1. No more blackouts on early election results
Elections Canada warned Canadians during the 2011 federal election not to publish any early results before every poll in the country had closed. But that didn't stop some people from taking to Twitter in defiance of the edict and flirting with $25,000 fines. No one ended up being charged.
In fact, the last time anyone was charged was in 2000, when Elections Canada charged Paul Bryan with publishing results from Atlantic Canada on his Vancouver blog. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court and Bryan was fined $1,000.
The case incensed Prime Minister Stephen Harper, then head of the National Citizens Coalition. He took up Bryan's cause and didn't mince any words in a fundraising letter. "The jackasses at Elections Canada are out of control," Harper wrote.
The law was intended to prevent voters in the East from influencing choices in the West, the thinking being that some people in Western Canada might be unduly influenced by the results in Atlantic Canada before casting their own ballots. But it was widely seen as outdated in an ever-connected world.
Under the proposed reforms, however, it will no longer be a crime to publish election results before all the polls have closed. That will allow media outlets and ordinary citizens to broadcast the results in real time without fear of a fine.
2. Changes the rules around voter identification
Anyone who wants to cast a ballot will now need more than their voter information card. Voters will have to present identification that prove their name and address. That could be a driver's licence, or the combination of a health card and a utility bill.
The new bill would end the practice of allowing people to vouch for someone else's identity. Under the existing law, a neighbour or friend from the same polling division could vouch that a voter was who he or she said they were.
Further, anyone whose name was mistakenly crossed off the voters' list will have to take a written oath before casting their ballot.
3. Tougher rules for robocalls
Anyone who wants to hire a company to call voters on their behalf would first have to give the company their name, phone number, address and a piece of identification that contains their name to prove that they are who they say they are.
The rule change appears aimed at preventing any future "Pierre Poutines." That's the pseudonym of the person behind misleading election calls in Guelph, Ont. The shadowy operative used an Edmonton company to make thousands of calls directing voters to the wrong polling stations. Companies would also be required to keep copies of the scripts used to make calls to voters for a year after the election.
The proposed reforms would also require calling companies to file registration notices with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. The CRTC would keep that information in a registry and publish all the registration notices after election day.
4. New rules around political financing
People will be able to open their wallets a bit wider under the proposed reforms. The yearly limit on donations to registered political parties, riding associations, nomination contestants and candidates in elections is being raised to $1,500 from the current $1,200 limit. Donations to candidates in party leadership races are also increasing to $1,500 from $1,200 per contest.
Candidates and leadership contestants are being allowed to give more to their own campaigns. Candidates in federal elections will be able to give themselves $5,000 and leadership contestants will be able to give themselves $25,000. Each currently has a limit of $1,200.
The proposed reforms also crack down on leadership debts, making it a crime to leave them unpaid for more than three years. That's likely in reaction to what Elections Canada called an unenforceable law that allowed candidates from the 2006 Liberal leadership campaign to go years without paying off their debts. The candidates were given several extensions of the original 18-month deadline to repay their loans before Elections Canada eventually decided not to take any of them to court, infuriating the Conservatives.
5. Exempting some fundraising from campaign spending limits
Any money spent to fundraise from people who have already made a donation of at least $20 in the last five years to a political party or any of its riding associations, candidates or nomination contestants won't count toward a party's campaign spending limit.
That could be a significant change. Parties spend a lot of money fundraising, and they ramp up their efforts during election campaigns. Not having what could be a significant chunk of that fundraising expense count against their campaign spending limits could free up significant money.
6. Stiffer penalties
The proposed reforms would increase the penalties for a range of offences. Fines for serious offences are increasing to $20,000 from $2,000 on summary conviction and to $50,000 from $5,000 on conviction on indictment.
The fine for most strict liability offences will double, going to $2,000 from $1,000.
Registered political parties will face maximum fines of $100,000 for political financing offences that are found to have been committed intentionally, and $50,000 maximums for strict liability offences. Each type of offence currently carries a maximum fine of $25,000.