Evaluating Bill C-76: The Elections Modernization Act
Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law, 2019
12 Pages Posted: 6 May 2020
Date Written: August 25, 2019
Bill C-76, the Elections Modernization Act, was a landmark piece of election law in Canada. It was passed by Parliament in time to be in force for the October 2019 federal election. It is the second major set of amendments to Canadian election law in recent years, after the passage of the controversial Fair Elections Act2 in 2014. C-76 had multiple goals. It was designed to undo many elements of the Fair Elections Act, especially around voter identification and election administration. It was also the primary legislative vehicle for updating election law to account for extensive online political advocacy, the emerging role of social media platforms as conduits for advertising, and new digital threats. It addressed many of the concerns prevalent in democracies globally that arose from the 2016 U.S. presidential election, such as foreign interference and hacking. It also engaged with the realities of the permanent campaign in Canadian politics, by updating the treatment of third parties and introducing for the first time in federal politics a spending limit in a regulated pre-writ period prior to the start of the official election campaign. Any one of these objectives and the accompanying amendments would have been significant in their own right. Collectively, the amendments represent a key moment in the ongoing attempt to ensure electoral integrity in Canada.
This article sets out the major elements of C-76, seeks to provide the context for the most significant amendments, and provides critical commentary as to the desirability of the changes and their likelihood of enhancing the values that underpin Canadian election law. The article groups the amendments into five overarching themes, which I address in turn:
1) online politics;
2) the campaign period;
3) voting rights;
4) foreign interference; and
5) election administration.
Keywords: Elections Modernization Act, Facebook, Campaign Finance, Foreign Interference
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