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April, 11 2014 - No. 41

Opposition to Bill C-23,
An Act to Amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts

Position of the Marxist-Leninist
Party of Canada

Protest against Bill C-23, Edmonton, March 25, 2014. (Leadnow)

Opposition to Bill C-23, An Act to Amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts
Position of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada
Interventions Before Parliamentary Committee Largely Oppose Bill
Thousands of Canadians Deliver Message to MPs' Offices: Let People Vote! -- Fix the "Fair Elections Act" or Scrap It Entirely - Leadnow.ca, Council of Canadians, Canadian Federation of Students

For Your Information
Elections Bill Exacerbates Lack of Privacy, Political Parties Micro-Target Voters More - Laura Ryckewaert, Hill Times
The Value of Vouching: Why The (Un)Fair Elections Act Will Disenfranchise Vulnerable Canadians - BC Civil Liberties Association
Voter Identification Including Vouching -- Comparison with Provinces and Territories - Elections Canada

Position of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada

The Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada (MLPC) is opposed to Bill C-23 in its entirety and calls for its repeal.

The entire law has lost any connection with the fundamental aim of elections which is to enable Canadians to determine the popular will in a manner which transforms it into the legal will in the form of a party government.

The current electoral law specifically violates the right of Canadians to elect and to be elected because it enables political parties, not the electors, to set the agenda and select the candidates, and authorizes the use of public funds for political parties in a discriminatory fashion. The law should fund the process, not the parties.

The more amendments are made to the current electoral law, the more incoherent and irrational it becomes.

The changes the Harper Conservatives are now proposing make the law much worse. For instance, in the 2006 federal election the Conservative Party exceeded the national spending limit through the in-and-out- funding scheme that completely undermines the logic of having separate spending limits for candidates and for parties. The end result is that the Conservatives will be able to do the same thing, but now know how to do it so as to be in compliance with the Canada Elections Act. Bill C-23 will add to this by creating a virtually unlimited and untraceable exemption of expenses if they are only "fundraising activities." The Conservatives are trying to suggest there is such as thing as a phone call, or a mailout that simply says: "Give us money. Period." Still, we are told that one of the pillars of so-called free and fair elections -- spending limits that are supposed to ensure an even playing field -- are being strengthened.

All provisions of Bill C-23 restricting the communications that Elections Canada can have with the public, in any form, are unacceptable because they compromise the very independence of the electoral administrative body. The Conservatives have not presented any acceptable reason for the dismantling of Elections Canada. The "independence" which they claim to be defending is farcical. "Independence" refers to the necessity for elections to be administered and enforced with full independence from government interference and meddling -- precisely what the Conservatives are doing.

The MLPC supports all of the serious objections to the bill put forward by other Canadians and their organizations, such as on the issue of vouching and the elimination of Elections Canada's education programs. The MLPC also raises a serious objection to the provision of voter ID numbers to the political parties to facilitate their databases used for micro-targeting , such as CIMS and Liberalist.

The Canada Elections Act currently authorizes Elections Canada to maintain a Register of Electors that includes each elector's name, address, sex, birth date and a unique ID. The unique ID number stays with the elector from one election to the next allowing their participation in voting to be tracked over time by the parties using their sophisticated databases, combined with other information they collect on the elector. The law requires that the lists of electors provided to Members of Parliament, registered and eligible parties, and candidates contain the name, address and ID number. That all of this information is handed over to political parties which are not subject to the Privacy Act for use in micro-targeting during an election is unacceptable.

The ID numbers and the provision of so-called bingo cards -- the lists of who has voted provided by each poll -- was introduced by the Conservative minority government with Bill C-31 in 2007. There are no provisions enabling the elector to determine what information is handed over to the entities entitled to receive the list. Elections Canada is required to provide the lists of electors to each member of Parliament for his/her electoral district by November 15 of each year and upon request, to each federal registered party for the electoral district(s) in which they endorsed a candidate in the last general election or by-election.

When an election is called, the preliminary list of electors for all electoral districts are available to registered and eligible parties. The preliminary, updated and revised lists for specific ridings are also available to candidates, once their nomination is confirmed. Immediately following the election, registered parties are entitled to receive the final lists for the districts in which they fielded candidates, and candidates can receive the final list for their own riding.

The Canada Elections Act states that "inclusion in the Register of Electors is at the option of the elector" and Elections Canada's website provides information on how electors can opt out. If an elector opts out, he/she must register in order to vote, which now raises all the complications of disenfranchisement as a result of the removal of the vouching system and other measures.

