She said: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to discuss Bill , which makes amendments to one of our most central pieces of legislation, the Elections Act.
As parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to uphold democracy and ensure that the rules surrounding it are fair and impartial. All political parties in the House came together, moving hundreds of amendments to try to improve this bill. After months of hard work on Bill at committee, and hours of testimony, it is unfortunate that only a handful of amendments by opposition parties were passed at committee.
On such a substantial bill, which covers everything from election procedures and financing to foreign interference in elections, and that would create a registrar for future electors and impact the eligibility to vote of numerous Canadians, it was disappointing not to see a bill that really holds democracy to account in Canada. As a result, this bill is deeply concerning and fails to achieve many of its objectives.
Bill attempts to introduce a pre-writ period and to regulate third parties. Part of the implementation of the pre-writ period involved invoking spending limits that, with inflation adjustments, would be $500,000 for third parties and $2 million for registered political parties in 2019. This means that it would only take four third parties to outspend a single political party. This would be feasible since third parties do not maintain the contribution limits that political parties do. We have serious concerns about the public receiving inaccurate information about candidates and platforms when political parties are no longer a primary source.
A significant motive for implementing further regulation of third parties, however, is to prevent foreign interference in Canadian elections. This is a good thing. We want Canadians determining the outcomes of Canadian elections, and not foreign entities. However, the government party is not going far enough to eliminate the possibility of foreign interference.
Canadians deserve to know where the money for elections is coming from and it is up to the government to ensure that third party entities are being fully and completely transparent. If third parties are choosing to participate in election advertising, then they should be prepared to open their books and let Canadians see exactly where the money is coming from.
At committee we suggested that third parties have segregated bank accounts for all political activity, that disclosure of foreign sources of funding for any purpose by third parties be required, and that contribution limits be established for election-related contributions consistent with those for political parties. Unfortunately, the government voted down these amendments. The problem is that only with these amendments could Bill prevent potential and actual foreign influence.
For example, say a foreign donor might donate several thousand dollars to a third party, but designates it as administrative costs. The third party could then use that money for administrative costs but would have an equal amount freed up to use for election campaigning. Since it was categorized as administrative costs, those donations will not be required to be made public.
Additionally, the regulations for third parties are not as stringent as those for political parties, so these types of foreign donations can have a serious impact on election campaigning.
The government is saying that it is addressing the serious issue of foreign influence and interference in our elections through Bill , but the laws it is putting in place simply do not go far enough. Our democracy is at stake here. Canadians and only Canadians should be impacting our elections.
The Conservatives believe that every vote cast by a Canadian citizen matters. However, the government should be working harder to keep foreign entities from undermining our democratic institutions. Canadians deserve to know that their elections will not be tampered with by foreign influences.
The has said that there was foreign influence in the previous election. Even if it was not that much, the government has the capacity and the capability to ensure there will not be any future influence. However, the government is failing to do that.
Because of these shortcomings of the Liberal government, we are providing it a second chance, a second opportunity. At this report stage, we are providing several amendments to Bill that would close these loopholes. I sincerely hope my colleagues across the aisle will strongly consider and accept these amendments. Canadian democracy is at stake. Despite months at committee, there are still significant issues that need to be resolved.
We have seen the magnitude around the world of what foreign influence can do. We saw this south of the border with the United States and Russian influence, as well as in Brexit in the United Kingdom. I do not think we want Canada's election in 2019, or any other future election for that matter, to be yet another victim.
The Liberal government has decided to tackle foreign interference in the bill and should be doing so to the fullest extent possible. It should be working harder to solve all of the loopholes and ambiguity in foreign interference.
If foreign interference and influence cannot be done directly, in the public eye, why are we allowing for it behind closed doors? Canadians deserve to know and understand who is financing their elections. The bill is going to have immense impact on our elections in the future and as parliamentarians we need to work together to ensure we get it right.
Allowing voter identification cards as a form of ID to vote is another way we are failing Canadians. Nearly a million voter identification cards sent out in 2015 had errors. Canadians cannot obtain health care, welfare and many other federal services without presenting government identification.
In fact, Dr. Ian Lee from Carleton University said:
It's been argued that the requirement for voter ID negatively affects low-income people much more, yet when you examine Ontario Works—that's the bureaucracy that administers social welfare—you will quickly realize it is vastly more onerous to obtain social welfare because of the identification. They want bank accounts. They want tax returns. They want driver's licences. They want tenancy agreements. It is vastly more onerous to obtain social assistance or welfare than it is to vote because of the identification requirements.
