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HomeBusinessFederal political parties send lawyers to Vancouver court to appeal B.C. privacy ruling

Federal political parties send lawyers to Vancouver court to appeal B.C. privacy ruling

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Bob Mackin 

“It’s nice to see federal political parties working together on something,” said Justice Gordon Weatherill April 22 in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

Justice Gordon Weatherill (LinkedIn)

Weatherill is presiding over a hearing scheduled to last seven days in which lawyers for the Liberal Party, Conservative Party and New Democratic Party are asking him to overturn a two-year-old ruling by an adjudicator with B.C.’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC). 

In a March 2022 ruling, former commissioner David Loukidelis decided that federal political parties are subject to the collection, use and disclosure requirements under B.C.’s Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA). The parties maintain they are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and Canada Elections Act.

The case was prompted by three B.C. residents who complained to the OIPC after they asked four registered parties in August 2019 for information about what personal information they possessed.

First up was Liberal Party lawyer Cathy Beagan Flood of the Toronto office of Blakes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sept. 25, 2020 (Flickr/PMO)

“The constitutional question raised by this judicial review is whether federal political parties’ communications with voters in the federal elections, for purposes of federal election campaigns, fall within federal or provincial jurisdiction,” Beagan Flood told the court. “We submit that the obvious answer to this question that it is federal, is the correct answer.” Parliament, she said, chose to give federal voters a right of access to their personal information held by Elections Canada, by the Chief Electoral Officer, but not a right of access to personal information held by political parties.

“Under provincial legislation, the complainants have a right to make these access requests. Under federal legislation, they would only have a right to make requests to Elections Canada,” Beagan Flood argued. “The Liberal Party, nevertheless, voluntarily gave the complainants access to their personal information. That personal information was primarily information that have been shared with the Liberal Party by Elections Canada, pursuant to the Canada Elections Act.”

Beagan Flood mentioned Bill C-65, which is in first reading before the House of Commons.

The amendments “will add further privacy provisions to the Canada Elections Act, however even if those amendments pass as currently drafted, it will remain the case that under federal law only Elections Canada will be subject to access to information requests and not the political parties.”

Lawyers for the Conservatives and NDP will also make their arguments before Weatherill. So will lawyers for the complainants, OIPC, B.C. Attorney General and federal Attorney General. 

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