Editorial: Limiting disclosure
Legislation is like barbed wire: for everything it fences in, it also fences things out — and often, how a piece of legislation looks depends on what side of the fence you’re on.
If the Conservatives want Atlantic Canadians to let them back in then they have some serious work to do.
With the ink hardly dry on reporting last week’s federal Conservative leadership convention, other ink was being laid down.
Letters were being printed, envelopes addressed, and during the past week, the mail started to arrive in mailboxes across the country.
The letters were from the National Firearms Association, a Canadian group opposed to gun control legislation, including a plea for new members.
Citing joining the group as an opportunity to “drive a stake through the heart” of the gun control lobby, the association highlights things like its opposition to federal government legislation supporting an international arms trade treaty.
What might have mystified people who got the letters is just how they were added to the gun group’s mailing list.
Well, be mystified no more: apparently, someone with one of the Conservative leadership campaigns turned over a copy of the internal Tory mailing list, complete with addresses.
Complete Conservative membership lists were given to each campaign, something that, during the campaign, meant any number of Tory hopefuls might call your home phone during dinner. Not only that, but email pitches came fast and furious from individual campaigns as well.
Not only is it now clear that the list got out, it’s clear the Conservatives know which leadership campaign is responsible. That’s because there’s not even complete trust inside the Conservative Party of Canada. Party staff took the opportunity to “salt” the sets of names released to each campaign with fictitious names that would serve as a tracking mechanism. If a mailing list were used for improper purposes, mail to the fake names would indicate which campaign had played fast and loose with the rules.
Each of the candidates had to put up a compliance deposit of $25,000; the Conservative party says if the source is pinpointed, the campaign involved may have to surrender all or part of that deposit.
The party also put up a Facebook notification of the privacy breach, saying, “We are aware that our members are being contacted by an outside organization. The Conservative party has not — and will never — release our members’ personal information to anyone. We will be issuing a cease and desist letter to the organization in question, demanding that they destroy the list. We have also identified the parties responsible for sharing the information, and will be taking disciplinary action against them. We regret that this incident has occurred. We have always taken our members’ privacy very seriously, and will continue to do so.”
That horse, however, is already well out of the barn.
The irony is that the federal Conservatives, when in power, had the best and most thorough voter tracking system of any of the federal parties. They recognized the value of detailed information, and depended on it for fundraising.
And a leak like this? It would never have happened.