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Government takes privacy issues in Bill 20 to new level with proposed amendment.

In an earlier post I addressed the reason why I was opposing Bill 20: Election Amendment Act 2015. As mentioned earlier, Bill 20 implements a number of the recommendations made by the Chief Electoral Officer in his October 2014 report. However, only one of the Chief Electoral Officer’s three priority recommendations was implemented, and that concerned providing flexibility in opportunities for advance voting. One egregious addition to the bill not recommended by the Chief Electoral Officer and opposed by the Privacy Commissioner is new language that allowed political parties to obtain a list of voters that indicates which voters on the list voted in a previous general election. This list would be available between general elections.

Today in the legislature we debated the bill at committee stage. Government introduced an amendment that, in an attempt to create a level playing field for independent members wishing to run for office, took the privacy concerns to a whole new level. Now government is proposing that any candidate who ran in the previous election or is running in an upcoming election can obtain the list of voters that indicates which voters on the list voted in a previous general election. Obviously I continue to vigourously oppose this bill as I believe that it is nobody’s business apart from the voter and the chief electoral officer to know who or who has not voted. That’s a matter of privacy.

Below is my initial reaction to the government’s amendment. Full deliberations are available on Hansard.


Video of Reaction to Government Amendment



Text of Reaction to Government Amendment


A. Weaver: Thank you to the minister for bringing in this amendment. Unfortunately, I, too, like the member before me, just cannot support this legislation.

This amendment is actually the second amendment we got in 24 hours. We received, late in the day yesterday, a copy of an amendment to reflect some concerns that had been raised by members in this House. Then later on, after members in this House had gone home, we get a subamendment, or an amendment of the amendment, at 7:05 p.m. last night.

I recognize that the government is trying to modify and take into account some of the concerns about the Privacy Commissioner with respect to people signing agreements, but it has taken this to an entirely new level.

What it has done is…. From a situation whereby political parties could acquire voters lists with information as to who has or who has not voted, it’s now extended to candidates who ran in the last election, to candidates who will run in the next election.

We have people who run in some elections as a protest vote. We are now saying that anybody in the province of British Columbia who was a candidate, who will be a candidate, who might be a candidate, who wishes they were a candidate is, essentially, getting access. As a protest vote, they get access to this information.

I don’t have a problem with people having a fair and level playing field. That’s not the issue here. The issue is who needs to know whether you voted or not. It is nobody’s business to know if I voted or if I did not vote, except to me and the Chief Electoral Officer.

We’ve gone from a situation where British Columbians across the province have stood up and said, “We don’t like this; we don’t like it when government is actually giving political parties information on whether I did or I did not vote,” and what’s the government’s response? To bring in an amendment to, first off, give political parties and all candidates that same information. A wonderful way of listening to the voices of British Columbians. They expand it further.

Then, at 7:05 last night, they take it another level. They give it to future candidates as well. This is a government that is so out of touch with British Columbians that not only does it not listen to them, it actually, when it hears them — or doesn’t hear them — takes it to another level.

It’s unbelievable that we have this amendment before us today. It’s unbelievable that this government is trying to actually give private information — information as to whether I vote, information as to whether the member for Saanich South votes, information as to whether my daughter votes — to political parties, to every candidate who will run, to every candidate who has run.

What possible purpose could this information be used for? It is not going to be used to help voter turnout. Absolutely no way this can be helpful for improving voter turnout, and yet this is the justification government is giving British Columbians — that this somehow is going to improve voter turnout.

What this is saying, what we’re seeing through this amendment and what we’ve seen through the selective use of the recommendations coming from the Chief Electoral Officer, is a government that recognizes that it’s losing touch with the people and so is initiating tactics designed for voter suppression of youth, tactics to give them an unfair advantage because they can’t get volunteers anymore. They’re finding it a tough time in the Liberal Party of British Columbia to get volunteers to go to be scrutineers.

The Green Party of British Columbia has no problem with that. The independent member for Delta South has no problem with that. I won’t speak for the opposition, but I suspect they have no problem with that. It’s because this government has turned off voters. They cannot get voters to help them out, so they want the government to help itself out through providing information to the government on which they can target voters based on their voting patterns.

This is so fundamentally wrong that I’m surprised that the government, rather than pulling this section, takes it to another level and tries to create this so-called level playing field.

This amendment must fail. This amendment should fail. If there’s anything that the opposition on this side will do, I’m sure we will all vote unanimously so that this amendment does not pass.

Sadly, it is government who will have to look British Columbians in the face and say: “You know what? We don’t listen to you anymore. You know what, British Columbians? We’re going to get your private information because we want to target you. We want to target you for messaging, target you if you voted or not, because we can’t get volunteers because people are straying from our party, and we’re desperate to stay in power.

“We know that our promises of LNG are not going to materialize. We know we’re saying this and that and the other, but they’re not materializing. Instead, what we’re going to do is use your personal information to try to manipulate” — yes, hon. Chair, manipulate — “future elections, to suppress the youth.”

The only possible way this could be brought in is to turn off voters, for voter suppression tactics. This is absolutely egregious, and this amendment must fail.


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