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An Act to Amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act
Sponsor: Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin (QC)
Downloads: Click here
The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) recommended several legislative changes following the 2004 election. The government then introduced Bill C-31 after a Commons committee reviewed the CEO's report. Among other things, the CEO had proposed that each voter be assigned a randomly generated, unique identifier number to facilitate accurate updates to the Voters List. The House of Commons added a requirement that individual birth dates also be included in the Voters List before being sent to returning officers, MPs, candidates, and political parties in each riding.
On February 15, 2007, the Privacy Commissioner objected to giving a voter's date of birth to MPs, candidates and political parties. Nevertheless, the bill received 3rd reading in the Commons on February 20th and was sent to the Senate the following day.
Various concerns with Bill C-31 were flagged at 2nd reading in the Senate, including dates of birth. Senator Baker (NL) summarized the privacy issue by quoting an editorial in the Ottawa Citizen:
Unless the Senate demurs, voters may expect peppy birthday
greetings from MPs to follow shortly. So much for Parliament's
respect for privacy.
The Privacy Commissioner reiterated her objections in a letter to the Senate Committee on May 17, 2007 in which she stated
Providing date of birth information to politicians for the purpose
of target-marketing of constituents is neither a use consistent with
protecting the integrity of the electoral system nor a use that a
person would reasonably expect when registering to vote.
On June 14, 2007, the Senate passed Bill C-31 with 12 amendments, including several which prevented circulation of private date of birth information for political purposes. The House of Commons agreed with the amendments (slightly revising one of them) and the amended bill received Royal Assent on June 22, 2007.