Policy Wanks: Bill C-406

A private member’s bill aims to put an end to foreign money in Canadian elections

Amidst stories of controversy ailing the Trudeau government and how the government will fare in the nearing federal election, the coverage of Bill C-406 has taken a backseat. Proposed by Conservative Party of Canada member of parliament Blaine Calkins, the bill is an effort to crack down on foreign influence in Canadian elections.

The summary of the bill reads, “This enactment amends the Canada Elections Act to prohibit foreign contributions to third parties for election advertising purposes.” While Calkins, the MP for Red Deer-Lacombe clarified during a house debate that foreign interests are able to corrupt our electoral sovereignty on the basis that, “registered third parties receive contributions from foreign entities, which are subsequently used to fund various political activities, including for election advertising purposes.”

This bill comes right on the heels of Bill C-76, a Liberal bill that received unanimous support across partisan lines which ultimately resulted in royal assent. Bill C-76 was also centred around increasing transparency of Canadian elections, particularly donations and the behaviour of third-party organizations.

While Bill C-76 received support from all three of the major parties in the House of Commons, Bill C-406 is currently only being supported by the Conservatives. Members of the Liberal Party of Canada have been critical of the bill insisting that it is redundant and won’t make a meaningful change in the next election.

“What Bill C-406 hopes to achieve was achieved by Bill C-76,” Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux said during a House debate. “The original bill only prohibited the use of foreign funds during an election period. However, once it went to the procedure and House affairs committee, amendments were put forward to make it illegal for [a] third party to use foreign funding at any time to engage in partisan activities.”

The Conservative response to the claims of redundancy has put forward that the current framework laid out in Bill C-76 is not comprehensive enough to efficiently block foreign actors from influencing elections.

“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,” John Barlow, a Conservative MP retorted against the dismissal of Bill C-406. “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.”

“The purpose of the bill introduced by my colleague from Red Deer—Lacombe is to prevent this foreign interference in the next election. Groups like Tides Foundation and Leadnow invest millions of dollars to defeat candidates and influence the democratic process even here in Canada,” Conservative MP Luc Berthold brought up nearing the end of the debate on the bill.