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With so much controversy swirling about foreign influence in Canadian elections, Justin Trudeau’s government took a serious step.

As a safeguard against foreign influence in the 2019 election, the election-reform bill presented on Monday was a bit too little, and a bit too late. But it still took real steps to protect the Canadian-ness of Canadian future elections.

Social-media companies such as Facebook and Twitter will be barred from knowingly taking foreign election ads. There are new but limited restrictions on foreigners making false statements about candidates, like falsely claiming they have a criminal record. And the bill, presented by Treasury Board President Scott Brison, the acting minister for democratic institutions, requires third parties – organizations other than political parties – to report all the donations they receive and use for partisan electoral purposes.

The government could have taken bolder steps, such as banning all foreign money from electioneering – that’s what Conservative Senator Linda Frum has proposed. Instead, it tightened the rules, but not all the way. It’s a good step, but the government could have gone further.

The meat of the government’s elections bill wasn’t really about foreign influence. Its new measures – aside from those incorporated from a previously tabled bill – were mostly about extending spending limits to adjust to fixed-date elections. Until now, spending limits on political parties and third parties applied only to the short official campaign period after election writs are issued – typically about six weeks. Now another set of spending limits will kick in nine or 10 weeks earlier. That restricts the political campaigns of unions and activist groups – but since the spending limits in the bill are relatively high, it’s not a very tight restriction.

But the Liberals also faced pressure to do something about foreign influence to respond to a global controversy. It’s not just the social-media ads, fake news and hacking of Democrats’ e-mails in the United States election, or in France’s election last year. In Australia, foreign donations were banned last year after an MP who received a donation from a Chinese tycoon then delivered a pro-China speech.

And in Canada, there have been consistent complaints from Conservatives that foreign money funded anti-Tory campaigns by left-wing and environmentalist groups in the run-up to the 2015 election.

Already, the law doesn’t allow those third-party groups to use foreign funds to pay for partisan ads – the kind that are for or against a candidate – during an election campaign. Now Mr. Brison’s bill would extend that prohibition to a prewrit period that starts almost four months before an election.

The bigger thing is that those organizations will now have to declare the donations they receive for electioneering, including foreign money, and keep a dedicated bank account for that purpose. That’s an important piece of transparency that should make it easier to determine who is bankrolling third-party election campaigns – and whether there really is a lot of foreign money flowing into Canadian politics.

“They’re making a reasonable – and they hope effective – effort to put a fence around the money that would flow into [election] advertising,” said Leslie Seidle, research director for Institute for Research on Public Policy.

Senator Frum’s bill would go further. It would ban any foreign donations for purposes related to an election, not just for four months before the vote, but any time. It raises a basic question: Should foreign money ever be allowed into Canadian electioneering?

The new system won’t be flawless. It’s not easy to tie a specific donation to particular use, to say which donation financed what activity six months later. Organizations could channel Canadian donations into their campaign bank accounts and allocate foreign money to their other activities. Still, it makes it hard for foreign interests to build their own campaign machine.

The bill will be passed a year before the election, so the organizations will only report a year of donations, foreign or otherwise. And the reports will only come in four months after the 2019 election. It won’t have much effect on the 2019 campaign – and the transparency will come after. Canadians won’t really have a good sense of how effective it is until after the next election. And if those reports suggest there’s a fair bit of foreign money in Canadian elections, there will be pressure to go further.