The MLPC proposes that no voter ID number should appear on the party lists without the express affirmative permission of the elector. Specifically, the MLPC proposes that Canadians should be enabled to have their ID number removed from the list of electors provided to political parties. The number would then only appear on the list provided to Elections Canada workers.

The MLPC opposes the use of bingo cards and thinks it should be prohibited. In the opinion of the MLPC, the current amendment to enhance the use of bingo cards by requiring returning officers to provide them to candidates/parties after polling day constitutes a violation of the right to a secret ballot and seriously compromises the right to privacy and the right to freedom of conscience and association. All bingo card provisions need to be abolished. Meanwhile, measures are required to enforce the secrecy of the ballot, such as by permitting an elector to vote at any poll in his or her riding, not at a particular poll which then enables the parties to target a small number of people linked to that poll and find out who they vote for.

In the opinion of the MLPC, the high-handed manner of the Conservatives on this matter of the Elections Act is unacceptable and shows that the government is not fit to rule. Minister Pierre Poilievre should immediately resign for the contempt he has shown towards the public authorities, including the unprecedented personal attack on Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand. If Bill C-23 is adopted Canadians should demand the entire government's resignation.

Furthermore, the problem of this high-handed manner of the Conservatives is not merely a matter of a rogue party that is flouting the tenuous tradition of the government seeking broad support for electoral reforms. It shows that so long as the Canadian Constitution does not vest sovereignty in the people, as opposed to vesting it in the "Crown" which in effect means the Prime Minister, and so long as the electoral law is not recognized as a fundamental law which must be established through a democratically determined process on a non-partisan basis, Canadians will remain subject to the government of the day, both minority and majority, introducing laws such as this. This is unacceptable -- next to the Constitution, the electoral law is the fundamental legal framework that determines the most important issue of where sovereignty is vested which at present is not in the people.

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Interventions Before Parliamentary Committee
Largely Oppose Bill

Actions against Bill C-23 at Conservative MPs' offices in Vancouver and Port Moody, BC;
and Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, March 25, 2014.

Bill C-23 was sent to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) on February 10 after second reading. Since then, the Committee has met on the bill 14 times. In recent days, the Committee is holding evening hearings to push the bill through the committee process -- where potential changes could be made -- and return it to Parliament by the beginning of May, news agencies report. However, Parliament starts a 16-week break on Friday April 11 and so far the government has not indicated any interest in changing the bill. Meanwhile, the Senate also began a study of the bill on April 8. It voted April 7 to begin a "pre-study" of the legislation before the Commons is finished with it or has made any changes. The government has said it wants the law enacted by the end of June.

Since the bill went to the PROC, 65 organizations and individuals have appeared as witnesses before the PROC, including Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand; Chief Elections Commissioner Yves Côté; former Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley; former Auditor General of Canada Sheila Fraser; Keith Archer, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections BC; David Brock, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections NWT; Fair Vote Canada; the Assembly of First Nations; the Native Women's Association of Canada; the National Pensioners Federation; Canadian Association of Retired Persons; the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada; Reseau FADOQ; the Forum for Young Canadians; the Institute for Research on Public Policy; the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance; Council of Canadians with Disabilities; and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, as well as many academics.

Among many issues, interveners before the PROC have focused on new rules that will make it more difficult for a significant subset of voters to prove their residency and be eligible to vote. Before 2007, no identification at all was required to vote. Since the Conservatives brought in voter ID requirements in 2007, voters must present a piece of government-issued photo ID with their address (a driver's licence is one of the few such pieces in most provinces). Without photo ID including an address, voters must have two pieces of ID, at least one of which must show a home address. If a voter did not have proof of address, another fully identified person could "vouch" for them. The new law eliminates the practice of vouching. At the hearings held on the evening of April 7 alone, six interveners told the PROC the bill "is a deeply flawed effort."

"It just baffles my mind why the government's so intransigent to everyone coming forward saying there's problems here," Pat Kerwin of the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada which represents 500,000 pensioners and their spouses.

Amongst other things, Bill C-23 also forbids the use of voter information cards (VICs) mailed by Elections Canada to everyone on the voters' list, as proof of residency, which Kerwin also addressed.

"To us retirees, the removal of the VIC is a solution looking for a problem that has not been found," Kerwin told the committee, adding that many seniors use the VICs to tell them where their polling station is. He questioned why the government wants to disqualify one of the pieces of mail seniors are most likely to have in their possession at the polling station. "They all bring it with them: 'I've got the right to vote here,"' he said.

