Privacy breach alleged over Tories’ mailing

Letters sent from Conservative MPs to Prairie farmers urging them to vote for specific candidates in the Canadian Wheat Board’s director elections may be a privacy breach, the National Farmers Union claimed Monday.

The NFU, which supports the CWB’s single marketing desk for Prairie wheat and barley, last week posted one such letter on its website from Saskatchewan MP David Anderson.

The NFU on Monday wrote to federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, asking her to investigate the letters, which urge farmers to vote for candidates with a pro-deregulation or “marketing choice” stance.

“It seems certain that Canadian members of Parliament have unlawfully used confidential information about Canadian citizens to conduct an inappropriate mail-out campaign,” NFU president Stewart Wells wrote in the letter to Stoddart.

“We believe that there is clear evidence that these MPs and their government have violated the Privacy Act,” he wrote.

Based on information from people who received letters from MPs, Wells wrote, “we assert that the mailing list used by the Conservative MPs was derived from the actual voters’ list created for the Canadian Wheat Board director elections.

“If your investigation finds this to be the case then there has been a grave misuse of the voters’ list information and a breach of the Privacy Act. We have already compiled much evidence that supports the farmers’ contentions that Conservative MPs have in some way used the voters’ list information and would be willing to share that with you.”

Moreover, said Wells, who farms in Anderson’s constituency at Swift Current, Sask., “we also believe that it is important for the public to know where the breach occurred — with the candidates, with the election co-ordinator (Meyers Norris Penny), or with the Canadian Wheat Board. I would expect that you should receive full and immediate co-operation from the election coordinator MNP and the Canadian Wheat Board.”

Furthermore, Wells wrote, “Conservative MPs have refused to answer direct questions in the House of Commons about this mailing list issue and we now feel that the matter must be placed on your desk.”

Another pro-single desk group, Real Voice for Choice, previously said it would urge CWB election co-ordinator Ian Craven to investigate the letters.

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