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)
of the Marxist-Leninist
Party of Canada
of Canadians Deliver
Message to MPs' Offices: Let People Vote! -- Fix the "Fair
Elections Act" or Scrap It Entirely
Council of Canadians, Canadian Federation of
Bill Exacerbates Lack
of Privacy, Political Parties Micro-Target Voters More -
• The Value
of Vouching: Why The
(Un)Fair Elections Act Will Disenfranchise Vulnerable
Canadians - BC Civil Liberties
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
The current electoral law specifically violates the
Canadians to elect and to be elected because it enables political
the electors, to set the agenda and select the candidates, and
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
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
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
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
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
The Canada Elections
Act states that "inclusion in the
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
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
Conservatives on this matter of the Elections
Act is unacceptable and
shows that the government is not fit to rule. Minister Pierre Poilievre
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
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.
Interventions Before Parliamentary Committee
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
holding evening hearings to push the bill through the committee process
where potential changes could be made -- and return it to Parliament by
beginning of May, news agencies report. However, Parliament starts a
16-week break on Friday April 11 and so far the government has not
any interest in changing the bill. Meanwhile, the Senate also began a
the bill on April 8. It voted April 7 to begin a "pre-study" of the
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
appeared as witnesses before the PROC, including Chief Electoral
Marc Mayrand; Chief Elections Commissioner Yves Côté;
Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley; former Auditor General of
Sheila Fraser; Keith Archer, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections BC;
Brock, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections NWT; Fair Vote Canada; the
Assembly of First Nations; the Native Women's Association of Canada;
National Pensioners Federation; Canadian Association of Retired
Congress of Union Retirees of Canada; Reseau FADOQ; the Forum for Young
Canadians; the Institute for Research on Public Policy; the Canadian
Policy Alliance; Council of Canadians with Disabilities; and the
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
was required to vote. Since the Conservatives brought in voter ID
in 2007, voters must present a piece of government-issued photo ID with
address (a driver's licence is one of the few such pieces in most
Without photo ID including an address, voters must have two pieces of
least one of which must show a home address. If a voter did not have
of address, another fully identified person could "vouch" for them. The
law eliminates the practice of vouching. At the hearings held on the
of April 7 alone, six interveners told the PROC the bill "is a deeply
"It just baffles my mind why the government's so
intransigent to everyone
coming forward saying there's problems here," Pat Kerwin of the
Union Retirees of Canada which represents 500,000 pensioners and their
Amongst other things, Bill C-23 also forbids the use of
cards (VICs) mailed by Elections Canada to everyone on the voters'
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
use the VICs to tell them where their polling station is. He questioned
government wants to disqualify one of the pieces of mail seniors are
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
Conservative Party than any other ones. Yet you're going to limit them
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
bill is supposed to limit election fraud while increasing election
political parties and limiting Elections Canada's powers."What brand of
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
Elections Canada partner under provisions in the bill that sharply
agency's public outreach.
"It seems to me this is absolutely the wrong time to
participation," said Fraser, adding he hears students saying their vote
matter and the system is unfair. He called on MPs to change the bill to
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
Student Vote's mock election program which has involved over half a
students and teachers), undermine electoral participation and stifle
debate. C-23 is a travesty which fundamentally changes the way we vote
elect our representatives. C-23 is being pushed through the House of
without debate. The Canadian Teachers' Federation echoes the concerns
by all opposition parties and key public officials including Marc
Chief Electoral Officer.
March 25, 2014
One of the most notable opponents to Bill C-23 is former
Sheila Fraser, who gave testimony to the Senate committee studying the
and the PROC. In an interview with the Canadian Press on April 3,
that if Bill C-23 is allowed to pass without significant amendments, it
constitute an attack on Canada's democracy. Among other things, the
legislation would disenfranchise thousands of voters, undercut the
independence of the chief electoral watchdog, impede investigations
wrongdoing, give a financial advantage to those who are rich,
established parties and
undermine Canadians' faith in the electoral system, she said, urging
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
the Conservatives illegal in-and-out scheme used to exceed its spending
in the 2006 election; exposed illegal over-spending by former cabinet
Peter Penashue; has charged Harper's one-time parliamentary secretary
Del Mastro with filing a false campaign return and failing to report
expenses; and is still investigating complaints about voter suppression
robocalls misdirected primarily non-Conservative voters to the wrong
stations in the 2011 election.