Kerwin told the Conservative MPs on the Committee, "Frankly, it doesn't even make sense for you as a Conservative. Seniors tend to vote more for the Conservative Party than any other ones. Yet you're going to limit them in voting. It betrays commons sense and even political sense to me."

Danis Prud'homme, chief executive officer of Reseau FADOQ, a Quebec 50-plus association with more than 300,000 members, said the Conservative bill is supposed to limit election fraud while increasing election spending by political parties and limiting Elections Canada's powers."What brand of logic is the government applying to justify such a reform?" asked Prud'homme.

Calvin Fraser, secretary general of the Canadian Teachers' Federation, said the popular Student Vote Canada program -- which prepares high school students not yet of voting age on how to participate -- will lose its non-partisan Elections Canada partner under provisions in the bill that sharply curtail the agency's public outreach.

"It seems to me this is absolutely the wrong time to discourage participation," said Fraser, adding he hears students saying their vote won't matter and the system is unfair. He called on MPs to change the bill to free up Elections Canada to continue its public work.

The Canadian Teachers Federation said, "If passed, this legislation will end Elections Canada's civic literacy program in Canadian schools (including Student Vote's mock election program which has involved over half a million students and teachers), undermine electoral participation and stifle public debate. C-23 is a travesty which fundamentally changes the way we vote and elect our representatives. C-23 is being pushed through the House of Commons without debate. The Canadian Teachers' Federation echoes the concerns raised by all opposition parties and key public officials including Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer.

Orangeville, Ontario, March 25, 2014

One of the most notable opponents to Bill C-23 is former Auditor General Sheila Fraser, who gave testimony to the Senate committee studying the bill and the PROC. In an interview with the Canadian Press on April 3, Fraser said that if Bill C-23 is allowed to pass without significant amendments, it would constitute an attack on Canada's democracy. Among other things, the proposed legislation would disenfranchise thousands of voters, undercut the independence of the chief electoral watchdog, impede investigations into wrongdoing, give a financial advantage to those who are rich, established parties and undermine Canadians' faith in the electoral system, she said, urging Canadians to speak up against the bill.

Fraser gave the opinion that Bill C-23 appears to be motivated by a desire to rein in Elections Canada because of its investigations into wrong-doing by the Harper Conservatives. CP notes that Elections Canada exposed the Conservatives illegal in-and-out scheme used to exceed its spending limit in the 2006 election; exposed illegal over-spending by former cabinet minister Peter Penashue; has charged Harper's one-time parliamentary secretary Dean Del Mastro with filing a false campaign return and failing to report campaign expenses; and is still investigating complaints about voter suppression in which robocalls misdirected primarily non-Conservative voters to the wrong polling stations in the 2011 election.

Fraser pointed to the bill's proposal to hive off the Elections Commissioner, who investigates alleged wrong-doing, from Elections Canada, thereby separating the regulation and enforcement functions of the agency and making it more difficult for investigators to access the expertise of elections officials. She also noted that the bill fails to give the Commissioner the power to compel witness testimony.

Fraser expressed concern about the inappropriateness of how the government is limiting the independence of officers of Parliament, such as the Chief Electoral Officer, noting how the bill imposes such limitations on the Chief Electoral Officer. Among other things, Bill C-23 would prohibit the Chief Electoral Officer from communicating with Canadians on anything but the mechanics of how, when and where to vote and it would prohibit the Elections Commissioner from talking about investigations. The bill would also require the Chief Electoral Officer to seek prior Treasury Board approval to enter into contracts with people with specialized or technical knowledge, she pointed out, adding that it could create "operational headaches" if Elections Canada must get prior approval to hire the thousands of temporary specialists and elections officials needed to run an election.

Fraser also expressed concern about a provision that would allow political parties to exempt from their campaign spending limits any money spent to raise funds from people who've donated at least $20 over the previous five years. She said that amounts to a giant loophole that would allow well-established parties to spend untold millions more during campaigns but would be "unfair" to new parties, which have no history of past donors. Furthermore, she questioned how solicitations for donations can be distinguished from those seeking voter support and how Elections Canada could monitor and verify that the exemption was not being abused. She noted that the bill does not give the agency the power to audit party books or demand to see their records, invoices or receipts. "There's such a fuss being made about lunch money and what [politicians] spend for travel and [yet] the political parties get more than $30 million [in rebates and tax credits] and there's no real accounting back," Fraser said.