We need government identification for practically anything. Why should voting be different, especially when the integrity of our entire democratic system is at stake?
I am sorry to say that Bill is deeply flawed. This could be one of the last times in the House that we will have the opportunity to resolve its many issues to defend democracy in Canada. I ask my Liberal colleagues to work with us to ensure the bill better protects Canadians and our democratic system.
Mr. Speaker, that was an interesting exchange between my Liberal and Conservative colleagues, in that there was an impasse created at committee. That impasse was broken when the Liberals made a deal with the Conservatives to allow more spending to go on in our elections. The parliamentary secretary, I guess, omitted that part.
The bill only took a week in committee because that was all the Liberals gave us. In the end, they allocated time on an election act, which the Liberals promised they would never do.
My question is specifically for my friend. Much of her speech focused on foreign interference. We heard consistently from witnesses, from the Chief Electoral Officer, the Privacy Commissioner and in fact from another House of Commons Committee, the privacy and ethics committee, that having political parties have some sort of privacy rules about how we would handle the data that parties collected on Canadians was vital to protecting free and fair elections in Canada.
The NDP and the Green member moved a number of amendments to this flawed bill, and it is flawed. There were hundreds of amendments, some of them coming from the government itself. We tried to improve it to say that political parties must have some rules governing us. If the data we collect on Canadians is hacked or breached, then it is exposed to those who are trying to interfere in our elections.
The Americans and the Europeans are all testifying to us, saying that this is happening now, that it has happened in the past and that it will happen in the future. However, Bill , as it exists today, still has no protections for the privacy of Canadians and no protection of our free and fair democratic elections, exposing us to foreign interference, which the member raised so many times in her speech.
I wonder if the Conservatives have moved over on this issue and will accept the idea that political parties must fall under some rules and some guidance to stop the exposure to Canadians and the risk to our democracy.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today as we are at the final stages of Bill . This is the Liberals' attempt to fix the attack on our democracy that came out of the last Parliament, when the Harper government moved what it called the Fair Elections Act, which was clearly the unfair elections act. It tried, in various ways, to disenfranchise a number of Canadians, particularly low-income Canadians, indigenous people, young people and people one would suspect Stephen Harper did not think supported him.
Rather than make policies that appealed to various groups, the Conservatives' approach was to write legislation in our Elections Act to make it harder for them to vote, which was quite cynical and nefarious. We have been waiting a long time for this bill from the government. It actually introduced one almost two years ago that would have undone the unfair elections act. Then it did nothing with it for 18 months. It did not move it, debate it, or talk about it. It waited until we had this bill, Bill C-76, which is much larger and takes on more issues.
The policy does not have to do anything. The policy is not enforceable. It does not mean anything with respect to protecting our democratic values. They just need to have a policy somewhere. We have warnings from around the democratic world, from our European allies and our American cousins, saying that we have to fix this because the attacks are coming. The disruptions, disinformation and misinformation, the fake news campaigns that we see on social media are genuine threats to disrupting free and fair elections in their countries and obviously in ours as well.
The bill is flawed, to say the least. There were hundreds of amendments at committee. We have 179 amendments here, from all parties including the government side. The Liberals took three years to get to this point and they got it wrong on many levels.
It is unfair to simply criticize legislation. We are always working to improve things, to make them better, because this should be non-partisan. We all agree that elections are vital to the health of our country and those elections must be free and fair. We must allow the parties to argue their points and let Canadians, in a free and fair way, make the decision as to who they wish to speak on their behalf. However, we know that on some of the most important aspects of our democracy, Bill made a half-hearted attempt or no attempt whatsoever.
We moved motions to include the idea of my friend Kennedy Stewart, the mayor-elect of Vancouver, to reimburse parties according to how fair they were toward women and other under-represented groups in Parliament. We know the facts and they are undeniable. This Parliament is 26% women. The last one was 25%. Under the current trend, it will take 80 years until we have a gender equal Parliament, unless we do something about it. We proposed to do something about it by amending the bill and the Liberals said they did not want to talk about it and voted against the idea.
The loves to talk about what a feminist he is, but he does not like to do much about it. Things like this, like pay equity, things that matter to women, the feminist across the way cannot be bothered to raise his hand in effort.
