More money coming for security agencies to stop election interference: Goodale
Published Saturday, February 2, 2019 7:00AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, February 2, 2019 6:02PM EST
OTTAWA – This week a handful of federal security agencies were given new responsibilities related to securing Canada's electoral system from foreign interference. The announcement was made without any new funding attached, but the minister who oversees many of these organizations is vowing that they will "have the cash they need to do the job.”
In an interview on CTV’s Question Period that airs on Sunday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale initially said that "there will be new money for these agencies going forward to do their total job.”
However, in a follow up comment his office clarified that the “new” funding would be coming from a pre-announced $750 million that was part of the last federal budget, that is to be allotted to the various security agencies over five years.
“We announced Canada's Cyber Security Strategy last year with new funding of $750M. Action against foreign interference is a key part of the package. Agencies like the RCMP and CSE are receiving major allocations,” Goodale said in a tweet on Saturday.
During the interview, Goodale did not reference this specific funding amount, but said he is currently in the process of making sure that agencies like the RCMP have enough support.
"I will make sure they have the cash they need to do the job," he added, offering that the funding increase may be to an overall budget, leaving it up to those running the department to decide internally how various programs get funded, as election safeguarding is only one part of these security bodies' mandates.
On Wednesday Goodale, alongside Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan unveiled the series of new measures aimed at enhancing Canada's readiness to defend the democratic process from cyber threats and disinformation.
The plan is four-pronged: improving intergovernmental and party readiness; a rapid-response plan for foreign interference; calling on social media platforms to be more transparent and reactive to disinformation; and, enhancing citizen-literacy on fake news.
Two key aspects of the plan were the creation of a five-person team of top bureaucrats who will make the call whether or not to go public about serious meddling attempts during the campaign; and a cross-department security and foreign-focused Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections Task Force (SITE), to prevent "covert, clandestine, or criminal" attempts to interfere in elections.
The work, and other aspects of the announcement, will be done in large part by government agencies that Goodale is responsible for, including CSIS and the RCMP. The Communications Security Establishment is under Sajjan's purview.
The only part of Wednesday’s announcement that came with specific allocated funding attached was the civic-literacy piece, which included $7 million for non-government organizations to work on "digital, news, and civic literacy programming."
Asked repeatedly how much new money these agencies will see, Goodale wouldn’t offer a specific number.
"We are working on the financial platforms for all of these agencies to deal with foreign interference," Goodale said.
This funding promise comes amid criticism from some this week who questioned where the resources would come from to take on these new tasks.
"It is a serious threat and you have to put your money where your mouth is. On this one if you're going to take it seriously we've got to put the best people on it and we've got to put enough resources financially and otherwise to deal with this threat," said former NDP leader Tom Mulcair on CTV's Question Period.
CTV's Question Period airs on CTV News' Facebook page, CTV News Channel and CTV on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET.