Making the electoral process more secure

Backgrounder

On April 30, 2018, the Government of Canada introduced C-76, Elections Modernization Act.

C-76 includes aspects related to foreign influence and online disruption that the Government of Canada can address within the Canada Elections Act. The Government of Canada believes that a whole-of-government approach is required to further protect and defend Canada’s democratic institutions from cyber threats and foreign interference. The Minister of Democratic Institutions continues to work in collaboration with colleagues across government to ensure our electoral processes are secure.

So the Commissioner of Canada Elections can better enforce the law, C-76 provides the Commissioner with the power to lay charges and the power to seek a court order to compel testimony. It also creates a regime of administrative monetary penalties to ensure compliance with provisions[1] in the Canada Elections Act. This system allows the Commissioner of Canada Elections to use monetary penalties, in addition to criminal prosecution, for violations of certain sections of the Act.

If passed, C-76 will update the Canada Elections Act to address foreign influence and online disruption by:

  • Prohibiting foreign entities from spending any money to influence elections, where previously they were able to spend up to $500 unregulated;
  • Requiring organizations selling advertising space to not knowingly accept elections advertisements from foreign entities;
  • Adding a prohibition regarding the “unauthorized use of computers” (drawn from an existing provision in the Criminal Code) where there is intent to obstruct, interrupt, or interfere with the lawful use of computer data during an election period;
  • Making more enforceable the current provision of the Canada Elections Act that addresses publishing false statements, by narrowing its scope to information about criminal records and biographical information, as recommended by the Commissioner of Canada Elections; and,
  • Prohibiting the distribution of materials, in any form, intended to mislead the public as to the source of the material.
  • To provide Canadians with more information about who is seeking to influence their opinions, C-76 will, if passed, require third parties to:
  • Register with Elections Canada if they spend more than $500 on partisan advertising or activities during the pre-election period;
  • Use a dedicated Canadian bank account for the payment of election-related spending during the pre-election and election periods;
  • Report on all contributions received for election-related activities; and,
  • Not collude with other organizations to circumvent the prohibitions on foreign third parties or the use of foreign funds.

For the complete set of amendments and details, please refer to the legislation text.

[1] These sections in the Canada Elections Act include: communications rules (part 16), registration and financing requirements of third parties (part 17), political financing rules (part 18) and three provisions set out in Part 1, for individuals who intentionally voted more than once, who voted while not qualified to do so, or voted in the wrong electoral district.


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