We also tried to include electoral reform changes. We all remember the famous and often repeated promise from the to make every vote count, to ensure that 2015 was the last election under first past the post. We wanted to help the Prime Minister keep that promise. What a radical idea. The Liberals did not want to talk about that either.
We also believed that we should talk about younger people voting. We have support from some Conservatives and some Liberals to just study the idea, to have Elections Canada look at what it would mean to our democracy if 17 year olds voted. What would the effects be? What would the impacts be, positive and negative? That would be for a future Parliament, not even this one. A future Parliament could look at lowering the voting age. The Liberals did not want to talk about that either.
We talked about Sunday voting and all the evidence from democracies around the world, including sub-national democracies in Canada, the provinces and municipalities. We know if we allow for Sunday voting, rather than a Tuesday, which is an odd day to have a vote, it can raise voter participation by 6% or 7%, particularly for marginalized voters. We have all the research on this. What do the Liberals want to do? They want to study it more, which I have begun to learn is Liberal code for “no”. When we ask them to do something, they say “We should study that”. We have come to learn over these past three years that “study” means “no”. It is just that they can say it with a smile rather than simply reject the idea.
The lion's share of the work and the evidence that we heard was around this issue of privacy. Let us understand what we have learned, and these have been hard lessons over these last number of years.
Our British cousins learned through the whole Brexit episode that Cambridge Analytica and a whole bunch of dark and dangerous companies were out there micro-targeting voters through social media, through harvesting data out of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all those accounts that people use for social interaction but also for their political and news interactions with the world. There are companies that were able to break the code of Facebook, sneak around the walls of Instagram and find out more about people than people ever wanted them to know, and not just about those people, but also about their friends and connections. Then they would target them.
This is a dangerous problem because the ability to spread the lie becomes so much more powerful. We no longer use the scattergun approach to say that a candidate is terrible, or one's friend is a terrible person, or this policy is going to lead to that. They can hyper-target particular voters they are looking to sway. The British learned this the hard way. Ask the British Prime Minister how the whole Brexit thing is going for her. Ask the Irish and the Scots how they are feeling about it. We know that the vote was not done fairly, and there was some participation of Canadian companies.
The privacy and ethics committee in this place, made up of all parties in this place, said in its conclusion that political parties must fall under privacy rules to protect our free and fair vote. In rejecting our amendments, Liberals on the committee rejected the analysis and understanding of Liberals on another committee, and not just theirs. They also rejected the opinion of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada who said to us that if there is one area where the bill has failed, it is privacy.
The Privacy Commissioner told us that Bill contains nothing of substance when it comes to privacy. OpenMedia conducted a poll of Canadians and found that 72% of Canadians want political parties to have some sort of rules governing their management of data, their protection of the data they gather. Let us all admit; the other parties will not admit it, but we will, and one day they will join us here: Political parties are in the game of understanding voters. That has always been true. That has gone into overdrive in the last 10 to 20 years.
With the advent of the Internet and social media, the ability to gain information about voters, multiple points of data about each individual voter at the voter level and then target those voters with specific messages can be a positive thing. If someone is interested in the environment and pipelines and wants to know why the Liberals spent $4.5 billion on a 65-year-old pipeline, a political party might want to know that so it can talk to people about what a dumb idea that was, especially for a climate change fighting . That might be a good bit of data to know. However, we also know that parties are collecting this massive amount of data with no rules or oversight whatsoever.
Let us look at the Europeans. The justice commissioner of the European Union, which is on the verge of having elections, said that we can no longer treat this as business as usual. The threats coming from foreign governments, foreign agents and domestic folks that are looking to simply subvert our elections, to cast doubt on the democratic process is real.
The U.S. justice department, under Donald Trump of all people, has said that it is information warfare, that there is an interference in the U.S. mid-term elections going on right now that is connected back to Vladimir Putin.
All these examples are coming forward to us from our own experts, from international experts, and the Liberals said, “No, we do not care. We simply do not care.” They are going to allow the bill to go through without any significant and meaningful changes to protect our democracy. What is an election bill for if not that? I am simply at a loss for words when I talk to my Liberal colleagues and say that not one witness said that we should just leave the whole privacy thing alone, that everything is good, that the status quo is fine. Every single witness, including our own Chief Electoral Officer, said it is imperative to act, and the Liberals shrugged.
