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Statements and Speeches

Proposed Amendments to Bill C-50

Remarks of the Acting Chief Electoral Officer

on Bill C-50
An Act to Amend the Canada Elections Act (Political Financing)

before the
Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs

October 3, 2017

Check against delivery

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am pleased to be here today to speak to Bill C-50. The Bill has two principal elements, both related to political financing.

The first element is a new regime for reporting on certain fundraising events. The second element is more technical and relates to correcting a longstanding problem with respect to the regulation of leadership and nomination campaign expenses and contributions.

I will speak to each issue in my remarks. I have also distributed a table containing a few technical amendments for the Committee's consideration for the better administration of these provisions.

Political fundraising events

The first element in Bill C-50 includes a new regime for reporting on regulated fundraising events.

The requirements for disclosing information and reporting apply only to certain fundraisers. To fall within the scope of the Bill, a fundraiser will need to have all of the following three elements.

First, it must be organized for the benefit of a party represented in the House of Commons, or one of its affiliated political entities.

Second, the fundraiser must be attended by a leader, a leadership contestant, or a Cabinet Minister.

Third, it must be attended by at least one person who has contributed over $200, or who has paid an amount of more than $200 that includes a contribution, to attend the fundraiser.

In this regard, I note that the Bill offers a calibrated approach. Not all parties will be subject to the new requirements, and that is a good thing. Similarly, the rules will not apply to all fundraising activities, but only those for which a minimum amount is charged to attend and where key decision-makers will be present.

There is also an exception for party conventions, except where a fundraising activity takes place within the convention. Again, this reflects a concern to achieve a proper balance and I think it is wise.

I note, however, that donor appreciation events held at party conventions will be exempt from the proposed rules. I understand that this reflects a concern with regard to the fluidity of attendance at such events and difficulties in applying the rules. This is something that the Committee may wish to examine.

In order to improve transparency, Bill C-50 provides for two types of disclosure to be made with respect to regulated fundraising events.

First, notice of such events must be prominently posted on a party's website for five days before the event takes place.

Second, a report must be provided by the party to the Chief Electoral Officer within 30 days of the fundraiser. This report must include details of the fundraiser, including the names and partial addresses of attendees, and the names of any organizers of the event.

These disclosures would vary during a general election. Notice of a regulated fundraising event would not be required. And a single report for all fundraising events held during a general election would be due to the CEO within 60 days after polling day.

Generally speaking, the Bill increases the transparency of political fundraising, which is one of the main goals of the Canada Elections Act, and it does so without imposing an unnecessary burden on the smaller parties that are not represented in the House of Commons, or for fundraising events that do not involve key decision-makers.

That said, I am proposing a number of minor and technical amendments to improve the administration of Bill C-50.

First, as parties are required to publish notices on their website of fundraisers covered by Bill C-50, I would propose that parties be required to also notify Elections Canada of such a publication. This will assist Elections Canada in administering the Act.

Second, so that the Bill more closely mirrors current authorities in the Canada Elections Act for other reports, I am recommending that the CEO be permitted to request, in writing, substantive corrections and revisions to reports submitted after a regulated fundraising event. Consideration should also be given to adding an offence for filing a false, misleading, or incomplete report so as to bring this Bill in line with other components of the existing regime for financial returns.

Leadership and nomination campaign expenses

I will now turn to the second element of Bill C-50, which deals with the definitions of leadership and nomination campaign expenses in the Canada Elections Act. This aspect of the Bill responds to a recommendation made by Elections Canada and recently endorsed by this Committee. The purpose of this change is to ensure that all expenses and contributions made in relation to leadership and nomination contests are regulated.

Elections Canada supports these proposed changes. The current definitions are not aligned with the goals of the Act and are difficult for contestants to understand and comply with.

There is an amendment, however, that I would recommend be made to this part of the Bill. This change is also contained in our table of amendments; it is essentially meant to ensure that only expenses and contributions in relation to leadership and nomination campaigns are captured by the new definitions.

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would be pleased to answer any questions you and your colleagues may have.