Strange bedfellows: Canada’s power couple join forces to override privacy concerns

OTTAWA — The  Conservative and Liberal parties have joined forces to deny Canadians a fundamental human right — the right to privacy — by refusing to consider a legislative amendment that would protect people’s personal information.

With NDP colleague Nathan Cullen, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May spent an evening in committee this week advocating for a measure in the Elections Modernization Act that would protect the personal information of Canadians. “There’s a gap in the Act that has been roundly criticized by election experts, notably former Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand ” said Ms. May.  “There’s no reason political parties can’t adhere to the same laws that govern the private sector.”

As it stands, the Conservatives, Liberals and other parties gather data on Canadians and mine it to better angle for their vote. “Their vast resources and capacity for data analysis not only puts personal privacy at risk but their systems can also be hacked by rogue powers who can swing an election,” said Ms. May.

“We saw it with the election of Trump and in the Brexit referendum. Today the integrity of the vote is at risk like never before. Not to mention the activities of social media giants like Facebook and firms like Cambridge Analytica which have proven to be unreliable partners in the democratic process.”

“We’re creating a wild west situation in which political parties are vulnerable, citizens’ data is vulnerable, the average person whose door we knock on is vulnerable, and we have got to get a handle on it. Without changes to the Act we’ll be having the 2019 election with inadequate protections,” said Ms. May.

Ms. May proposed an amendment requiring all political parties to respect the principles of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), including an annual audit of their privacy policies. In short, Ms. May’s proposed amendment would hold political parties to the same standards the public and private sectors must uphold.

Conservative and Liberal members of the committee all voted to reject the amendment.