Many academics have also testified before the committee to oppose the bill. A group of political science professors recently expressed alarm in the National Post at, "the lack of due process in drafting the bill and in rushing it through Parliament." This includes 160 academics across the country who are involved in studying "the principles and institutional democracy." Among the signatories are prominent electoral law experts, including Leslie Seidle who headed the voluminous research conducted by the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing in 1992.

The professors state that the adoption of Bill C-23 "would damage the institution at the heart of our country's democracy: voting in federal elections." They appeal to the government to listen to the calls that have been made for wider consultations to vet the Bill and express concerns that the proposals in Bill C-23 would "seriously damage the fairness and transparency of federal elections and diminish Canadians' political participation." The academics say they are "alarmed at the lack of due process in drafting the Bill and in rushing it through Parliament. We see no justification for introducing legislation of such pivotal importance to our democracy without significant consultation with Elections Canada, opposition parties, and the public at large."

"This bill is an affront to democracy," said Robyn Benson, the Public Service Alliance of Canada's National President. "It does nothing to address the voting irregularities that happened in the last federal election and only puts up road blocks that would make it harder for people to cast their ballots."

In related news, a poll jointly commissioned by the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Federation of Students, and LeadNow found that a majority of Canadians polled opposed many of the proposed changes in the Bill. In particular, provisions that would eliminate the voucher system, prevent Elections Canada from publicly reporting on election fraud, and cancel Elections Canada's research and public education programs received the most significant opposition.

Seventy per cent of respondents said that the act's elimination of Elections Canada's ability to publicly report on voter complaints it receives, including about fraudulent calls, makes them less supportive of the legislation.

(With files from CP, CBC/Radio-Canada, Hill Times, original sources; Photos: Leadnow)

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Thousands of Canadians Deliver Message to MPs' Offices

Let People Vote! -- Fix the "Fair Elections Act"
or Scrap It Entirely

Vancouver, March 25, 2014

Canadians rallied at over 25 Conservative MPs' offices today [March 25] to oppose the government's proposed changes to election law and tell their MPs to "Let People Vote!"

Citizens delivered an 80,000-strong petition that opposes the unnecessarily strict voter ID requirements that could stop hundreds of thousands from voting in the next election, and calls for election fraud investigators to be given the power to compel political operatives to testify.

The "Let People Vote!" national day of action was supported and facilitated by Leadnow.ca, the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students.

"People are worried that the changes to the elections law are politically motivated," said Jamie Biggar, Executive Director of Leadnow.ca. "We've seen politicians use similar tactics in the US to disenfranchise people if they think they will vote for the other side."

A recent poll shows that a majority of Canadians oppose the provisions in the Unfair Elections Act that would eliminate the voucher system, prevent Elections Canada from publicly reporting on election fraud, and cancel Elections Canada's research and public education programs.

"The Unfair Elections Act proposes dangerous changes that undermine the rights of young voters and will ensure a continued decline to already low voter turnouts," said Jessica McCormick, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. "Students stand united with Canadians across the country to oppose the Unfair Elections Act."

"The Unfair Elections Act does nothing to bring to justice the people behind the widespread election fraud in 2011 and would actually make it harder to catch perpetrators of election fraud like Pierre Poutine," says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. "Canadians have the right to know when election fraud has been reported and if it is being investigated. That fact that this bill would prevent that is deeply troubling."

Stop U.S.-Style Voter Suppression from
Becoming Canadian Law

- Leadnow.ca -

To: Our Members of Parliament

Remove the parts of the new elections law that would suppress voting by young people, Aboriginal people and low-income people. Replace those parts by giving election fraud investigators the power they need to compel testimony from political operatives.

Why is this important?

The Harper Conservatives are trying to rush their 242-page election law through Parliament with minimal debate and no expert testimony, despite major flaws that would have lasting consequences for our democracy.[1]

It boils down to this: instead of giving the people who investigate election fraud the power to compel testimony - the key power Elections Canada has needed to get to the bottom of the robocall scandal -- this new election law would make it harder for young people, Aboriginal people and low-income people to vote.[2]

Incredibly, the misleadingly named "Fair Election Law" would even make it illegal for Elections Canada to promote voting.[3]

The law contains some good measures to curb fraudulent robocalls. However, it imposes unnecessary new voter ID laws that would make it illegal for people to vote by using a voter identification card or by having someone "vouch" for their identity with a legal statement.[4]

Independent reports have confirmed that fraud by individual voters is so rare that it basically doesn't happen. In turn, 120,000 Canadians voted by being vouched for in the last election, and this change would hurt young people, Aboriginal people and low-income people the most.[5]

We've seen a similar strategy used by US Republicans to disenfranchise people who they know are less likely to vote for them. 37 state legislature have enacted voter ID laws that mostly hurt the poor, people of colour, and women.[6]

Please sign this urgent petition to stop US-style voter suppression tactics from becoming the law of the land in Canada, and call for our elections watchdog to have the power it needs to compel political operatives to testify.

