02/28/2012 08:29 EST | Updated 02/28/2012 08:54 EST

Lawful Access: Poll Finds Majority Of Canadians Think Tories' Online Surveillance Bill Shouldn't Become Law


A majority of Canadians think that the Conservatives’ proposed online surveillance Bill C-30 is too intrusive and should be defeated, according to a poll by Angus-Reid.

The poll, conducted February 23-24 and surveying 1,011 respondents on the polling firm’s online panel, found 53 per cent of Canadians believe the bill is too intrusive, compared to only 27 per cent who believe the it is necessary to fight online criminal activity.

Even a plurality of Conservative voters, or 47 per cent, thinks that the bill has gone too far. And considering that opposition to the bill is strongest in the Tory-heartland of Alberta, where 66 per cent of respondents said it was too intrusive, it is not surprising that the Conservative government has backed away from strongly supporting the proposed legislation.

Roughly 3 out of 5 Liberal and NDP supporters believe the bill is too intrusive.

Internet privacy is a story that Canadians are plugged into, as 45 per cent of respondents said they were following the story moderately or very closely. Only 25 per cent said they were not following it closely at all. Men in particular are paying attention, as 60 per cent said they were following it closely, compared to only 32 per cent of women.

The issue is not, however, simply about online snooping. When asked whether respondents agreed with allowing “police to get warrants to obtain information transmitted over the Internet and data related to its transmission, including locations of individuals and transactions,” 68 per cent said that they did. A majority were also comfortable with allowing “courts to compel other parties to preserve electronic evidence.” In other words, Canadians are not opposed to allowing the police to use normal channels to obtain information that can help solve and prevent crimes.

But when it comes to obtaining information without a warrant, Canadians reacted strongly to the idea. Fully 57 per cent disagreed that Internet providers should be forced to “provide a ‘back door’ to make communications accessible to police.” Over 60 per cent disagreed that telecommunications and Internet provides should be required to “give subscriber data to police, national security agencies and the Competition Bureau without a warrant” or that they should be required to disclose people’s names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail and IP addresses and local service provider identifiers without a warrant.

Only 35 per cent of respondents think Bill C-30 should be passed, compared to 51 per cent who think it should be defeated. In no part of the country does support for the legislation surpass 40 per cent.

Even Conservative voters are divided on the issue. While 45 per cent believe the bill should pass, another 45 per cent of Conservative voters feel that the House of Commons should defeat the government’s bill.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews certainly upped the rhetoric on this debate by connecting critics of the legislation to child pornographers , but Canadians are clearly against some of the basic tenets of the bill. The survey suggests Canadians believe cracking down on online crime is important – but they are not prepared to give up some of their freedoms to do it.

Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls, and electoral projections.

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