Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm happy to be here today to speak to Bill C-50. I will try to keep my remarks brief to leave as much time as possible for questions from the members.
Bill C-50 has two main elements, both related to political financing. The first element is a new regime for reporting on certain fundraising events. The second element is more technical and relates to correcting a long-standing problem regarding the regulation of leadership and nomination campaign expenses and contributions. I will speak to each aspect in my remarks, but will focus primarily on the first component of Bill C-50.
I have also distributed a table containing a few technical amendments for the committee's consideration for the better administration of the proposed provisions in this bill.
The first element in Bill C-50 is a new regime for reporting on regulated fundraising events. The requirements for disclosing information and reporting apply only to certain fundraisers. To fall within the scope of the bill, a fundraiser will need to have all of the following three elements. First, it must be organized for the benefit of a party represented in the House of Commons or one of its affiliated political entities. Second, the fundraiser must be attended by a leader, a leadership contestant, or a cabinet minister. Third, it must be attended by at least one person who has contributed over $200 or who has paid an amount of over $200, part of which includes a contribution, as a condition for attending the fundraiser event.
In this regard, I note that the bill offers a calibrated approach. Not all parties will be subject to the new requirements and I believe that is a good thing. Similarly, the rules will not apply to all fundraising activities, but only those for which a minimum amount is charged to attend and where key decision-makers are also present.
There is also an important exception for party conventions, including leadership conventions, except where a fundraising activity takes place within the convention. The convention itself is exempted, but if there's a fundraiser that meets all the conditions within the convention, then that is caught by the new rules. Again, this reflects a concern to achieve a proper balance and I think it is wise.
However, I note that donor appreciation events held at party conventions will be exempted from the proposed rules. I understand that this reflects a concern with regard to the fluidity of attendance at such events and practical difficulties in applying the rules. This is something that the committee may wish to examine.
In order to improve transparency, Bill C-50 provides for two types of disclosure to be made with respect to regulated fundraising events. First, a notice of such events must be prominently posted on a party’s website at least five days prior to the event. Second, a report must be provided by the party. Even if the fundraiser is made for the benefit of affiliated entities, it is the party that must provide the report to the Chief Electoral Officer within 30 days of the fundraiser. This report must include details of the fundraiser, including the names and partial addresses of attendees, and the names of any organizers of the event. There are some exceptions to protect the privacy of people working at the event or underage persons who may be attending.
These disclosures would vary during a general election. Notice of a regulated fundraising event would not be required and a single report for all fundraising events held during a general election would be due to the CEO within 60 days after polling day. In practice, this may prove to be a tight timeline. There are clauses for extensions, but I think that we’ll see over time whether that 60-day period is a good balance.
Generally speaking, the bill increases the transparency of political fundraising, which is one of the main goals of the Canada Elections Act. It does so without imposing an unnecessary burden on the smaller parties that are not represented in the House of Commons or for fundraising events that do not involve key decision-makers.
That said, I am proposing a number of minor and technical amendments to improve the administration of Bill C-50.
First, as parties are required to publish notices on their website of fundraisers covered by Bill C-50, I would propose that parties be required to also notify Elections Canada of such a publication. This will assist Elections Canada in administering the Act and in ensuring that the reports to be submitted 30 days later are indeed submitted.
Second, so that the bill more closely mirrors current authorities in the Canada Elections Act for other reports, I am recommending that the CEO be permitted to request, in writing, substantive corrections and revisions to reports submitted after a regulated fundraising event.
Consideration should also be given to adding an offence for filing a false, misleading, or incomplete report so as to bring this bill in with other components of the existing regime for financial returns.
I will now turn briefly to the second element of Bill C-50, which deals with the definitions of leadership and nomination campaign expenses in the Canada Elections Act.
This aspect of the bill responds to a recommendation made by Elections Canada and recently unanimously endorsed by this committee. The purpose of this change is to ensure that all expenses and contributions made in relation to leadership and nomination contests are regulated.
Not surprisingly, Elections Canada supports these proposed changes. The current definitions are not aligned with the goals of the act and are difficult for both nomination and leadership contestants to understand and comply with.
There is, however, an amendment that is contained in our table of amendments and that I would recommend be made to this part of the bill. It is essentially meant to ensure that only expenses and contributions in relation to leadership and nomination campaigns are captured by the new definitions and by the rules on expenses and contributions.
I would say, respectfully, that there was an unintended broadening of the definition and that the wording of the definition needs to be clarified.
That is all I have to say. Thank you.
I would of course be pleased to answer any questions the committee members may have.