If 25,000 people sign this petition we will organize a major petition delivery at the committee meeting. Update: You did it! And we delivered the petitions to Parliament and the committee meeting! Now if we reach 75,000 signatures we'll organize a major national action to deliver the petitions to Conservative MP offices across the country.

Update: We have partnered with Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students to deliver over 82,000 signatures collected by the three organizations at Conservative MP offices on March 25th. To join an action near you go to http://www.leadnow.ca/let-people-vote/

[To sign the petition click here.]


Direct link to the act

New source: Harper wants to make it harder for you to vote

[1]Tories move to cut short debate on new election act

[2]Conservatives' Fair Elections Act eliminates the referee, Marc Mayrand says

[3] Election bill reveals Conservatives' view on voter turnout: Hébert

[4] Conservatives to table bill that will reorganize Elections Canada

[5] COMPLIANCE REVIEW: FINAL REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS - A Review of Compliance with Election Day Registration and Voting Process Rules

[6] Voter IDs Are Not the Problem: A Survey of Three State, American University Center for Democracy and Election Management

[7] Election Fraud in America, News 21

Investigate and Prevent Electoral Fraud
with a Truly Fair Elections Act

- Council of Canadians -

The proposed "Fair Elections Act" is a serious threat to democracy in Canada. It eliminates key provisions of our current election system -- including vouching and voter ID cards -- which could deprive as many as 520,000 Canadians of their right to vote. It would muzzle Elections Canada, cancelling voter education and engagement programs like Student Vote.

The Unfair Elections Act does nothing to address the widespread election fraud that took place in at least 247 ridings in 2011, and would make it easier for people like Pierre Poutine to get away with election fraud in the future. It would prevent Elections Canada from reporting on election fraud it does discover.

We need election reform that makes it easier, not harder, to prevent and prosecute election fraud. Join us in calling for the investigation and prevention of electoral fraud with a truly fair Elections Act.

Whereas the Federal Court found that an unprecedented, covert and widespread campaign of voter suppression was perpetrated on Canadian voters in the 41st General Election;

Whereas the Federal Court found that this campaign targeted Canadians who had indicated they would not be voting for the Conservative Party of Canada;

Whereas the Federal Court found that the most likely source of the data used to perpetrate this fraud is the Conservative Party's CIMS database;

Whereas serious deficiencies in the antiquated Canada Elections Act have hampered the Commissioner of Elections from prosecuting those involved in the fraud; and

Whereas only urgent and meaningful action by the Government of Canada to remedy this fraud will restore the confidence of Canadians in our electoral process and our democracy;

Therefore we call on the Government of Canada to:

1. Launch a public inquiry to find and bring to justice the person or persons responsible for accessing the Conservative Party of Canada's CIMS database for the purpose of perpetrating election fraud in the 41st General Election.

2. Table electoral reform legislation that incorporates the recommendations of Elections Canada, establishes enforceable standards for the conduct of political parties, enhances the ability of individual voters to challenge election results that have been obtained through "fraud or corrupt or illegal practices", and protects voters from being victimized by election fraud again.

To sign the petition, click here.

(Photos: Leadnow)

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For Your Information

Elections Bill Exacerbates Lack of Privacy, Political Parties Micro-Target Voters More

MPs may be federal law-makers, but there are no laws restricting how political parties can collect or use personal information about voters in Canada, and with the development of micro-targeting techniques, information is more important than ever in politics, however, parties aren't working to close this legislative gap out of "self-interest," say experts.

"It's in parties' self-interest to not be covered by these particular rules and regulations [privacy laws]. They want to be able to collect information and not have to worry about abiding by rules and standards there's no reason whatsoever that political parties shouldn't play by the same rules as businesses and government institutions," said Jonathon Penney, an associate law professor at Dalhousie University with a focus on intellectual property and information security issues, in an interview last week with The Hill Times.

"There's a real incentive I think for parties to collect more information, because the richer the information, the better your analytics will be, the more you can micro-target, the more you can segment your voter base and shape an individual message to target specific voters for specific reasons, and your electoral strategies and your voter messaging is going to be that much better the richer and deeper and more detailed your information is about the electorate," he said.