Fraser pointed to the bill's proposal to hive off the
who investigates alleged wrong-doing, from Elections Canada, thereby
separating the regulation and enforcement functions of the agency and
it more difficult for investigators to access the expertise of
She also noted that the bill fails to give the Commissioner the power
Fraser expressed concern about the inappropriateness of
government is limiting the independence of officers of Parliament, such
Chief Electoral Officer, noting how the bill imposes such limitations
on the Chief Electoral Officer. Among other things, Bill C-23 would
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
talking about investigations. The bill would also require the Chief
Electoral Officer to seek prior Treasury Board approval to enter into
people with specialized or technical knowledge, she pointed out, adding
it could create "operational headaches" if Elections Canada must get
approval to hire the thousands of temporary specialists and elections
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
raise funds from people who've donated at least $20 over the previous
years. She said that amounts to a giant loophole that would allow
well-established parties to spend untold millions more during campaigns
be "unfair" to new parties, which have no history of past donors.
she questioned how solicitations for donations can be distinguished
seeking voter support and how Elections Canada could monitor and verify
the exemption was not being abused. She noted that the bill does not
agency the power to audit party books or demand to see their records,
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
million [in rebates and tax credits] and there's no real accounting
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
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
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
They appeal to the government to listen to the calls that have been
wider consultations to vet the Bill and express concerns that the
Bill C-23 would "seriously damage the fairness and transparency of
elections and diminish Canadians' political participation." The
they are "alarmed at the lack of due process in drafting the Bill and
it through Parliament. We see no justification for introducing
such pivotal importance to our democracy without significant
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
happened in the last federal election and only puts up road blocks that
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
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
Seventy per cent of respondents said that the act's
elimination of Elections
Canada's ability to publicly report on voter complaints it receives,
about fraudulent calls, makes them less supportive of the legislation.
Canadians Deliver Message to MPs'
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
Citizens delivered an 80,000-strong petition that
opposes the unnecessarily
strict voter ID requirements that could stop hundreds of thousands from
in the next election, and calls for election fraud investigators to be
power to compel political operatives to testify.
The "Let People Vote!" national day of action was
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
politicians use similar tactics in the US to disenfranchise people if
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,
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
turnouts," said Jessica McCormick, National Chairperson of the Canadian
Federation of Students. "Students stand united with Canadians across
country to oppose the Unfair
"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,"
Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. "Canadians
the right to know when election fraud has been reported and if it is
investigated. That fact that this bill would prevent that is deeply
Stop U.S.-Style Voter Suppression from
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
by giving election fraud investigators the power they need to compel
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.
It boils down to this: instead of giving the people who
fraud the power to compel testimony - the key power Elections Canada
needed to get to the bottom of the robocall scandal -- this new
would make it harder for young people, Aboriginal people and low-income
people to vote.
Incredibly, the misleadingly named "Fair Election Law"
would even make
it illegal for Elections Canada to promote voting.
The law contains some good measures to curb fraudulent
However, it imposes unnecessary new voter ID laws that would make it
for people to vote by using a voter identification card or by having
"vouch" for their identity with a legal statement.
Independent reports have confirmed that fraud by
individual voters is so
rare that it basically doesn't happen. In turn, 120,000 Canadians voted
being vouched for in the last election, and this change would hurt
people, Aboriginal people and low-income people the most.
We've seen a similar strategy used by US Republicans to
people who they know are less likely to vote for them. 37 state
have enacted voter ID laws that mostly hurt the poor, people of colour,
Please sign this urgent petition to stop US-style voter
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
If 25,000 people sign this petition we will organize a
delivery at the committee meeting. Update: You did it! And we delivered
petitions to Parliament and the committee meeting! Now if we reach
signatures we'll organize a major national action to deliver the
Conservative MP offices across the country.
Update: We have partnered with Council of Canadians and
Federation of Students to deliver over 82,000 signatures collected by
organizations at Conservative MP offices on March 25th. To join an
near you go to http://www.leadnow.ca/let-people-vote/
[To sign the petition click here.]
for you to
of Compliance with Election Day
Registration and Voting Process Rules
IDs Are Not the Problem: A Survey of Three
University Center for Democracy and Election Management
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
current election system -- including vouching and voter ID cards --
deprive as many as 520,000 Canadians of their right to vote. It would
Elections Canada, cancelling voter education and engagement programs
The Unfair Elections Act does nothing to
widespread election fraud that took place in at least 247 ridings in
would make it easier for people like Pierre Poutine to get away with
fraud in the future. It would prevent Elections Canada from reporting
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
of electoral fraud with a truly fair Elections Act.