Here is the question and I will leave it at this. There are challenges and tensions that exist within each individual MP, their loyalty and observation of what their party wants and their loyalty to country. This is a clear case where, if we only are here to defend Canadian democracy and make sure our elections are free and fair, the choice would be clear, that we need to approve the changes that the NDP is proposing, suggested by our Chief Electoral Officer, our Privacy Commissioner and every expert we talk to.
The Liberals consistently chose party over country. That is unacceptable regardless of what Canadians feel like, regardless of what their voting intention is.
Bill has to do better. We can fix it at the very last moment if people are willing to work together.
Mr. Speaker, that was not a question.
Part of what we are debating here is that simply posting a policy that is not enforceable, that has no teeth to it and no meaning to it is not an exercise that is going to protect our democracy.
My friend across the way is a very smart person. She heard the same testimony we heard. The testimony was conclusive. It was 100% clear. If she believes in the opinion of the Chief Electoral Officer, if she believes in the Privacy Commissioner's opinion, if she believes in her Liberal colleagues who sat one committee over and studied the very same issue, then for goodness' sake, she should support something meaningful.
All parties need to move on this. My party was not there two or three years ago, because we did not want to have to reveal to Canadians how it was we collected data and what that data was. Those days are gone.
Here is what is going to happen. Our election is going to get hacked. Misinformation and disinformation will be spread on all of the parties and it will cause damage. It will cause damage not just to the parties but to the confidence Canadians have in our election, as the British are experiencing right now, as the Americans are experiencing right now, and then my friends will say, “Gosh, we should do something about this. Isn't it a shame that Canadians no longer trust our democratic process.” I will say, “Well, why did you not do it when you had the evidence in front of you?”
What is the counter argument? That is a great example and a question for the minister after she makes her speech. I would ask her to give me one piece of evidence that says we should not do this. The minister cannot, because there is no evidence. If the government is an evidence-based government, how about looking at the evidence? I know it is a novel idea. It might be a bit radical for my Liberal colleagues, but this is the time to do it, because it is 2018.
Mr. Speaker, that is quite a question and it also is not true.
We voted against Liberal proposals that we thought would not go the way we wanted to go. We pleaded with our Conservative colleagues to look at all the evidence in front of us with respect to privacy and maybe we should do something about it. The Conservatives sat on their hands.
The effort in this is the following. The goal for the government whenever introducing legislation that affects the rules of the game, the election that we conduct ourselves under, should not be a partisan affair. We should look at the evidence in front of us, think of the best interests of Canadians, not the interests of political parties, and ask ourselves how we can make this the best, most fair way to conduct elections in Canada.
We looked at the evidence. Nobody in the Conservative ranks nor the Liberals could point to one piece of evidence showing that Bill was sufficient on something like privacy. Nobody in here can point to the sufficient means by which we are going to have more women and under-represented groups in here because of Bill C-76, because there is no evidence pointing that way.
If we are going to do the work at committee, if we are going to be there for all those hours and invite all these really smart witnesses to come and testify, should we not listen to them? We tried. We wrote down the amendments in the best form that we could and people agreed with us, such as the Chief Electoral Officer, such as the Privacy Commissioner, such as our colleagues on the ethics and privacy committee.
For once I would love somebody to argue the other side and argue it with some testimony and some facts. That would be novel. I look forward to that moment.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure and privilege to rise today in the House to begin second reading debate on Bill .
I want to begin by thanking the procedure and House affairs committee for its hard work and collaboration in studying this piece of legislation.
I am incredibly proud of this important piece of legislation that will strengthen the integrity of, increase the fairness of, and protect our elections.
Bill makes it easier and more efficient for all Canadians to take part in our democratic process in the most important exercise of all: casting a ballot on election day. Importantly, it undoes the most unfair aspects of the previous government's Bill . Not many people know this, but the reason I decided to run for office was precisely that legislation because I could not believe that a government of Canada would do things in its power to make it more difficult for Canadians to vote.
In Bill , we are ensuring that every Canadian who has the right to vote will be able to cast that ballot. I am so proud that we are moving forward with this legislation.
We made important commitments to Canadians surrounding the use of vouching and the voter information card. Those are returned in Bill . I travelled across the country and heard from people who were unable to cast their ballot in the last election because of those changes the Conservatives made previously. Statistics Canada estimates that over 170,000 Canadians were unable to cast their ballot in 2015 because of the changes made in the so-called Fair Elections Act.