On Feb. 4, the Conservative government introduced Bill C-23, dubbed the Fair Elections Act, a 121-page package of sweeping electoral reform measures, and the largest electoral reform package introduced by this government to date. But there are no privacy provisions to address the fact that political parties aren't covered by Canadian privacy laws, something successive federal privacy commissioners have for years called on successive federal governments to do.

More and more, information is a crucial commodity in politics, as political campaigns are increasingly hinged on an ability to understand and micro-target voters to both fundraise and win votes.

In recent years, political parties of all stripes have focused efforts on developing database systems to better collect and store information on electors. The Liberal Party, for example, is reported to have spent millions on acquiring database and voter outreach technology used by the Democrats on Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, and much has been written about the sophistication of the Conservatives' Constituent Information Management System (CIMS).

Provincially, some legislation does exist, including in British Columbia where provincial parties are covered by the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA). But federally, there's nothing to govern how parties collect, use, or distribute information, as the Privacy Act only covers government institutions, and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) only refers to organizations collecting information for commercial purposes. Federal parties are only regulated by privacy provisions in the Canada Elections Act, and those only cover information provided to political parties by Elections Canada through voter lists, which only contain names and addresses of registered voters, and nothing else.

"Practices that have been going on in the United States for a while have migrated up to Canada, so increasingly micro-targeting of voters, increasing collection about voter behaviours, associations, affiliations. In the United States, it's known as ‘voter intelligence,' it's built up as a whole industry and a lot of those practices have slowly migrated and have made their way into Canadian politics," said Mr. Penney.

Parties are investing in and building technological capacities to better collect and retain information about voters, including voting tendencies, said Mr. Penney.

"This is an area that we really need to act, we need some, at the very least, basic privacy and data protection measures for Canadians in this process. Political parties are increasing their surveillance, are increasing their data collection and it's only going to get worse," he said.

Kris Klein, a privacy lawyer and part-time professor of law at the University of Ottawa, said personal information is an "extremely valuable" commodity today, and everyone, from corporations like Google and Facebook to political parties, have "gotten into the habit of collecting more and more personal information."

Mr. Klein said the fact that no federal privacy laws exist to restrict parties when it comes to personal information has been a "longstanding problem."

"It makes for a really large black hole because there are a lot of different organizations that collect lots of personal information and, over the years, we've tightened up our rules to make sure that they're all subject to at least some set of law and politicians have meanwhile given themselves sort of the back door and a free reign, and as a result there are no rules with respect to what the political parties can do," said Mr.. Klein.

"Why create a double standard?" he asked.

Federal parties do all have their own individual privacy policies and statements, and while Mr. Klein said it's a good first step, these policies aren't enough.

At a recent Manning Conference session on campaign micro-targeting, software delegates were told about how they could use text keys (so having people text a key word to a number provided) as an easy way to engage voters and get contact information. Mr. Klein said this use of text keys is a "perfect example" of why mere privacy policies aren't enough.

"One of the basic tenants of privacy law is that proper notice must be given to the individual at the time of collection," said Mr. Klein, adding that means being clear and upfront that information is being collected, is going to be added into a database, and explaining what it will be used for.

"They may have a privacy policy that says something, but low and behold they've instituted a practice that falls very short of the standard that's found in law and if the political parties were made subject to the law then that notice requirement would be a legal requirement," he said.

Recently, following the birth of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's (Papineau, Que.) son, Hadrien, the party invited people to send in well-wishes, names and email address attached.

There have been a number of instances where concerns were raised over use of the Conservative Party's database.

In 2006, Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, Ont.) sent out birthday cards to people in her riding. In 2012, Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Alta.) landed in hot water after media reported his office had mined information about voters from an online petition in support of a gay artist who was facing deportation. And more recently Conservative MP Eve Adams (Mississauga-Brampton South, Ont.) has also come under fire for reportedly using CIMS to contact voters outside her riding.

Parties are tight-lipped about how and what sort of information is collected, and for what purposes, but it's clear the information held by parties goes well beyond the names and addresses provided by Elections Canada. Namely, parties have voter phone numbers and parties are increasingly using campaign software that allows for integrated data collection and voter outreach.

A program called NationBuilder, for example, helps campaigns to compile profiles of voters in a riding, and to mine data. So if a campaign got hold of someone's email address it could be used to find social media or other internet activity linked to that email address, and then that information could be siphoned off and added to a profile, like a person's list of Twitter followers, for example. (read: connections). The software also allows campaigns to track someone's activity related to the campaign (whether they're got a lawn sign, whether a tweet encouraged people to donate) and includes a live stream of social media activity, among other things.

