iPolitics: House approves motion to fast track government’s foreign agent registry bill

House approves motion to fast track government’s foreign agent registry bill

NDP MP Jenny Kwan won unanimous support on Thursday for her motion setting up accelerated timelines for the bill’s progression through the national security committee, with the legislation now set to return to the House on June 12.

Published May 30, 2024 at 5:04pm

Marco Vigliotti
Editor-in-Chief

 

MPs have reached a deal to fast track the Trudeau government’s foreign agent registry bill through the House of Commons.

NDP MP Jenny Kwan won unanimous support on Thursday for her motion setting up accelerated timelines for the bill’s progression through the national security committee, with the legislation now set to return to the House on June 12.

It comes only a day after the NDP voted down a Conservative motion that would have set up a final House vote on the bill next week.

The NDP said the Conservative motion didn’t provide enough time to scrutinize the bill, hear from witnesses and potentially offer changes.

Kwan’s motion requires the national security committee to prioritize the study of the bill and extends its sitting hours to hear from witnesses. It also requires the committee to invite Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc and officials from the RCMP, CSIS and the Department of Public Safety as well as the prime minister’s national security advisor to testify.

Prospective amendments must be submitted to the committee clerk by end of day June 7 and one meeting on June 10 will be devoted to clause-by-clause consideration, under the terms of the motion.

The bill will then return to the House and must be debated at the report stage on June 12.

Among other measures, Bill C-70 would establish a foreign agents registry that would require individuals attempting to influence Canadian democracy to disclose their ties with other countries.

Should the bill pass, anyone with a relationship with a foreign entity and that is attempting to influence the Canadian government on behalf of that entity will be required to publicly register all relevant activities.

On Tuesday, Conservative MP Michael Chong wrote a letter to LeBlanc advising him of plans to move a motion that could see Bill C-70 passed through the House as soon as next week.

“As the general election draws closer, time is running out to strengthen the confidence Canadians have in our elections,” wrote Chong.

“Conservatives will work in good faith to ensure the rapid progress of Bill C-70 through the House while ensuring sufficient scrutiny of the bill’s measures.”

READ MOREConservatives offer to move motion to speed Liberals’ foreign registry bill through the House

The next federal election is scheduled for October 2025. But with the Liberals only holding a plurality of seats, an election could be called at anytime.

If the bill did not pass through the House and Senate until the fall, it would not come into force until later in 2025.

But on Wednesday, the NDP refused to support the motion, saying the Conservatives were moving too fast on the bill.

NDP public safety critic Alistair MacGregor told iPolitics in a statement that the party had been “engaged in good faith discussions with all parties to land on a motion,” but the Conservative proposal fell short.

He also accused the Tories of delaying previous efforts to address foreign election interference, including the selection of Justice Hogue to helm the public inquiry.

NDP House Leader Peter Julian proposed a different motion on Wednesday that would create a specific timeline for the bill to move through the national security committee, as well as an agreed upon list of witnesses and setting a deadline for the submission of amendments.

However, this motion failed to win unanimous support in the House.

He then moved a second motion that was successfully passed that merely stated the bill was adopted at second reading and referred to the national security committee.

The bill’s introduction earlier this month came on the heels of the release of the interim report from the public inquiry into foreign interference that found the last two federal elections were subjected to attempted influence from foreign states or state-backed actors. Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue found there was definitive evidence of attempts at foreign interference during both the 2019 and 2021 elections, but that Canada’s electoral system remains “robust” and there was no impact on which party formed government.

Both the Conservatives and NDP have been voraciously calling for the creation of a foreign agents registry.

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