For example, the CEO of Elections Canada talked about the dignity that is required when vouching is enabled, the dignity for the people who go to the polling station. He talked about the fact that it is senior women often who do not have two pieces of identification to demonstrate both their identity and their address. Using the voter information card, which will enable individuals to establish residency, will empower and ensure that those senior women, among others, will be able to cast their ballot on election day. This is also important for indigenous Canadians, for people who do not have a permanent place of residence, and also for those who are interested in casting that ballot and need that extra bit of help with respect to vouching. This is so important for the dignity of Canadians. I am so proud that this is part of Bill .
I also want to talk about the fact that in section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, all Canadians, by virtue of having citizenship, have the right to vote. In Bill , we are ensuring that all Canadians living abroad will be able to cast their ballot on election day. Having studied abroad and lived abroad for work, I have had the opportunity to vote from abroad in previous federal elections. I know how important it is for Canadians to maintain that connection to the country they are so proud to come from. Therefore, in Bill , Canadians living abroad will be able to cast their ballots too.
Let us talk about dignity and accessibility. In Bill , we are also ensuring that political parties and candidates will be able to have an incentive to ensure greater accessibility to their campaign material or perhaps build a ramp to their campaign office or provide sign language interpretation at an all-candidates meeting. We heard from Canadians across the country that these measures are so important to be included in the electoral process and to ensure that they also feel included and are able to participate fully in our elections.
Let us talk about some of the important measures with respect to transparency that are in Bill .
With regard to the pre-electoral period that will begin on June 30 going until when the writ is dropped, this will create greater transparency for Canadians to understand what third parties and political parties are spending with respect to advertising. There will be a cap on spending for political parties and third parties during this time period, and for third parties it will, during the writ period, also include political activities. This is so important, because we know that Canadians want to know who is spending money during an election and who is trying to influence their choices as they cast their ballot and get ready to make those choices on election day.
When it comes to foreign interference, I want to thank all members of the House because we stand united across partisan lines to ensure that our elections in Canada are free from foreign interference. Of note, I want to mention that members of the Conservative Party and New Democratic Party, as well as my own party, the Liberal Party, on the procedure and House affairs committee put forward really good amendments at committee stage to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect our elections from foreign interference. All members of this House have put partisanship aside, put country first and I applaud them for doing that.
When it comes to online platforms, we know that 2019 will be a different election. It will be one in which social media has a heavy presence and I am very proud to note that in Bill important measures have been taken to both protect us from foreign interference and also ensure there is a greater transparency in political advertising online.
In Bill , there are two important amendments to the Canada Elections Act. The first is to ensure that social media platforms do not knowingly accept any political advertising from foreign sources and the second is to create a public registry of all political advertisements in the electoral period, something that Canadians will be able to check publicly to see who is targeting them and trying to influence them during an election.
Another extremely important aspect of Bill is with regard to the integrity of our elections. The robust election laws we have in Canada are, quite frankly, some of the very best in the world and the world looks to Canada for how to run and administer effective, free and fair elections. We are ensuring that those laws are upheld. We listened to the commissioner of Canada elections and have ensured that this office has the ability to both investigate and compel testimony. These are very important because we saw with previous scandals, whether it was robocalls or the in-and-out scandal, in which the integrity of our elections came into question, that Canadians needed to have the confidence to know who was behind these activities. The commissioner made it clear that had he had these tools, he would have been able to get to the bottom of it, and that is extremely important.
I would like to highlight the fact that Bill takes into consideration 85% of the recommendations that the CEO of Elections Canada made following the 2015 election. This piece of legislation is in direct response to ensure that Canadians have a process they can trust, that there is integrity in the electoral system, that our laws are as robust as possible and that they are as accessible and inclusive as possible.
There is no right more fundamental than being able to cast a ballot on election day, to mark down who one wants to govern and ensure that process has integrity. I am so fundamentally proud of this legislation. It is good for democracy, it is good for Canada and I am absolutely thrilled that we are debating it at report stage in the House of Commons. We can all be proud of this because it is good for Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of the bill that is before the House. As I mentioned in my previous comment, Guelph was the epicentre of some illegal activities during the last election. Similar to the minister, I am standing today as a candidate who ran in the election because of what I saw happening to democracy in Canada, specifically in my riding of Guelph.