Whereas the Federal Court found that an unprecedented,
widespread campaign of voter suppression was perpetrated on Canadian
in the 41st General Election;
Whereas the Federal Court found that this
Canadians who had indicated they would not be voting for the
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
Whereas serious deficiencies in the antiquated Canada Elections
Act have hampered the Commissioner of Elections from prosecuting
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
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
database for the purpose of perpetrating election fraud in the 41st
2. Table electoral reform legislation that incorporates
of Elections Canada, establishes enforceable standards for the conduct
political parties, enhances the ability of individual voters to
results that have been obtained through "fraud or corrupt or illegal
and protects voters from being victimized by election fraud again.
To sign the petition, click here.
For Your Information
Elections Bill Exacerbates Lack of Privacy, Political
MPs may be federal law-makers, but there are no laws
political parties can collect or use personal information about voters
and with the development of micro-targeting techniques, information is
important than ever in politics, however, parties aren't working to
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
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
and government institutions," said Jonathon Penney, an associate law
at Dalhousie University with a focus on intellectual property and
security issues, in an interview last week with The Hill Times.
"There's a real incentive I think for parties to collect
because the richer the information, the better your analytics will be,
you can micro-target, the more you can segment your voter base and
individual message to target specific voters for specific reasons, and
electoral strategies and your voter messaging is going to be that much
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,
121-page package of sweeping electoral reform
and the largest electoral reform package introduced by this government
But there are no privacy provisions to address the fact that political
aren't covered by Canadian privacy laws, something successive federal
commissioners have for years called on successive federal governments
More and more, information is a crucial commodity in
politics, as political
campaigns are increasingly hinged on an ability to understand and
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
The Liberal Party, for example, is reported to have spent millions on
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
Provincially, some legislation does exist, including in
where provincial parties are covered by the Personal Information
Act (PIPA). But federally, there's nothing to govern how parties
or distribute information, as the Privacy
Act only covers government
institutions, and the Personal
Information Protection and Electronic
Act (PIPEDA) only refers to organizations collecting information
commercial purposes. Federal parties are only regulated by privacy
in the Canada Elections Act,
and those only cover information provided
political parties by Elections Canada through voter lists, which only
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,
collection about voter behaviours, associations, affiliations. In the
States, it's known as ‘voter intelligence,' it's built up as a whole
a lot of those practices have slowly migrated and have made their way
Canadian politics," said Mr. Penney.
Parties are investing in and building technological
capacities to better
collect and retain information about voters, including voting
"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
Political parties are increasing their surveillance, are increasing
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
commodity today, and everyone, from corporations like Google and
to political parties, have "gotten into the habit of collecting more
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
we've tightened up our rules to make sure that they're all subject to
some set of law and politicians have meanwhile given themselves sort of
back door and a free reign, and as a result there are no rules with
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
statements, and while Mr. Klein said it's a good first step, these
At a recent Manning Conference session on campaign
software delegates were told about how they could use text keys (so
people text a key word to a number provided) as an easy way to engage
and get contact information. Mr. Klein said this use of text keys is a
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,
means being clear and upfront that information is being collected, is
be added into a database, and explaining what it will be used for.
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
requirement would be a legal requirement," he said.
Recently, following the birth of Liberal Leader Justin
Que.) son, Hadrien, the party invited people to send in well-wishes,
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
Ont.) sent out birthday cards to people in her riding. In 2012,
Social Development Minister Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Alta.)
in hot water after media reported his office had mined information
voters from an online petition in support of a gay artist who was
deportation. And more recently Conservative MP Eve Adams
(Mississauga-Brampton South, Ont.) has also come under fire for
using CIMS to contact voters outside her riding.
Parties are tight-lipped about how and what sort of
collected, and for what purposes, but it's clear the information held
goes well beyond the names and addresses provided by Elections Canada.
Namely, parties have voter phone numbers and parties are increasingly
campaign software that allows for integrated data collection and voter
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
someone's email address it could be used to find social media or other
activity linked to that email address, and then that information could
siphoned off and added to a profile, like a person's list of Twitter
for example. (read: connections). The software also allows campaigns to
someone's activity related to the campaign (whether they're got a lawn
whether a tweet encouraged people to donate) and includes a live stream
social media activity, among other things.
