Evidence of meeting #41 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was online.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Jennifer Stoddart  Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
  • Barbara Bucknell  Strategic Policy Analyst, Legal Services, Policy and Research Branch, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
  • Janet Goulding  Director General, Governance, Policy Coordination and Planning, Department of Industry
  • Jill Paterson  Policy Analyst, Security and Privacy Policy, Digital Policy, Department of Industry
  • Maxime-Olivier Thibodeau  Committee Researcher

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Pierre-Luc Dusseault

Good morning, everyone. Since we have quorum, we will start. Welcome to this very first meeting to study privacy and social media.

I am pleased to have with us Ms. Stoddart, the privacy commissioner.

First, I would like to ask committee members whether they agree to extending this meeting by half an hour, given the vote in the House and the fact that several witnesses who will appear before us will want to be able to speak and answer questions. Do we agree to extending the meeting by half an hour?

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

I would move if I could, Mr. Chairman, that perhaps we reduce the period of time for each group of witnesses to 45 minutes, which would allow us some time for committee business at the end.

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Pierre-Luc Dusseault

If the committee agrees, we will take a little less time for asking questions, but the witnesses will each still have 10 minutes to make their presentations. So there will be fewer questions if that is the committee's wish. We will also have to set aside 10 minutes at the end of the meeting, after the witnesses have left, to discuss a few important things for the committee and to be able to plan the rest of the study.

Mr. Angus, do you want to take the floor?

May 29th, 2012 / 11:35 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

I'm asking the indulgence of my colleagues, because I was surprised that when we asked for the report from Madame Benoit, later on we were told that it was under a cloak of confidentiality. That was not my understanding.

I know we have committee business, but at the beginning of this meeting I want to be clear that when someone presents us with a report we've asked for, if there is a reason for it to be confidential then we will respect that, but something that looks as though it was put together using Google pictures, I think, has no reason to be kept under confidentiality.

I'd like to ask if I could get unanimous support, since we have media here and people want to know what's in that report, for it to be released to the media, and then we can carry on with our business at the end of the meeting.

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Pierre-Luc Dusseault

This has to do with a whole other topic, but since Mr. Angus is asking for unanimous consent, I just want to remind committee members that there was a letter from—

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Can we deal with the matter on the floor first, and then we'll come to Mr. Angus' motion?

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Pierre-Luc Dusseault

The motion regarding the 45 minutes has already been accepted. There never really was a motion; agreement was unanimous.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Was that agreed to? Okay.

On Mr. Angus' motion—

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Pierre-Luc Dusseault

I would just like to clarify one thing: we received a letter from Ms. Benoît's assistant, Ms. Pérusse, who said that the documents were confidential. Since I am at the service of the committee, if you decide otherwise about it… It is your decision, but I just want to remind you that we were clearly told that it was confidential.

Mr. Del Mastro, do you want to take the floor?

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

I'd just say if it was intended to be confidential, it's not. I'm sure most members read the story in the Globe and Mail this morning.

I don't see any reason why this should be held confidential either. We had hearings here that were entirely in public. We heard testimony that was entirely in public. I think secondly there were a number of questions that were either not answered or perhaps not answered fully.

I'm entirely supportive of what Mr. Angus is requesting. I would anticipate most members here at the committee would be.

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Pierre-Luc Dusseault

The clerk told me that he spoke to Ms. Benoît today and that she has several concerns. Of course, she had already told us that it was confidential for a number of reasons that will perhaps be explained to us a little later. Since the company operates in the private sector, we may perhaps understand that she does not want to share the information with everyone.

Furthermore, since it is the committee's decision, I can do nothing to stop you, either. It is up to the committee to decide.

Mr. Angus?

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

With all due respect, I think it's very important to have this on the record. We in the official opposition take the rights of the witness very seriously. This is not meant to be a kangaroo court. There were many concerns about why taxpayers paid money for that trip. We had asked for answers. We had asked for the report.

If the report had supplied the kind of information on meetings or perhaps on costings or other things that would have been shared with the various ports in Australia and the Port of Montreal, that would be an issue of confidentiality we would be bound to respect.

I'm very concerned that someone has presented this report and then after the fact has claimed confidentiality. There's nothing on that report that even says confidential. There's nothing in that report other than something one could hire an intern or ask an intern to find on Google and Flickr. It seems to me we're being asked to use confidentiality perhaps to be almost like a cover-up.

I think that's not the role of our committee. I think the public should be able to see it, and the public should be able to make up their minds. I think it's our job to release that report.

11:40 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Pierre-Luc Dusseault

Mr. Del Mastro, you have the floor.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Thank you very much.

Again, with respect to the concerns voiced that this is somehow a confidential report, I haven't seen much that indicates it's in any way confidential. In fact, it's as I suspected when the witness appeared before committee. I did suggest there was nothing in the report that you couldn't get off Google.

I also suggested that while she wouldn't respond to my direct question about how much she is paid in her position, which I think people in the public employment.... And with respect to your indication that they have private competitors, two thirds of their funding directly comes from the Canadian taxpayer. I think you have to respect those dollars, and you know frankly, I would simply argue that I don't see anything here that's confidential.

In my view, this was a personal vacation that was in part paid for by Canadian taxpayers, and I'd like Canadians and others to look at it and make that determination for themselves.

That's my determination at this point, and frankly, I think this committee should come forward with a report or at least a motion that we find this spending inappropriate, and that we seek that the government respond formally to what we've witnessed here and table that response in the House of Commons. I think that's where this should go.

11:40 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Pierre-Luc Dusseault

Thank you.

Some witnesses are appearing as part of another study. Several things have been said, and I expressed some reservations. Everyone seems to agree on continuing the work. Is there unanimous consent? That's basically the case.

As for Ms. Benoît's documents, we would have to consult the clerk to determine how to distribute them. The documents are lengthy and cannot be sent by email. We will see what can be done.

Mr. Del Mastro?