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Foreign Funding in Canadian Elections

Hon. Linda Frum: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Leader, today the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee released a report that highlights the significant gaps in the Canada Elections Act that enable foreign entities to influence Canadian elections. Both the Commissioner of Canada Elections and the Chief Electoral Officer acknowledge that under the current electoral financing regime, third parties can receive unlimited foreign funds, provided they accept the funds six months and one day prior to a writ period.

In the eyes of Elections Canada, once the foreign funds are mingled with Canadian funds, it no longer matters if the funds come from Russia, the United States or Iran; they are considered usable during an election.

This is an outrageous loophole that undermines our national sovereignty. That is why last week I tabled Bill S-239, the eliminating foreign funding in elections act. This act will close the loophole and ensure that Canada's electoral process belongs to the Canadian people and only to the Canadian people. The intent of this legislation is now supported by the Senate report released today.

My question to you, leader, is this: Will the Government of Canada listen to the recommendations by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee and support Bill S-239?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you, senator, for your question. Let me begin by congratulating you for not only tabling the legislation but advancing it as quickly as you have. It is entirely appropriate that the Senate do that.

As you would expect in the normal consideration of legislation coming from the Senate through Senate public bills, there is a process by which the government determines whether or not, as a government, to support those private initiatives.

I have brought your bill to the attention of the appropriate ministers and would expect that, upon appropriate review and deliberation, I will be in a position to inform the Senate of the position the government is taking. However, I want you to know, and all senators to know, that this is a serious question, which the government, and the responsible minister in particular, are very much seized with.

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