This was weird.True story. A family friend who represents a business organization bought a house. During the inspection, this person was overheard by the realtor discussing on the phone the likely whereabouts of the premier on a certain date.Scrupulous (to a fault, in my view) the realtor concluded that if our friend knew the likely whereabouts of Danielle Smith on a given date, they must be a ‘politically exposed person.’ Seriously. In this person's judgment, that's all it took. So, our friend and Nigel Farage. For the record, if all it takes is knowing Smith’s schedule and you want people to think you’re connected, you too can be a politically exposed person this easily. Just log onto the provincial website here where the premier’s office routinely posts Smith’s calendar. Click here to learn the whereabouts of the prime minister himself. Then tell your realtor.But to this diligent realtor, the fact our friend would know this stuff meant there were more forms that must be filled out. Apparently, the provincial real estate association is under orders from the federal government to keep an eye open for PEPs — ‘politically exposed persons’ and she was just doing her job.In one sense, no big deal. It took five minutes. Nothing changed.But for those of us whose radar tracks these things, it’s another of those I-don't-think-I-like-what's-going-on-here moment.As if it is not enough that Alberta’s law society requires ideological purity from its members, on pain of losing their licence to practice law, and that Alberta doctors who depart from the received wisdom of the health bureaucracy will be investigated by their professional college, we now have Alberta realtors reporting on you to Ottawa.What!?The explanation is FINTRAC. (In full, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.)According to the documents, this federal program is aimed at terrorism and organized crime. However it does this by requiring ‘reporting entities’ to flag anything they consider suspicious.So, who’s a reporting entity, (that is an unpaid snitch for the government)?Banks of course, are obviously ‘reporting entities.’ So too are casinos, accountants, financial services cooperatives, life insurance brokers, loan companies, trust companies… there’s quite a list and to the present point, real estate companies and their sales representatives are on it.At one level, this seems like normally prudent regulatory activity. It’s not like the proceeds of crime have never been laundered through real estate. Some snitches are necessary.However, it can and does lead to situations where zealous but non-political functionaries who are deeply impressed by anybody who knows an MLA, conclude that somebody else who knows the premier must be a made-man. And, therefore politically exposed.Well, not necessarily. Had the realtor read the instructions from the real estate board, they would have seen that our friend did not even qualify as a ‘politically exposed person.’The list is here: “A PEP is an individual who holds a senior position in a government, military, judiciary or international organization.” The document helpfully amplifies, “PEPS fall into one of the following categories: foreign PEPs, domestic PEPS, heads of international organizations,” and the close relatives of any of these.Our friend would like to fly in such a stratosphere, but doesn't quite do so yet.And this is really the problem. Whatever the good reasons may be for any and all of the powers that governments take unto themselves, they’re like a Grimsby trawler. Along with the fish you wanted to catch, you inevitably sweep up some that shouldn't be in the net.That is to say that when Ottawa mandated that banks must reveal customer information on demand, they were looking for drug dealers. But it was also the bank accounts of political dissidents — people who sent even small amounts of money to the Convoy — that were frozen when the government wanted it so. Tamara Lich recalls, here.And when Ottawa gave itself the power to track cellphones for criminal purposes, nobody dreamed they would use that same power to track 33 million Canadian phones during the COVID crisis, just to see how responsive us plebes were to their instructions. In this case, the petty abuse of federal power stems not from malice but from somebody’s over-eagerness to follow rules.But of course, from the citizen’s point of view, same difference.It is characteristic of governments everywhere to take power for a legitimate goal and use it for another unstated purpose when convenient. The Government of Canada is hardly the worst. However, we need to keep it that way.So two suggestions.One, if it happens to you, push back. Object. Complain. Sue them, if you have good facts.Second, and this is really just practical guidance, if you’re buying a house, you don’t want to be on another government database and if you do know Danielle Smith, don’t tell ’em.Otherwise, weird things can happen.