For the purposes of this guide, a political entity is a political party, candidate, or elected lawmaker (e.g., a member of Parliament or member of the Legislative Assembly). Governments collect your personal information when creating their voters lists. The same legislation that empowers them to carry out elections obligates governments to share at least some of that personal information with political entities. Political entities can also gather your personal information in other ways (e.g., newsletter sign-ups and party donations). Personal information that is gathered through voters lists is regulated by election legislation.
While this is an evolving legal issue, political entities are not currently governed by public sector or private sector privacy legislation like the Privacy Act or Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (“PIPEDA”) (Bourgeois, Spindler Election Law in Canada, 2nd Ed., LexisNexis Canada, 2021). This is because political parties are not government agencies, but they also are not businesses. Whether provincial privacy legislation, such as Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, should apply to political entities is up for active debate. Click here for more information.
It’s a universal experience to receive an unsolicited phone call or text message from a political party, even without knowing how they got your contact information. Wondering if this is legal is likely just as universal.
There is a complex legal framework that governs Canada’s anti-spam rules, which involves the Telecommunications Act and Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (“CASL”). Anti-spam laws are subject to oversight by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The Telecommunications Act largely regulates phone calls while CASL mainly governs other forms of electronic communication.
The Telecommunications Act establishes a national do not call list that helps Canadians avoid unsolicited phone calls. Political entities are exempt from the do not call list and can make unsolicited phone calls provided they follow the other rules from the Act. The Act divides phone calls into live calls and robocalls (calls made with devices like ADADs). According to Parts III and IV of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules, these are the telemarketing rules that apply to political entities (
How the rules apply to political entities (source):
On the other hand, CASL does not apply to political entities, as its focus is on limiting unsolicited electronic messages that are commercial in nature. CASL does not apply to political entities soliciting donations or campaign contributions. However, if a political entity sends you a commercial electronic message for a purpose other than soliciting a donation or campaign contribution, it must follow the rules of CASL by:
Bourgeois, Spindler Election Law in Canada, 2nd Ed., LexisNexis Canada, 2021
As obligated by the Canada Elections Act, Elections Canada must share your information from the national register of electors (excluding date of birth) with federal political candidates [ s. 107(3)]. It must also share a revised version of the list, limited to the voters in that district (excluding date of birth), with registered federal political parties that have endorsed a candidate in an electoral district, [s. 45(1)] [[s.107 (4)].
Electronic messages between a political party, candidate, or elected official are not governed by Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation.
Provincial and territorial political entities are also given copies of voters lists in their jurisdictions. They are the subject of a similar framework to federal political entities; the election legislation of their jurisdiction will outline which uses of your personal information are authorized, and then impose punishments on those who engage in unauthorized use.
These pages were last updated and reviewed in May of 2023.
The information on these pages only contains general information and guidance; none of the information constitutes legal advice. If you have a specific issue that you believe is a legal problem, the best practice is to consult a lawyer.
The information is non-partisan, dynamic, and ever changing. It is the result of FIPA’s research and public education programs.
If you note something that needs to be added, corrected, or removed, please contact us by email: fipa AT fipa.bc.ca.