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Manitoba Ombudsman Comments on Disclosure of Personal Information about Manitoba Drivers to Elections Canada

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Jun 25, 2014

Manitoba Ombudsman was asked by Elections Canada to comment on whether The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) would permit disclosure of personal information about Manitoba drivers for the purpose of updating the National Register of Electors maintained by Elections Canada. The personal information is held by Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) and is subject to restrictions on disclosure under FIPPA.

Manitoba Ombudsman’s role under FIPPA, in addition to the investigation of access to information and privacy complaints, includes commenting on privacy implications of the disclosure of personal information. Our office conducted a review that included consultations with MPI and Elections Canada, and consideration of provisions in FIPPA and the Canada Elections Act.

The National Register of Electors is a continually updated database of Canadians who are qualified to vote (Canadian citizens at least 18 years of age), comprised of name, address, date of birth, gender, and a unique identifier number. When a federal election is called, the information in the register is used to produce preliminary lists for each electoral district, and electors are sent Voter Information Cards with their polling locations. Lists of voters are also prepared for and disclosed to provincial, territorial and municipal governments, in accordance with agreements entered into with Elections Canada.

Elections Canada has authority under the Canada Elections Act to update the register from information held by provincial and territorial driver licensing agencies, among other sources. Information received by Elections Canada is used to update the information about individuals already contained in the register (for example, when an individual has moved) and identify potential new electors (for example, individuals who have turned 18 years of age or new Canadians). No new electors are added to the register without their express consent. Personal information maintained in the register is subject to the federal Privacy Act.

After reviewing the legislative authority under FIPPA for disclosure by MPI to Elections Canada, the ombudsman concluded that FIPPA (clause 44(1)(d)), would permit disclosures for the purpose of updating the register, if MPI entered into an agreement with Elections Canada. Elections Canada would, on its end, need to amend Schedule 2 of the Canada Elections Act in order to authorize it to collect MPI information.

MPI and Elections Canada entered into an information sharing agreement, which includes privacy protections and security arrangements for the personal information. Our office reviewed the agreement and we are satisfied with the safeguards for personal information. Elections Canada has amended Schedule 2 of the Canada Elections Act, as was required.

Acting Manitoba Ombudsman Mel Holley said “Accurate and current information about Manitoba electors in the register facilitates Manitobans’ exercise of their democratic rights. These disclosures would also benefit municipalities that rely on the register’s information about Manitobans to administer elections.”

Manitobans qualified to vote can use E-Registration, Elections Canada’s online registration service, to confirm they are registered and update their address information. As a result of this disclosure, qualified Manitobans will soon be able to add their information to the register, using their driver’s licence number for validation.

Manitoba joins the other provinces and territories, all of which have agreements in place with Elections Canada for sharing driver’s licence information, except for Quebec where information is transferred by the provincial elections agency to Elections Canada.

For more information about MPI’s privacy practices:

http://www.mpi.mb.ca/en/PDFs/ProtectingYourPrivacy.pdf

For more information about the National Register of Electors:

http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=vot&dir=reg/des&document=index&lang=e

For more information about Manitoba Ombudsman: www.ombudsman.mb.ca