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The fight’s not over: Bill C-76 passes without protecting political party data

The Elections Modernization Act will soon come into force, but politicians failed to give up their own exemptions to Federal privacy laws. However, this is just the beginning of our campaign to protect our private data.

Bill C-76, the immense omnibus bill called the Elections Modernization Act, has been passed by the Senate and is becoming law just in time to apply to the 2019 elections.

The bill makes many changes to the Election Act, aimed at boosting democratic participation and limiting foreign influence in elections.

But crucially, one key issue was excluded from the bill despite massive pressure from the public, experts, and even government advisors and a parliamentary committee recommendation: applying privacy laws to political parties.

Currently, political parties are exempted from the privacy laws that they require companies to adhere to. It means there are no laws or oversight governing how political parties collect, use or store our data – and no requirements for them to disclose if our personal information has been hacked or breached.

Our political views and associations are clearly very sensitive and private information, which is why privacy experts spoke out about the importance of safeguarding that information.

Canada’s Federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien, also spoke to the committee studying the bill about the importance of ending this exemption, saying that:

“information about our political views is highly sensitive and therefore particularly worthy of privacy protection.”

And the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, who studied the Cambridge Analytica scandal, recommended in their report applying privacy rules to political parties, as an important measure to address digital privacy vulnerabilities and threats to Canada’s democratic electoral process.

It’s not just the experts who feel this way: polling shows that 72% of Canadians want stronger privacy rules for political parties.

And together, we spoke out in incredible numbers to show politicians how strongly we feel about this issue:

  • 8,462 people sent a message to Karina Gould, the Minister of Democratic Institutions, asking her to change the bill to include making political parties subject to PIPEDA.

  • 3,111 people messaged their MPs, and 4,709 people messaged Senators to ask them to reform the bill as it passed through the House and Senate.

  • Hundreds of people in Karina Gould’s riding reached out to her directly to ask her to make this change to C-76.

It’s incredibly disappointing that most politicians failed to listen to what people in Canada wanted them to do with this bill. It will always be an uphill battle to make them give up exceptions that they currently enjoy, but the first piece of good news is that our voices have already had a huge impact.

Together, we made sure that this issue was headline news, and covered in almost every article about the bill including Global News, Globe and Mail, National Post, Huffington Post, and CTV.

And those responsible for pushing the bill forward, while rejecting the amendments that so many people had demanded, were repeatedly questioned and singled out for pressure by press and fellow politicians.

The second piece of good news is that this is only the beginning for our campaign, and there’s much more to come on top of this already strong start.

The stage has already been set for us to get this much-needed protection for our most personal political data and protect the integrity of our electoral system. With a federal election coming up in October 2019, we’ll be working hard to make sure parties feel the pressure from people they’re engaging with. Fixing this legislation can still be done anytime by proposing a bill, and we’ll be making sure politicians feel the pressure to make this part of their election platforms.

Thank you to everyone who has taken action so far — together we’re going to keep pushing until we win!

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