When we looked at the previous government's role that it played in muzzling scientists, it also muzzled the former Chief Electoral Officer in Canada. In fact, clause 7 of the Fair Elections Act limited the topics that the CEO could speak of to just five topics: how to vote, how to register as a candidate, how to prove your identity, how to add your name to the voters list and questions of accessibility. He was not allowed to address any other questions under the previous government's legislation. That was clearly designed to prevent the CEO from carrying out his responsibility to Canadian voters, doing his job to promote democracy and to make sure that we have free and open elections in Canada.
As my colleagues are aware, as mentioned earlier, the 2011 election in Guelph was the centre of robocalls. When speaking to the previous candidate for the Liberal Party who was elected in that election, the calls came into citizens in Guelph telling them to go to the Quebec Street Mall to the voting station. Those were citizens who had been identified as likely Liberal voters being told to go a mall where there was no voting station. A lot of them were elderly people, people who had trouble getting to the station but did get to the Quebec Street Mall and then started calling the campaign office to ask why there was no voting station.
It was a very targeted and very cynical way to try and interrupt the voting process in Guelph. It happened not only in Guelph but in 247 ridings across Canada of the 308 that existed at the time, in all 10 provinces, at least one territory. Only one person was charged and convicted. It was a person who was volunteering on the campaign for the Conservative Party in Guelph. The other ridings got off scot-free.
After this blatant attempt to subvert democracy in my riding, collecting evidence proved difficult. For example, in the months after the 2011 election, the Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke's campaign manager, Ken Morgan, moved to Kuwait, changed his email, left no phone number, and refused to speak with Elections Canada.
Our bill grants the commissioner the power to seek judicial authorization to compel testimony. This would assist in ensuring timely and thorough investigations and, where warranted, prosecution of offences would be conducted under the new act.
Furthermore, the commissioner of Canada elections would be authorized to lay a charge under the act without the prior authorization from the Director of Public Prosecutions. The commissioner had this authority until the 2006 legislative amendments passed by the former Conservative government.
Misleading voters is a severe crime that undercuts our constitutional rights, encourages voter apathy and develops the cynicism that often voters have towards politicians.
Empowering the CEO to compel testimony in cases such as the robocalls in Guelph would allow for immediate action should there be violations of the act.
The problems do not end there. In the 2011 election, Elections Canada tested a pilot program allowing groups of voters to use their voter ID cards as proof of address. Approximately 400,000 Canadians living on reserves, in long-term care facilities or studying at post-secondary institutions used their VICs as a proof of address that year. Marc Mayrand, the former CEO, even recommended using the VICs for all voters starting in 2015.
Youth and indigenous Canadians are two groups that have low voter turnout. Voter cards offer these groups up-to-date information on the voter's address in cases where a driver's licence is out of date. Voter ID cards proved to be an effective way to get Canadians to the ballot box. However, instead of encouraging practices to increase voter turnout, the previous minister for democratic reform did not feel it useful to expand on the 2011 pilot, despite its success.
Instead, the previous government decided to make it harder for indigenous people, who often lack other forms of ID, to vote, as well as young people, who may annually change their addresses throughout their academic careers. Our bill would allow the voter ID card to be used and would hopefully increase turnout among young and indigenous Canadians. That ID card was discontinued for the previous election, in 2015, and we want to see it come back so that we can get more Canadians voting.
One of the most important reforms in Bill would be the return of the right to vote for an estimated one million Canadians living abroad. Canadians often choose to live abroad for various reasons, including work or living with family. Canadians are welcomed almost universally around the world, wherever we go, but for some reason, without consultation, the former Conservative government considered citizens living outside Canada for more than five years to be unworthy of a vote in Canadian elections.
According to an Ipsos poll, Canada is deemed the country with the most positive influence on world affairs. Canadians living abroad are in no small way responsible for the world's positive image of Canada. They see Canada by seeing the Canadians who live in other countries. We will return their right to vote so that as they continue to live abroad, they will maintain their voting rights and sell Canada as a wonderful place to live and raise families.
While Bill would restore the Elections Canada Act, it would be negligent to say that a restored bill would suffice. Elections have become favoured targets for foreign intelligence agencies and others who want to sow division and exaggerate partisan divisions. The majority of this kind of interference is conducted online, as it offers anonymity and is the most efficient way to spread false information. Using automated software programs or bots, malicious groups or individuals can develop hundreds if not thousands of online accounts. These accounts give the appearance of being real people, but they only exist to manipulate public opinion and exacerbate political tensions. Therefore, Bill proposes to add a prohibition regarding the malicious use of computers during an election period.
