Election watchdog backs Liberals’ voting reforms

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA–The acting head of Elections Canada is supporting the Trudeau Liberals’ attempt at rewriting federal election rules, but warns more needs to be done to limit the influence of foreign money at the ballot box.
Acting chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault said the government’s elections reform bill, known as C-76, significantly would modernize the way federal elections are run in Canada and improve integrity in the system.
But the legislation didn’t go far enough in some areas, he said.
Absent any changes, C-76 would leave a loophole allowing foreign funds to be used by, or passed between, advocacy groups trying to sway voters.
Perrault told a Commons’ committee studying the legislation that there should be strict wording in the bill to prevent foreign cash from influencing election outcomes.
He also said provisions in the bill cracking down on hackers trying to sway an election were too narrow, and that they should lower the burden of proof to capture cyber attacks aimed at disrupting the vote or undermining trust in the electoral process.
And Perrault also told MPs on the procedure and House affairs committee that they may want to look at whether parties should have to meet the same standards that apply to federal institutions, such as oversight by the federal privacy commissioner.
C-76 is an omnibus bill that would reverse a number of changes the previous Conservative government introduced, including restoring the use of voter information cards as a valid form of identification.
The bill also would limit spending by parties and advocacy groups during the three-month period before an election officially is called.
The Liberals hurried the bill to committee by limiting preliminary debate in the House of Commons, drawing the ire of opposition parties that want more time to debate the legislation.
The Liberals argue extensive debate isn’t needed because 85 percent of the bill contained measures recommended by either Elections Canada or the procedural and House affairs committee now studying C-76.
Democratic Institutions minister Karina Gould told the committee the government is open to amending the bill.
But she suggested proposals to further tighten limits on third-party spending, particularly if they receive foreign donations, could run into legal challenges.
Perrault said he was confident Elections Canada could have all the changes in place for the October, 2019 federal election.