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ForewordDiscussion Paper 3: The Protection of Electors' Personal Information in the Federal Electoral Context

After each general election, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) is required to submit a report to Parliament outlining recommendations that, in his view, will improve the administration of the Canada Elections Act. In developing his recommendations report after the 2019 election, the CEO wishes to explore certain themes related to the way in which political actors communicate with electors in the digital age.

Over the last two decades, political communications have changed drastically. Communications around elections—and in general—are increasingly digital, taking place through text messages, on social media platforms, in online ads and in other formats. Many of these are enabled by big data and are highly targeted. There is every indication that this trend will continue into the future and that the significance of digital communications for electoral democracy will continue to grow.

The regulatory regime in place under the Canada Elections Act, however, dates originally from a time when broadcast television was the dominant advertising and communications medium. The Act is based on certain core values, such as transparency and fairness, that continue to underlie the way elections are delivered in Canada, but legislative improvements may be needed.

With a view to soliciting input from a diverse audience of stakeholders and experts to inform the CEO's recommendations to Parliament, Elections Canada has prepared a suite of three discussion papers on interrelated topics that are central to this question.

  • The first paper, The Regulation of Political Communications under the Canada Elections Act, aims to foster discussion about whether existing provisions in the Act meet the challenges that have arisen in recent years, largely due to new communications technology.
  • The second paper, The Impact of Social Media Platforms in Elections, looks more closely at social media and digital advertising platforms and aims to promote discussion on the impacts that these platforms may have on elections and democracy.
  • The third paper, The Protection of Electors' Personal Information in the Federal Electoral Context, aims to encourage discussion on how fair information principles could be applied to political parties, taking into account their unique role in Canada's democracy.