied by; I think they have entire legal departments. It's the smaller ones. If the smaller ones accept money to boost an ad and to place an ad on social media that's going to pop up on a news aggregator—if National Newswatch suddenly has ads popping up—and if they don't seek identification of who paid for the ad, they're in violation of the act itself.

This one covers off parties. The next one does third parties in the pre-election. The third one does third parties in the general election. It's just trying to let people know, because we've seen some variance on this—and that's a kind word for it—especially on third party advertising when they're using social media to boost.

What we've heard from witnesses is that there is the ability to use the algorithms to hyper-target voters, and the effect of those ads is much greater than what was taken out in the Toronto Star 20 years ago and said that so-and-so was a great candidate. These are extremely hyper-targeted AI ads that get right into the heart and mind of a voter on the issues they're motivated by. They're powerful. I guess that's what we heard through testimony. This is about identifying when that ad comes to a voter why it's coming to them and who paid for it. I think it's very important for that to come across.

October 16th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

My amendment LIB-25 also deals with creating a regime where there would be a reporting requirement for these platforms so that the platforms will then be aware and the public will also be aware that certain parties are advertising on certain platforms, and how much, and what they're doing with boosting and all of those things.

I think that would probably essentially cover this, because I think what you're trying to do is that you're taking on the responsibility of the party, which already is responsible for putting that tag line on all advertising as is. Right now, they already have this obligation. There's nothing to say that this obligation doesn't exist for social media. It exists for everything, like we've just heard. Are you trying to transfer some of that obligation onto the social media platform that they're putting it on rather than on the advertiser?

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

It's so that social media is simply aware if they receive any ad that doesn't come with the tag line as to who paid for it that they're part of violating the act, whether it's seen by accepting it so much or how that violation would work, who gets penalized for it—

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Are newspapers and other forms penalized? Are they a part of the—

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

That's an interesting question. If the Star runs a bunch of ads that are political in nature and doesn't identify who paid for them, I'm not sure who takes the hit. Is it the newspaper or is it the person who bought the ad? I'm not sure how the law works right now. Thankfully, I haven't had any personal experience with that.

I see what you're saying. The slight difference is—because we've looked at your amendment, of course—is that you start to get into where the triggers are. I think we have to have a discussion about that.

Again, I can see some very targeted social media platforms that don't have a high number of visitations but have great effect, because they're targeting into the 25 swing ridings that parties have identified into the 25% of swing voters. Sure they get 40,000 hits that week, but the 40,000 are incredibly effective over a much larger site that is scatter shooting across the Internet.

That's a second debate that we'll get to, but this one is very particular: Identify the ad, whether it's coming from parties, third parties; pre-election period, pre-writ or writ period. If you don't, you're in violation.

Again, I actually don't know who gets hammered if that rule is broken currently.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

I think it's the party.

4:15 p.m.

LCdr Jean-François Morin

It's the party.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Is it the third party as well?

4:15 p.m.

LCdr Jean-François Morin

Yes.

Well, there are other amendments we will come to regarding third party advertisement tag line requirements. But in this case, in the case of proposed new section 320, that would be the candidate or the registered party or their agents who fail to identify themselves.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

To finish this circle, then, the media itself, whether it's traditional media or social media, don't face a consequence for having accepted political ads without—

4:15 p.m.

LCdr Jean-François Morin

No.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Wow.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

You guys remember to [Inaudible—Editor]

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Did we get to you?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

You guys collectively remembered my question, so I'll give you that.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

We prefer mind melding here at committee.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

We've been too long together, Nathan.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

So that's the amendment.

We tried to keep them.... I mean, we broke them into parts; yours is more coalesced. But we tried to keep it very straight in asking that the identification be clear, and clear across social media platforms, which we just defined one amendment ago.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Not to comment on this particular amendment, but any time you do legislation, when it's a broad coverage and you do a specific one, you then run the danger of giving an excuse to those who aren't in the specific—

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Again, I hear that, but we did just go through and define what social media platforms are. It seems like a natural extension. I'm sure someone is inventing right now, or has already invented, the next new social media thing that doesn't exist on computers and transfers directly into our minds.

However, until we are aware of it, if the elections commissioner has the broad power, great, if we identify social media.... As we heard again from witnesses, the power of these is not what we're used to when it comes to political advertising. It's just not the same animal.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

I know I'm beating the same drum, but what we risk are clever lawyers and those afterwards, when they're trying to defend themselves—