Data Wild West: Canadian political parties’ privacy practices under fire

Canadians’ data deserves to be protected and consent should be required when political parties harvest data. Pictured: Attorney General and Minister of Justice Arif Virani. Photo Credit: Arif Virani/X.

In an era where data shapes the very fabric of elections, the oversight into how Canadian federal political parties collect and utilize voter data remains shockingly lax. While private companies and government bodies are subject to stringent privacy laws, political entities have operated under a Wild West scenario. 

In polling commissioned by Elections Canada, 96 per cent of Canadians agreed that laws should regulate how political parties handle personal information. This sentiment echoes concerns expressed by various stakeholders, including federal and provincial privacy watchdogs, about the lack of regulation in the realm of political data usage.

Despite a growing call for regulation, the proposed changes put forth by the government last month fall short of expectations. Bill C-65, introduced to reform how political parties operate and how elections are held in Canada, attempts to address privacy policies for federal political parties. While the legislation introduces additional requirements for handling data, it fails to mandate crucial elements such as obtaining clear consent before data collection—a glaring gap that undermines its efficacy in safeguarding voter privacy.

This may seem like a trivial issue, but the data that political parties collect on any individual is no small amount. When a political party, candidate or volunteer is door knocking, posting online, or making phone calls, they are collecting data. For a political party your data is gold, and they collect it in ways you may not know. 

For instance, when a political party appears at your door, they can make note if you have children, if you rent or own, what issues you mentioned when they were speaking with you, and the type of car you have in your driveway. Political parties are leverage data they are able to harvest from your online presence when you sign their petition or respond to a post on social media. Elections Canada also provides data to these parties that includes your name, address and if you voted in the last election or not. 

In Canada, British Columbia has some of the strictest privacy laws for those who conduct business in the province. Despite what the federal parties argue, they are required to follow province’s privacy law when it comes to the collection, use and disclosure of the personal information of B.C. residents. This was a decision that was made in 2022 by the office of British Columbia’s privacy commissioner. 

Since the privacy commissioner’s ruling, the federal parties have trying to challenge the legitimacy of the decision in legal litigation. This legal battle was scheduled to come to ahead this week in British Columbia, but was delayed as the Liberal Party, in a move supported by both the Conservatives and New Democrats, petitioned for an adjournment, arguing that the proposed amendments in C-65 directly address the substantive issues under review in the court case.

The government finds itself in an awkward place as this legal saga unfolds and questions linger about their role in drafting legislation to protect Canadians, while also balancing political interests. The Attorney General of Canada, who is also the Justice Minister and a Liberal MP, will be front and centre in this case as his involvement underscores the broader public interest, concerns arise about potential political influence on legal proceedings—an aspect demanding scrutiny and transparency.

Given recent antics and short fuses in the House of Commons, there does not seem like there is much unity among the major political parties other than their right to use and collect Canadians data for their electoral machines. In reality Canadians deserve better. Their data deserves to be protected and consent should be required when political parties harvest data. 

A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian and their private information should be treated the same, no matter if it is being collected by a charity, political party, or eHarmony.

Your donations help us continue to deliver the news and commentary you want to read. Please consider donating today.

Donate Today


  • Politics

  • Sports

  • Business