Ensuring that funds from outside Canada are not used to exert undue influence on our elections is essential to preserving the integrity of our democracy. That is why our government would tighten the rules for special interest groups outside Canada, specifically by making it illegal to knowingly sell space for the purpose of election advertising to a foreign person or entity. Bill would help prevent foreign actors and wealthy interest groups from using third parties to circumvent the ban on foreign donations and the strict regime in place for political financing, which has become easier to subvert since the introduction of fixed-date elections. This bill aims to accomplish this in a way that would preserve third party rights to freedom of expression and association.
Much has changed on the geopolitical stage, and Canada must be prepared to face these new challenges. Bill would provide Elections Canada and the CEO with the powers they need to conduct a robust and secure election.
This bill is one of the main reasons I chose to step forward to run, as I saw heavy-handed and partisan decision-making exploiting the future of our voter franchise. I saw directly how this kind of decision-making process can hurt communities like mine. Thankfully, we now have a government that would not only restore crucial parts of the act but would modernize it to reflect the challenges democracies are currently facing.
I thank the government and the committee. I substituted on the PROC committee to take part in the discussions to see what they were deliberating on, and now we are at third reading in the House. I encourage all my colleagues to support this very important legislation.
Mr. Speaker, free and fair elections are the fundamental essence of a democracy. While we know that more than half the world's population today lives under autocratic, dictatorial or otherwise democratically deficient regimes, Canadians, until recently, could be fairly confident that elections here were the gold standard in terms of freeness and fairness.
Let me assure folks who may be watching this debate that Canadian elections are indeed free in the sense that voters can be fully confident that the choices they make on their election ballots, supervised by Elections Canada, remain secret. However, when it comes to fair elections, where, by definition, all parties have an equal right to contest elections without fear, favour or interference and an expectation of a level playing field, voters may not yet be fully aware that the concept has increasingly been compromised in recent years in a variety of unacceptable ways.
Bill , as with Bill earlier this year, falls far short of addressing the increasing vulnerabilities and threats, domestic and foreign, to the fairness of the federal election coming in 2019. In fact, Bill C-76 follows the Liberal government's pattern in this Parliament of introducing amendments to Canadian institutions and laws, in place for years, that are promoted as improvements but are actually regressive. We saw it in amendments to the Access to Information Act, Bill , a flawed piece of legislation that was specifically condemned as regressive by the former information commissioner. Despite a significant number of tweaks, Bill C-58 remains regressive.
We saw it earlier this year in amendments to the Canada Elections Act, through Bill , that claimed to end, or at least make more transparent, the Liberal Party's notorious cash for access fundraising events. The Liberals have made much of the new protocols, claiming to observe the letter of the amended law. It was passed in June but does not actually come into effect until December. Bill C-50 actually bakes into law a lobbyist cash for access loophole for Liberal fundraising, the notorious Laurier Club lobbyist loophole.
Bill makes similar false claims of strengthening and protecting the democratic Canadian electoral process. This is a bill that should have been before the House in more substantial form a year ago. It is a bill the Liberals are now rushing, actually stumbling, a more appropriate characterization, into law, with less than a year until the 2019 election. If anyone doubts the clumsiness of the Liberals' development of the bill, the government was forced to propose, and with its majority pass, in committee almost six dozen amendments. That is the definition of incompetence in government.
The Conservative Party, attempting to stiffen the legislation, proposed over 200 amendments. Regrettably, only six gained Liberal support. Major deficiencies remain. They include the use of the voter information card as acceptable voter identification and the Liberal insistence that all non-resident Canadians be allowed to vote, no matter how long they have been away from Canada, no matter whether they have paid taxes in recent years, no matter whether they follow Canadian politics or know the names of political candidates, and no matter whether they ever intend to return to Canada. As many as 2.8 million Canadian citizens are living outside the country.
I know the time is short, and I must say that I have noticed in the last few minutes a familiar stale stink wafting across the floor from the other side of the House. It smells to me as though we are about to hear the dreaded majority government democratic guillotine, the notice of time allocation. By the time the guillotine drops tomorrow, I would expect that barely three members of the opposition will have had a chance to speak to this incredibly flawed bill, Bill .
I know the clock on the wall forces us to move to procedure.
I look forward to concluding my remarks tomorrow.