CCLA HIGHLIGHTS CONCERNS WITH BILL C-76: ELECTIONS MODERNIZATION ACT

June 8, 2018

On June 7, 2018, CCLA’s Director of Fundamental Freedoms Cara Zwibel appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to highlight concerns with Bill C-76: An Act to amend the Canada’s Elections Act and other Acts to make certain consequential amendments (Elections Modernization Act). The CCLA focused on two areas of concern: the reforms it makes in relation to advertising by political parties, candidates and third parties, and its failure to adequately address the handling of personal information held by political parties.

With respect to political advertising, the CCLA notes that the restrictions place significant limits on political expression, which lies at the core of the freedom of expression that is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While we appreciate and take seriously the concern that wealth should not be translated into the ability to dominate political discourse, we have not seen the evidence that purports to justify the restrictions contained in the Bill and the distinctions it makes between different types of political expression and different political actors. Restrictions on core political speech should not be imposed absent evidence that the restrictions are necessary and proportionate. This evidence has not been produced in relation to the existing third party advertising regime in the Canada Elections Act, nor with respect to the changes proposed by Bill C-76. Further, we suggest that the Committee consider whether limits on spending should be set by an independent body, rather than established in legislation (and subject to an inflation adjustment factor).

On political parties’ collection, use and disclosure of personal information, the CCLA believes the scheme proposed by the Bill is inadequate and that meaningful privacy protections should be incorporated into the Bill, or political parties should be brought under the purview of existing privacy legislation. The Bill’s requirement to simply have and publish a policy is woefully inadequate. CCLA is in general agreement with the amendments proposed by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

CCLA also wishes to note its support for portions of the Bill that reverse some of the negative changes that were made when Parliament passed the so-called Fair Elections Act (allowing for use of voter information cards, the return of vouching, and the loosening of restrictions on the educational activities of the Chief Electoral Officer). We also welcome the reform that will allow Canadian citizens who reside abroad to participate in federal elections.

Read CCLA’s written submissions here.