David Fraser, a privacy lawyer and partner at McInnes Cooper Lawyers, said political parties could also use basic information like a postal code to make inferences about voters, like whether or not they live in a wealthy area. He said a "principal concern" is that people don't even know what information parties have.

"There's no transparency whatsoever, and no regulation and no limit of what information they're collecting," said Mr. Fraser.

"They could be drafting and pulling a whole bunch of public information from a whole bunch of different places that creates a much fuller picture," he said.

Mr. Fraser said the privacy policies or statements that parties have aren't enough and said if parties violated it, the public would never be made aware.

Mr. Penney said most Canadians would be surprised at the level of information parties are collecting about voters, and said political parties don't like to talk about information-gathering practices likely because it wouldn't sit well with voters.

The federal court ruling on the robocalls case found that "orchestrated" efforts to suppress votes took place during the 2011 federal election "by a person with access to the CIMS database," and Mr. Fraser said this is a good example of why laws are needed to protect information held by parties.

"For businesses, the law is whenever you collect personal information you have to get informed consent, which means you have to identify the purposes by which you're going to collect the information and how you're going to use it, but political parties don't have to do that so they can collect information covertly," said Mr. Fraser.

Mr. Fraser said fair information practices for organizations in federal law require accountability, identifying the purpose, consent, transparency, right of access of an individual to their own information, a mechanism to deal with complaints, and a legal obligation to keep information secure.

Mr. Klein said it's "mind-boggling" to him that Bill C-23 doesn't include measures to bring political parties under some sort of privacy regime, and he said parties have similarly left a door open when it comes to the government's new anti-spamming legislation that comes into force on July 1.

"When it comes to emailing people, there's a set of really stringent standards that everybody in Canada is going to have to apply, and then glaringly there's an exception right in there for political parties that they don't have to comply with the anti-spam law," said Mr.. Klein.

In fact, Mr. Penney said Bill C-23 is "exacerbating" the problem of a lack of privacy laws, as it will be giving parties even more information that can be plugged into database systems.

Under Bill C-23, Elections Canada would be required to provide parties with an officially compiled list of who has and hasn't voted after an election. Currently, parties have scrutineers at polls (provided they have them) manually fill out what's called bingo cards tracking who has voted on Election Day, with the idea being that it facilitates Get Out the Vote efforts. The current system is unofficial, done in the rush of Election Day and often bingo cards are lost in the shuffle after the day of, but with Bill C-23, parties will get a list compiled by Elections Canada.

Mr. Fraser said he doesn't think it's anyone's business, not even political parties', whether someone has or hasn't voted.

Mr. Fraser said he doesn't get a sense from any political party that it thinks bringing in privacy laws is a priority. "Why would they want to tie their own hands?"

"Very few people sign up for or seek out ways to regulate themselves even further, politicians are in the enviable position of being bale to make the rules for everybody else but exempt themselves from it, and I think that that's what they've done," said Mr. Fraser.

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The Value of Vouching: Why The (Un)Fair Elections Act Will Disenfranchise Vulnerable Canadians

On April 2nd, 2014 the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) sent Counsel Raji Mangat to Parliament to argue that proposed amendments to the Canada Elections Act are unconstitutional and undemocratic. The BCCLA's main concern is the removal of the vouching provisions from the electoral law. The presentation to the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs outlines the problem.

"I am here on behalf of the BC Civil Liberties Association, a non-partisan, non-profit organization based in Vancouver. My statement will focus on the BCCLA's main concern -- the removal of vouching from the means by which voter identity may be proven.

"The BCCLA was critical of the original enactment of voter ID requirements in 2007. We have also intervened in a constitutional challenge to Canada's voter ID laws in the Henry case. This case has been heard by the BC Supreme Court and the BC Court of Appeal. Both courts found that the voter ID laws are a prima facie violation of section 3 of the Charter. Both courts also found that the voter ID laws enacted in 2007 are justifiable in a free and democratic society. On Monday, an application was made to the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal the BC Court of Appeal decision in Henry.

"In its defence of the voter ID laws in the Henry case, the Attorney General of Canada himself pointed to vouching as one way in which the negative effect of the law on people without ID would be minimized. The Attorney General argued that vouching is a "failsafe" in the legislation because it allows eligible electors without the requisite types of ID to cast a ballot. Removing vouching as a means by which individuals can prove identity will certainly make this law unconstitutional and ripe for a Charter challenge.

"Much has been made about the 39 forms of ID acceptable to prove voter eligibility. I ask the Committee to look critically at this list. While the listed forms of ID may indeed be largely available to a middle-class suburban voter, these are not viable forms of ID for many Canadians, including many of the people on whose behalf the BCCLA acts.