David Fraser, a privacy lawyer and partner at McInnes
said political parties could also use basic information like a postal
make inferences about voters, like whether or not they live in a
He said a "principal concern" is that people don't even know what
"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
from a whole bunch of different places that creates a much fuller
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
Mr. Penney said most Canadians would be surprised at the
information parties are collecting about voters, and said political
like to talk about information-gathering practices likely because it
well with voters.
The federal court ruling on the robocalls case found
efforts to suppress votes took place during the 2011 federal election
person with access to the CIMS database," and Mr. Fraser said this is a
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
by which you're going to collect the information and how you're going
it, but political parties don't have to do that so they can collect
covertly," said Mr. Fraser.
Mr. Fraser said fair information practices for
organizations in federal law
require accountability, identifying the purpose, consent, transparency,
access of an individual to their own information, a mechanism to deal
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,
said parties have similarly left a door open when it comes to the
new anti-spamming legislation that comes into force on July 1.
"When it comes to emailing people, there's a set of
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
with an officially compiled list of who has and hasn't voted after an
Currently, parties have scrutineers at polls (provided they have them)
fill out what's called bingo cards tracking who has voted on Election
the idea being that it facilitates Get Out the Vote efforts. The
is unofficial, done in the rush of Election Day and often bingo cards
in the shuffle after the day of, but with Bill C-23, parties will get a
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
"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
for everybody else but exempt themselves from it, and I think that
they've done," said Mr. Fraser.
The Value of Vouching: Why The (Un)Fair Elections Act
Disenfranchise Vulnerable Canadians
On April 2nd, 2014 the British Columbia Civil Liberties
(BCCLA) sent Counsel Raji Mangat to Parliament to argue that proposed
amendments to the Canada Elections Act are unconstitutional
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
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
requirements in 2007. We have also intervened in a constitutional
to Canada's voter ID laws in the Henry case. This case has been heard
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.
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
"In its defence of the voter ID laws in the Henry case,
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
it allows eligible electors without the requisite types of ID to cast a
Removing vouching as a means by which individuals can prove identity
certainly make this law unconstitutional and ripe for a Charter
"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
forms of ID may indeed be largely available to a middle-class suburban
these are not viable forms of ID for many Canadians, including many of
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
ownership insurance, or a residential lease, or an income tax
strains credulity to believe that these 39 forms of ID are an answer to
disenfranchisement that will result from this Bill. Before 2007,
declarations were permitted as a form of ID to satisfy election
the eligibility of voters and hundreds of voters on the Downtown
were able to swear statutory declarations establishing their right to
Demand for statutory declarations was growing. Amendments in 2007
eliminated the statutory declaration, and put in place the limited
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
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
those with no fixed address. Where such identity documentation does
will very rarely provide the individual's current residence.
"Everyone agrees that we need to encourage and increase
particularly among first-time voters, and voters in certain
Everyone also agrees that we need to reduce irregularities in the
process. The disagreement comes when we consider how to do this. Some
the measures to reduce irregularities being proposed in this Bill --
such as the
removal of vouching and limitation of the use of Voter Information
will disproportionately and materially impact the ability of many of
vulnerable and marginalized citizens to vote. They will "remove"
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
we will remove serious irregularities and, ergo, we will remove fraud.
ID laws have the potential to address one form of fraud -- voter
Irregularities in how the polls operate -- even serious ones -- are not
positive of voter fraud. All other minimally impairing options for
irregularities must be considered before we take even one step toward
unconstitutional disenfranchisement. This would include improved
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
exercising their most fundamental political rights. The Bill presumes
impersonation fraud where there is evidence of none. It subverts the
underlying purpose of the legislation, which is to foster the exercise
franchise. Removing vouching from the legislation will do nothing to
public confidence in the electoral system; instead it will effectively
political participation of the most marginalized and vulnerable in our
In the BCCLA's view, that would be the real threat to the integrity of
Voter Identification Including Vouching --
Requirements for Proof of Identity and Address When
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
because it contains both a proof of identity and address. But for
ability to prove where they live presents real challenges. For these
electors, having another elector who knows them and who lives in the
polling division vouch for them is the only way they will be able to
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
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
vote in the provincial or territorial election. Jurisdictions that do
of identity or address have a safety net: either vouching or a legal
The table below shows each jurisdiction's voter
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
|Prince Edward Island
*This province accepts the elector
information card as a valid piece of ID.
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