December 7, 2016 4:04 pm
Updated: December 7, 2016 4:15 pm

Your electoral reform survey won’t count if you don’t tell them how much you make

Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef defended the latest phase of the Liberal government's study to reform the voting system through a new online portal called MyDemocracy.ca, which received plenty of criticism online on Monday.

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If you want to weigh in on how Canadians vote for the federal government, it, in return, would like to know some stuff about you, like your age, gender, household income and postal code.

Now, you don’t have to fork over that personal information in order to complete the roundly-criticized survey on mydemocracy.ca, but if you don’t, you opinions won’t hold much weight.

“You do not need to provide your name to use MyDemocracy.ca. However, you will be asked to complete a profile about yourself,” the site’s privacy policy states. “While answering the profile questions is optional, not answering these questions will result in your input not being included as part of the overall results of the study.”

mydemocracy-privacy

The long list of “profile” questions includes: highest level of education achieved; first language learned; level of interest in politics; whether you’re a visible minority, First Nation, Inuit, Metis, disabled or LBGTQ2; how satisfied you are “with the way democracy works in Canada;” how closely you have followed the electoral reform debate, whether you’ve discussed the issue with friends; how often you vote; and your postal code.


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Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef’s office did not respond when asked Wednesday morning why this is the case.

READ MORE: Ottawa to outsource electoral reform consultations to private firm for $250k

The founder and CEO of Vox Pop Labs, the company that developed and is operating the site, told Global News the personal information is necessary for data analysts to ensure the results accurately represent the demographics of the country.

“The notion that we’re just going to throw out data isn’t true,” said Clifton van der Linden. “We plan to release the un-weighted results, but you can’t make representative inferences without the demographic information.”

Ensuring the accessibility of the MyDemocracy.ca survey was paramount to the team, van der Linden said. They wanted to ensure there were no barriers to participating in the discussion.

WATCH: Changes could be coming to the way we vote. Canada has a first-past-the-post system now, meaning the party that wins the most seats is the one that governs — even if they don’t get the most votes. Chief Political Correspondent Tom Clark discusses the complex debate over our voting system.

So once the results are out – both the set of weighted data intended to be representative of the population and the un-weighted, or un-attributable, data – Canadians can decide how much credibility to afford either set, van der Linden said.

“In my view, as a social scientist, I’d attribute more credibility to the weighted set,” he said.

The office of the federal privacy watchdog, however, said Tuesday he’d look into the matter after concerns were raised the survey may be considered a privacy invasion.

“The demographic information may or may not be personally identifiable,” Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce law Michal Geist wrote on his blog.

In a large community, the information required might not point to one single person, he wrote. But in a smaller community, the combination of all that personal information is conceivably enough to identify one specific person.

“Regardless, it is inappropriate for a government-backed consultation to require Canadians to provide detailed demographic information in order for their opinions to count.”

– -With a file from The Canadian Press

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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