The BC Liberal government is in the process of adopting the Election Amendment Act, which will give candidates and political parties the ability to access private data about voters from past provincial elections.
The NDP, unfortunately, has gone along with the basic thrust of this law. The most principled opposition has come from Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver, and independent Vicki Huntington has also been challenging the law.
The main purpose behind the law is to allow well-funded political parties, notably the BC Liberals and NDP, to “mine” voter data and craft campaigns to encourage their own supporters to come to the polls, while at the same time (and likely quite secretly) coming up with ways of targeting specific supporters of the other parties from casting votes. Along the way, they will be digging into voters’ privacy in a way that has caused the Information and Privacy Commissioner great concerns.
It is unfortunate that there has been so little attention paid to this. The amendment, introduced by Weaver, called for a delay in implementing the law until there was more public consultation. While the NDP supported the amendment, the BC Liberal majority voted against it.
B.C. is, in some ways, the wild west of politics. There are no restrictions on donations from businesses, associations, wealthy individuals or unions to political campaigns. While there are limits on spending during campaigns, the most crucial and strategic spending is often done before the campaign is underway. Now the political parties are being handed another tool that, in a day and age when it is easier than ever to collect a raft of data about individuals, will allow them to hone their message and specifically target individuals. Citizens should always be suspicious when governments bring in new laws that are not even on the radar screen for ordinary people.
This law is an invasion of privacy and will only lead to political manipulation, all in the name of winning an election.