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The federal Privacy Commissioner is criticizing a bill that would provide the birthdate of electors to political parties, which could then use the information to send birthday cards or target their fundraising efforts to specific age groups.

In a letter to NDP MP Paul Dewar, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said that Bill C-31 is designed to prevent electoral fraud, and that providing personal information to political parties is unnecessary.

"I fail to understand how the disclosure of birth information in this way would contribute to protecting or improving the integrity of the electoral process," Ms. Stoddart said in a letter sent last week.

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"Providing date-of-birth information to politicians for the purpose of target marketing of constituents is neither a use consistent with protecting the integrity of the electoral system nor a use that a person would reasonably expect when registering to vote," she said.

Ms. Stoddart added that if preventing electoral fraud was truly the intent of Bill C-31, it would be preferable to use "the year of birth, as opposed to the date of birth." That way, privacy rights would be better protected, while officials on voting day would still be able to vet voters by having a sense of their age.

Mr. Dewar said the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois and the Conservative Party all support the plan to provide political parties with information on date of birth.

He said the other parties want to cement their relationship with voters by sending them cards on their birthdays, or to increase the efficiency of their fundraising campaigns by targeting certain age groups.

"They are more interested in getting information for their own purposes than protecting the privacy of Canadians. What they've done here is installed a window on privacy for their own gains," Mr. Dewar said. "This is what I call a 'Big Brother' bill."

The amendment to Bill C-31 was put forward by the Bloc, with the support of other parties. Bloc officials said the same disposition exists on the provincial stage in Quebec and provides an additional control to prevent fraud.

"We don't feel this is excessive," said Bloc spokesman Frédéric Lepage. "It hasn't caused any problems in Quebec."

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