Feds aim to pass key elections bill this week, after MPs approve 70 amendments
OTTAWA – This week the House is set to debate the considerably-amended key government elections bill, before voting on and likely passing it into the Senate.
With a year left before the next federal election, time is of the essence if the Liberals want to have many of their new foreign spending and political advertising regimes implemented in time.
Bill C-76, the Elections Modernization Act, includes implementing spending limits for third parties and political parties for a prescribed time period before an election call, adds new reporting measures for third parties conducting partisan work, enhances privacy requirements, and wraps in several changes already introduced but not advanced by the government in a previous piece of legislation.
In a recent interview with CTVNews.ca, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould called the bill one of the “key cornerstones” towards making sure Canada is ready for the 2019 race.
Last week, MPs on the Procedure and House Affairs Committee passed a spate of amendments to the bill. It was re-tabled with these amendments on Monday by committee chair and Liberal MP Larry Bagnell. He thanked all committee members for their contributions and said the bill "will greatly improve and facilitate voting and the electoral system in a dramatically changing digital world."
Government House Leader Bardish Chagger said on Thursday that priority will be given to report stage and third reading debate of the legislation once Bill C-76 was back from committee. Once it passes that third reading vote, it’ll be off to the Senate.
After a nearly week-long clause-by-clause of the bill, a total of 70 amendments were made. Of these:
- All 52 of the Liberal amendments that were moved, passed
- 16 of the 218 Conservative amendments that were moved, passed
- Two of the 26 NDP amendments that were moved, passed
Among the changes:
- A ban on the use of foreign money being spent at any time—whether in an election period or not—to support a candidate’s campaign, or political party. This comes with a fine of five times the foreign amount spent if this ban is not obeyed;
- Social networks will have to create a registry of all digital advertising published and paid for by third parties, political parties, and nominated and prospective candidates during the pre-writ and writ periods;
- New protections for the “Register of Future Electors” – a new list this bill will create of Canadians aged 14 to 17 – so it cannot be shared with the provincial electoral officers;
- A specification that each polling station must contain a “sufficient number of voting compartments” so that each person who casts their ballot can do so privately and “without interference or interruption.”
Among the New Democrats’ proposed changes was one to make the regular voting day a Sunday, and not Monday as is current law. It was defeated, amid some division among the committee members, with some consideration for potentially studying the possibility of Sunday voting down the road. The NDP were also pushing for increased privacy requirements for political parties.
On Tuesday, Gould may get an advance opportunity to present her argument for supporting the bill to senators, as she's scheduled to appear before the Senate for its question period.