Madam Speaker, in light of the words of the member for St. Catharines, always when we open fire on others, we have to understand that if people have a house made of glass, they do not throw stones. This is what happened with the government side. The Tides Foundation's fingerprints are everywhere in the last election and that situation continues now. This is not a time to start pointing fingers at one another.
Bill C-406 is a great example addressing the need to strengthen our system and our democracy in order to be able to protect our system from any manipulation and any interference from the other side. I was hoping that the member for St. Catharines from the government side would have taken this opportunity to appreciate the notion of the bill and what it intends to do as it is coming from the official opposition, our Conservative Party.
I am very pleased to to rise today and speak to the legislation of my colleague, the member for Red Deer—Lacombe. Bill C-406, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act with regard to foreign contributions, which, if passed, would prohibit foreign entities from contributing funds to Canadian third party groups for election advertising.
This legislation is not only vitally important but is also very timely. With the next election just around the corner, this legislation is a way that we can take a tangible step to safeguard our democracy from foreign actors looking to insert themselves into our democratic process for malicious and self-serving reasons.
The world has been changing rapidly, and we now know without a shadow of a doubt that there those who are trying to undermine the political systems of democracies across the world. There are people and organizations out there that want to attack our political system and the freedom that it represents. With all the technologies that have been developed over the past decade, their access has been greater.
The time when only complex state actors can interfere is over. Small organizations can have a significant impact. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Democratic Institutions have made it clear that they are expecting foreign actors to try to interfere.
As Canadians, we have a duty to combat this, but I believe that the onus on us as parliamentarians is even greater, and I look forward to voting in favour of this legislation and encourage my colleagues on all sides of the House to support it. This is a call to the government to stop playing politics with useful bills and start supporting those bills that are going to enhance our democracy and our democratic systems.
We all know why this legislation is important. Canadian elections should be decided by Canadians. It is fundamental to our political system. Bill C-406 would change the Canada Elections Act to prohibit foreign entities from donating to third parties for the purpose of advertising.
In terms of who it prevents from contributing, it uses the criteria already previously established in the act. If those contributions are made to a third party for political advertising, the official representative of that third party will have an obligation to return contributions, unused, to the contributor. If that is not possible, the same amount of the contribution or the equivalent value of it, if it is not monetary, must be paid to the Receiver General. All these things must be done within 30 days of determining that the contribution was ineligible.
This is very reasonable and will prevent a repeat of what occurred in the last election, when money was funnelled in from outside the country, largely the United States, to swing ridings in an attempt to affect our election outcome and put in place a government that these groups felt would better advance their interests.
Regardless of which party was the beneficiary of such underhanded efforts in the past, all members of the House have a responsibility to ensure that they do not occur again.
As an Albertan, I must admit that I am particularly outraged by this sort of tactic, as our province has been harmed by these types of tactics in the past. We know that corporate actors in the United States have been have long been funding anti-resource development groups in Canada to try to prevent responsible resource extraction in Canada. While I believe that many of the people here in Canada benefiting from this arrangement are generally engaged and concerned Canadians whose opinions are valid and important in increasing the quality of the national dialogue on these important issues, the fact is that millions are being pumped in by our international competitors to derail our industry and increase the profits of foreign corporations, which has been an issue for years.
We often hear people question why certain activists target the Canadian oil sands but remain silent on the industry in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran or Venezuela, where there are concerns about not only the environmental impact but also about labour rights and the complete lack of commitment to fundamental human rights more broadly. I believe that this is one of the main reasons, because behind the scenes, backers do not necessarily have much common ground with the groups they are funding. They are merely using them as a means to an end to advance their business interests, and they are far more concerned about preventing us from getting fair value for our resources than in addressing the issues of climate change or the denial of human rights by the world's worst offenders.
What they have been doing to attack the resource industry is not unlike what they are doing to our elections. Foreign funds have already had an impact on the last election. Some organizations have bragged about flipping dozens of swing ridings in 2015, despite the fact that they received funding from abroad for their activities. It has been well documented, and we have a duty to combat it. Therefore, I believe Bill C-406 is an excellent next step.
The first steps have been taken by the government in Bill C-76, and there are some who have suggested that Bill C-76 makes this bill redundant, such as the member for St. Catharines, who suggests we reject it completely. However, while Bill C-76 prevents the use of foreign funds for advertising, Bill C-406 would prevent a third party from accepting the funds in the first place. This is an important distinction between the two bills.
When we have potentially malicious organizations trying to undermine our electoral systems, the standard should be strengthened. Canada has weak prohibitions on foreign interference, and it is time to change this situation. Changing the standard to not allow organizations to accept funds in the first place will help prevent any uncertainty about compliance for domestic third parties here in Canada and for foreign entities elsewhere.
Protecting against this sort of uncertainty and confusion is important not just because of the value that we place on our democratic institutions and the integrity of our elections, but also from a national unity standpoint. We do not have to make the same mistakes as our allies and other established democracies in order to learn from them. Our friends and neighbours to the south continue to have an extremely important conversation and continue to investigate various levels of interference in their recent elections.
As many members in the House well know, the interference ranges from alleged direct Russian interference with the president's campaign to social media troll farms and shell organizations creating competing events in close proximity to each other with the hope of sparking conflict. We must learn from these serious matters and implement safeguards in our system in order to help prevent divisive problems of that magnitude in our society and the erosion of confidence in our institutions that would come from them.
We have a prime example of how harmful these types of incidents can be to our national unity and respectful public discourse. I think we can all agree that it is better for us to work to prevent them in the first place than to try to sort it out afterwards.