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Annual Report on the Privacy Act for the Period Ending March 31, 2014

1. Introduction

The Privacy Act extends to Canadians and persons present in Canada the right of access to personal information about themselves held by federal government institutions. The Act also protects individuals' privacy by preventing others from having access to their personal information. In addition, it limits federal institutions' use of the personal information that they collect and retain.

Section 72 of the Privacy Act requires that the head of every institution subject to the Act prepare an annual report for tabling in Parliament. This report describes how Elections Canada administered its responsibilities under the Privacy Act during the reporting period of April 1, 2013, to March 31, 2014.

1.1 Mandate of the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer

The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, commonly known as Elections Canada, is an independent, non-partisan agency that reports directly to Parliament. Its mandate is to:

  • be prepared to conduct a federal general election, by-election or referendum
  • administer the political financing provisions of the Canada Elections Act
  • monitor compliance with and enforce electoral legislation
  • carry out investigations into allegations that would amount to offences under the Act
  • conduct voter education and information programs
  • provide support to the independent commissions in charge of adjusting the boundaries of federal electoral districts following each decennial census
  • carry out studies on alternative voting methods and, with the approval of parliamentarians, test electronic voting processes for future use during electoral events

In fulfilling its mandate, Elections Canada appoints, trains and supports returning officers and retains the services of 30 field liaison officers across Canada. It also maintains the National Register of Electors, which is used to prepare preliminary lists of electors at the start of electoral events, as well as electoral geography information, which provides the basis for maps and other geographic products used during electoral events.

The agency also:

  • registers political entities, including political parties, electoral district associations, candidates, leadership contestants, third parties that engage in election advertising and referendum committees
  • administers the allowances, reimbursements and subsidies paid to eligible candidates, registered political parties and auditors
  • monitors compliance with the Canada Elections Act, including compliance with political financing rules, during and between elections
  • discloses information on registered parties and electoral district associations, registered parties' nomination and leadership contestants, candidates, third parties and referendum committees, including their financial returns
  • recommends to Parliament amendments for the better administration of the Canada Elections Act by submitting a recommendations report after a general election as well as by providing expert advice and other special reports

In addition, the Chief Electoral Officer appoints the Commissioner of Canada Elections. The role of the Commissioner is to protect the integrity of the electoral process by ensuring that the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act are complied with and enforced. The Commissioner carries out his or her duties independent of any political or government interference and is assisted by investigators, lawyers and administrative personnel. In carrying out the mandate of the Commissioner's Office, the Commissioner is guided by the principles of independence, impartiality, fairness and good faith.

The Chief Electoral Officer also appoints the Broadcasting Arbitrator. The Broadcasting Arbitrator is responsible for allocating free and paid broadcasting time among political parties and for arbitrating disputes that may arise between parties and broadcasters.

1.2 Structure of the Access to Information and Privacy Office

The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Office is part of the Information Management Division within the Chief Information Officer Branch of the Integrated Services, Policy and Public Affairs Sector of Elections Canada. It is managed on a full-time basis by the agency's ATIP Coordinator, to whom the Chief Electoral Officer has delegated his authority under section 73 of the Privacy Act. A copy of the delegation order setting out the responsibilities under that Act appears in Appendix I of this report. The ATIP Office has three additional full-time staff as well as two part-time consultants, and it is further supported by a part-time FSWEP student.

The ATIP Office is responsible for the following activities:

  • processing requests under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act
  • responding to consultation requests from other government institutions
  • providing advice and guidance to senior management and staff of Elections Canada on privacy issues and privacy impact assessments (PIAs)
  • developing and delivering awareness training to Elections Canada managers and employees on how to fulfill their obligations under the Acts
  • developing policies, procedures and guidelines in support of ATIP legislation and central agency requirements
  • monitoring institutional compliance with the aforementioned Acts, procedures and policies
  • acting on behalf of Elections Canada in dealings with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, the offices of the Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner of Canada and other government institutions regarding ATIP matters
  • preparing annual reports to Parliament, in addition to other statutory reports and material that may be required by central agencies
  • preparing and publishing the annual update of Elections Canada's chapter of Info Source, describing the agency's record holdings and personal information banks
  • representing Elections Canada by participating in ATIP community forums, such as the Treasury Board Secretariat's ATIP Community meetings