Ottawa will make it clear that hacking into a computer during a federal election period is a criminal offence, foreign states will be forbidden from buying advertising during a federal election period and federal political parties will have to create a policy for protecting personal information in their databases if proposed changes to the Elections Act are approved. These are part of a broad piece of legislation updating the laws overseeing federal elections introduced Monday by the Liberals. They hope to have it passed in time for the scheduled October 2019 vote. The proposals in Bill C-76, called the Election Modernization Act, come amidst a U.S. indictment alleging Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election, and a NATO researcher who says Canada should assume Russia will attempt to interfere in the 2019 federal election. In 2017 the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s electronic spy agency which is also responsible for securing government networks, warned in a report that it is “highly probable” cyber activity against democratic processes in other countries will be seen here. Read the full text of the bill here
Read a government summary and backgrounders here
The Criminal Code already makes “unauthorized use of computers” a crime. The new law would also make it a crime to break into a computer where there is intent to obstruct, interrupt, or interfere with the lawful use of computer data during an election period.
Foreign governments are limited under current law to spending only $500 on advertising during a federal election. The new law would prohibit foreign entities from spending any money to influence elections. It would also be an offence for firms selling advertising space to knowingly accept elections advertisements from foreign entities.