"A homeless citizen on the downtown eastside of Vancouver does not have a pension plan statement. He or she does not have utility bills, or vehicle ownership insurance, or a residential lease, or an income tax assessment. It strains credulity to believe that these 39 forms of ID are an answer to the disenfranchisement that will result from this Bill. Before 2007, statutory declarations were permitted as a form of ID to satisfy election officials about the eligibility of voters and hundreds of voters on the Downtown Eastside were able to swear statutory declarations establishing their right to vote. Demand for statutory declarations was growing. Amendments in 2007 eliminated the statutory declaration, and put in place the limited vouching system that we have now.

"Of the prescribed forms of secondary ID -- one -- a letter from a shelter or soup kitchen may be within reach for some of these individuals, but all too many of our citizens are unsheltered. Theft of identity documentation is a big problem among the homeless population in Vancouver and in other cities. Obtaining and retaining current documentation is expensive and difficult for those with no fixed address. Where such identity documentation does exist, it will very rarely provide the individual's current residence.

"Everyone agrees that we need to encourage and increase voter turnout, particularly among first-time voters, and voters in certain communities. Everyone also agrees that we need to reduce irregularities in the voting process. The disagreement comes when we consider how to do this. Some of the measures to reduce irregularities being proposed in this Bill -- such as the removal of vouching and limitation of the use of Voter Information Cards -- will disproportionately and materially impact the ability of many of our most vulnerable and marginalized citizens to vote. They will "remove" irregularities by effectively disenfranchising these voters. That's unacceptable.

"In a free and democratic society, the right to vote cannot be sacrificed at the altar of convenience. There is a misconception that if we remove vouching, we will remove serious irregularities and, ergo, we will remove fraud. Voter ID laws have the potential to address one form of fraud -- voter impersonation. Irregularities in how the polls operate -- even serious ones -- are not proof positive of voter fraud. All other minimally impairing options for reducing irregularities must be considered before we take even one step toward unconstitutional disenfranchisement. This would include improved recruitment and training of polling staff.

"This Bill takes as its starting point an impoverished view not only of democracy in this country, but also of the integrity of Canadian citizens in exercising their most fundamental political rights. The Bill presumes voter impersonation fraud where there is evidence of none. It subverts the underlying purpose of the legislation, which is to foster the exercise of the franchise. Removing vouching from the legislation will do nothing to enhance public confidence in the electoral system; instead it will effectively nullify the political participation of the most marginalized and vulnerable in our society. In the BCCLA's view, that would be the real threat to the integrity of our electoral system."

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Voter Identification Including Vouching --
Comparison with Provinces and Territories

Requirements for Proof of Identity and Address When Voting

Federal Elections

A core principle of Canadian federal elections is that every person who is a Canadian citizen and at least 18 years old can vote. Since 2007, when electors go to vote, they need to prove:

- Who they are -- their identity

- Where they live -- their address

Most electors can provide that information easily with a driver's licence because it contains both a proof of identity and address. But for others, the ability to prove where they live presents real challenges. For these qualified electors, having another elector who knows them and who lives in the same polling division vouch for them is the only way they will be able to vote in a federal election.

In the 2011 election, an estimated 120,000 voters relied on vouching to cast their ballot.

Provincial and Territorial Elections

Provinces and territories each have their own set of rules for voter identification and authorize different documents. For instance, if your name is on the provincial or territorial voters list in Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island or Yukon, you don't need to show any ID at all when you go vote in the provincial or territorial election. Jurisdictions that do require proof of identity or address have a safety net: either vouching or a legal declaration.

The table below shows each jurisdiction's voter identification requirements at the polls for electors already on the voters list.

Voting: Identification Requirements on Polling Day

Province or Territory Documentary Proof of Identity Documentary Proof of Address Alternative to Documentary Proof
Alberta No No Not necessary
British Columbia* Yes Yes Yes (vouching)
Manitoba No No Not necessary
New Brunswick No No Not necessary
Newfoundland and Labrador No No Not necessary
Northwest Territories Yes Yes Yes (vouching)
Nova Scotia No No Not necessary
Nunavut No No Not necessary
Ontario Yes No Yes (declaration)
Prince Edward Island No No Not necessary
Quebec Yes No Yes (vouching)
Saskatchewan* Yes Yes Yes (vouching)
Yukon No No Not necessary
Canada Yes Yes Yes (vouching)

*This province accepts the elector information card as a valid piece of ID.

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