Big new Liberal bill to reveal long-promised changes to elections law

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OTTAWA — The federal Liberal government will unveil later today how it plans to make good on several promised changes to the election laws.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison is introducing a bill meant to address several pledges Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made on the campaign trail, including by tackling how much political parties and third-party advocacy groups can spend before and during election campaigns.

That will include ways to make sure those third parties are not being funded by foreign money and will also touch on modernizing the Canada Elections Act to reflect the fact that a lot of campaigning now takes place online.

“We know that the protection of our electoral system is absolutely essential and over the years, we have seen new threats and new challenges appearing that may affect the integrity of our electoral system,” Trudeau said Monday in Vancouver.

The legislation is not, however, expected to come through on the promise to create an independent commission to organize televised debates among party leaders.

Last week, the Institute for Research on Public Policy, which the Liberal government had tasked with hosting roundtables on the issue, released a report concluding it is more important to make sure that particular reform is done correctly than it is to do it quickly.

“The commission should be built to last,” said the report.

“It should be adaptable to evolving voter preferences, party configurations, and social context,” said the report. “It is more important, therefore, to get it right than to get it soon.”

The Liberal government introduced some reforms in November 2016, aimed at undoing some of what the Conservatives introduced through their Fair Elections Act — including restoring the use of the voter identification card as a valid piece of ID.

That bill, stalled at the introductory stage ever since, will be rolled into the new one.

The Liberals are confident the changes will be in place in time for Canadians to vote in the next federal election.

“We want to have these measures in place by the election in 2019, because Canadians expect elections to be reliable and safe,” Trudeau said.

But acting chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault said last week that anything meant to apply in 2019 should have been in place by now.

Brison is acting as the minister for democratic institutions while Karina Gould, who normally serves in that role, is on maternity leave.

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press


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