Thousands protest government plan to exclude federal political parties from Canadian privacy laws
Sneaking permanent exemption into sprawling budget bill is “wholly inadequate and cynical”
MAY 2 2023 — Over the past 72 hours, thousands of people have endorsed an emergency petition against an attempt to permanently exclude federal political parties from Canadian privacy laws. The government buried the measure in its recently-announced budget implementation Bill C-47, which otherwise concerns itself exclusively with financial and economic matters.
In an analysis for The Hill Times, Professor Colin Bennett, who has extensively studied how political parties handle sensitive data, described the government move as “wholly inadequate and cynical,” noting that political parties are regulated under privacy laws in almost every other democratic country in the world.
OpenMedia privacy campaigner Bryan Short agreed, stating that “Our right to privacy is fundamental to our democratic process, but right now political parties are enjoying a privacy wild west. If Bill C-47 passes, federal political parties will never have to abide by privacy laws, nor face scrutiny from independent regulators. Why should there be one law for them, and another for the rest of us?
Short continued: “The sneaky, underhanded way in which the government tried to hide this in a massive budget bill has clearly struck a nerve, with thousands endorsing our campaign calling them out in just a few days. Political parties need to play by the same rules as everyone else — that means including them under proposed new privacy laws in Bill C-27 where they will be subject to Privacy Commissioner oversight.”
If the government’s proposed amendment to the Canada Elections Act passes, federal political parties will be able to set their own rules about how they collect and use personal information, and will oversee their own adherence to those rules.
The change would fly in the face of a 2018 recommendation by the House of Commons Access to Information, Ethics, and Privacy Committee (ETHI) that political parties be made subject to privacy law. An Elections Canada survey conducted after the 2021 election showed that 96% of Canadians agreed with this proposal, including 78% who strongly agreed. To date, BC is the only province which has updated its privacy laws to cover political parties.
As Parliament continues to debate Bill C-47, Canadians can add their voice to OpenMedia’s campaign at: http://openmedia.org/privacywildwest.