Policy Wanks: Bill C-76

Unanimous support across parties to implement new rules on third party contributions for federal elections

Mark your calendars for Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. That’s the next federal election in Canada. Just in time for that election, Bill C-76 has received royal assent and will hopefully help enshrine Canadian democracy.

The bill is slated to make federal campaign contributions from private interests more transparent. New legislation will require third parties to report the contributions to a candidate if they are engaging in partisan donations, will obligate third party partisanship advertising to be identified as such in the lead up to the election period and will require the creation of a separate bank account for political contributions.

Partisan advertising is described by the bill as, “transmission to the public by any means during a pre-election period of an advertising message that promotes or opposes a registered party or eligible party or the election of a potential candidate,” and excludes, “an editorial, a debate, a speech, an interview, a column, a letter, a commentary or news.”

In light of allegations of interference by foreign actors in the 2016 federal election in the United States, this bill attempts to pacify worries of third-party influence in Canada. In the U.S. federal election multiple foreign countries, most prominently Russia, purchased online ads that were aimed to divide the American people according to the United States’ House Intelligence Committee.

The new stipulations that firmly regulate group of origin in political ads is an attempt to nullify a similar process if it were to take place in our upcoming election. In addition to anti-advertising rules, the bill would add provisions banning the use of foreign money in federal elections. Special interest groups that receive money from foreign institutions or citizens will be barred from contributing campaign money.

The amount of money that can be donated by a single person was capped at $1,500 in 2015 according to Elections Canada.

While the vote to pass the legislation was a unanimous 257 votes across all major parties, Liberal MPs have been critical of the previous Conservative government’s implementation of the Fair Election Act.

“They disenfranchised voters, and they denied the use of voter information cards,” Yasmin Ratansi, a Liberal MP said about the Conservative government and the Fair Election Act. “Bill C-76 proposes the following measures to make it a fairer process for Canadians to vote: the bill would make the electoral process more accessible and secure; it would modernize the administration of elections; it would repeal the portions of the Fair Elections Act that made it harder for Canadians to vote.”

Included in the bill are a number of multifaceted provisions to encourage Canadians to vote. These range from the Chief Electoral Officer having the ability to implement education programs on voting and greater access to media in order to inform the public during pre-election periods to the ability to hire additional staff if they see fit.

 

UPDATE: The sentence: [Partisan advertising is described by the bill as, “transmission to the public by any means during a pre-election period of an advertising message that promotes or opposes a registered party or eligible party or the election of a potential candidate,” and includes, “an editorial, a debate, a speech, an interview, a column, a letter, a commentary or news.”] was changed to read [and excludes, “an editorial, a debate, a speech, an interview, a column, a letter, a commentary or news.”]

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