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.