Evidence of meeting #16 for Public Safety and National Security in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was information.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Francis Bradley  Vice-President, Corporate Resources, Canadian Electricity Association
  • Jim Davis  Director, Corporate Security, Ontario Power Generation, Canadian Electricity Association
  • Jean-Guy Ouimet  Senior Analyst, Threat and Risk Assessment, Industrial Security, Hydro-Québec, Canadian Electricity Association
  • Chris Price  Director, Corporate Security, Hydro One Networks, Canadian Electricity Association

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

I call this meeting to order.

This is the sixteenth meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, and today we are having a meeting in regard to Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts.

We would like to welcome our witnesses from the Canadian Electricity Association. I believe the leader of the delegation is Mr. Francis Bradley, and he is the vice-president of corporate resources.

We welcome you and the people who are with you, sir. I will allow you to make an opening statement. You can introduce your colleagues, and if any of them have any comments or statements, they can make them as well.

Normally we allow ten minutes, sir, but if you need more time, you may take more, as you are the only witnesses today. After you are done, our procedure is usually to go to the government side first, then the official opposition Liberals, and then we'll go back over to the government side to conclude the first round of questioning, which consists of seven-minute turns.

Again, welcome. We look forward to the testimony that you have for us. You may begin.

9:05 a.m.

Francis Bradley Vice-President, Corporate Resources, Canadian Electricity Association

Good morning, Mr. Chair and committee members.

Thank you for this opportunity to meet with you to discuss Bill C-12 and to inform you about the viewpoint of the members of the Canadian electricity sector.

My name is Francis Bradley. I am Vice-President of the Canadian Electricity Association, which represents all electricity-related areas of activity in Canada, including production, transportation, distribution, customer service and electric energy marketing.

I'm responsible for the association's critical infrastructure protection activities, or CIP program, which was launched in January 2000.

The chairman of our CIP working group, Dave Baumken, from Hydro One, was unable to join us today. He's actually in Germany representing Canada at a NATO event, but he asked that I convey his greetings to the committee and offer, on behalf of CEA, to provide a subsequent briefing to the committee on the security of the electricity sector, at the committee's convenience.

With me today are the persons responsible for the security activities of three of the largest electricity businesses in the country.

Chris Price is with Hydro One, the Ontario transmission and distribution company. Jim Davis is with Ontario Power Generation, the largest power generation company in this province, with hydro, thermal, and nuclear generating facilities.

Jean-Guy Ouimet represents Hydro-Quebec, the main producer, transporter and distributor of electricity in Quebec. Mr. Ouimet is also the chair of our task force.

Following my introduction, we'll be pleased to discuss our views on Bill C-12 and on the challenge of protecting the electricity industry in Canada.

Our critical infrastructure protection initiative looks at both physical and cyber threats and events. It takes an all-hazards approach, and it includes work on such diverse issues as pandemic planning and marijuana grow ops.

Given the interconnected nature or electricity in North America, we work closely with the North American Electric Reliability Council, the NERC. In fact, a Canadian, Stuart Brindley, of Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator, is the chair of the NERC CIP committee, and he's a former chair of our group.

The regulatory framework of Canada's electricity industry is different from that in the United States.

In the U.S., the federal administration holds essential authority for regulating this industry. In Canada, it's the provinces that have most of the powers in this area. It goes without saying that this aspect has at times made our security activities more complex, requiring coordination between federal and provincial authorities and between federal departments.

In addition to our North American activities through the North American Electric Reliability Council, we also collaborate with other sectors in Canada and with a wide range of government officials at Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Natural Resources Canada, the RCMP, and CSIS, to name a few.

The association launched its CIP initiative following the Y2K transition. While Y2K was seen by many to be a non-event, we learned a great deal during the transition, most particularly about infrastructure interdependencies and the importance of information sharing.

During the Y2K transition, the federal government's activities were coordinated through the National Contingency Planning Group. The NCPG played a critical role in engaging all infrastructure sectors and providing analysis of the interdependencies between the various sectors. Their analytical work was subsequently captured in a March 2000 report entitled “Canadian Infrastructure Interdependencies”. I highly recommend it to the committee, as it left no doubt as to the importance of electricity.

Electricity is the original and ultimate example of just-in-time manufacturing. It cannot be stockpiled in large quantities like other commodities.

From the moment someone switches on a light or boots up his computer, the additional electricity that action requires must immediately be available at a power station that may be located hundreds or even thousands of kilometers away.

The importance of electricity to the economy was detailed in a discussion paper published by PSEPC that reviewed the 2003 blackout. Permit me a moment to quote from that NCIAP discussion paper, which came out in November of 2004: The August 2003 blackout provided an object lesson in infrastructure interdependencies by demonstrating how a disruption in one infrastructure can cascade across others. This was the largest blackout ever in North America, leaving 50 million people from New York to Toronto without power for up to two days. Ontario's public health infrastructure was stressed due to hospitals operating on emergency generators. Food and water supplies were put at risk. Grocery stores were forced to discard thousands of dollars worth of food and water treatment plants operated on emergency power. Thousands of Ontarians felt a cash crunch due to closed banks and disabled bank and debit machines. Transportation and commuting were disrupted when gas stations were unable to pump gasoline (pumps require electricity to be able to operate). Flights were cancelled at both international airports in Ontario (Toronto and Ottawa). An extraordinary volume of calls created tremendous backlogs on 911 systems, and cellular transmitter stations failed when their battery back-up power was exhausted.

Given the importance that electricity plays in our economy, CEA began engaging the federal government on CIP early in 2000, initially through the federal government's CIP task force; subsequently with the Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness, OCIPEP; and then with Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, PSEPC. We've worked cooperatively with governments and government officials on a wide range of initiatives over the past six years, from providing input on policy matters to developing scenarios for and participating in tabletop exercises.

However, from the start of this relationship, our most urgent concern has been the issue of an effective information sharing framework.

According to the assessments that the government itself has conducted, the private sector owns and operates 85 percent of the essential infrastructure. It is mainly responsible for protecting its own property.

An effective two-way movement of information between the private sector and government is essential to our success.

The importance of protecting industry-provided information has been acknowledged by the Department of Homeland Security in the United States. Through their protected critical infrastructure information program, they have recognized that they need to work with the private sector and provide protection for information.

Even if an information sharing framework requires much more than mere protection of the information that the industry provides to government, we consider protection the basis of a relationship of trust between these two partners.

The protection accorded to information provided by industry to government in Bill C-12 will allow for a far greater depth of collaboration. We believe that it will greatly enhance the partnership that already exists between industry and the Government of Canada, and that it is the backbone of a much bigger relationship.

It's been said that there's a wealth of information available in the public domain about the vulnerabilities of our sector. This may have been true once, but no longer is that the case. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the industry moved rapidly to remove information from the public domain that could compromise the safety and security of systems, and in 2002 we began adhering to a North America-wide standard for protecting potentially sensitive information.

Industry has information that cannot be shared without the protection provided for in Bill C-12, and we believe that it would benefit PSEPC as well as federal security, intelligence, and law enforcement to be able to access this information in the planning and execution of infrastructure protection activities or law enforcement activities, which, if not implemented appropriately, could lead to unnecessary threats against the electricity sector.

For things to be this way, a complete information sharing framework is still necessary. Protecting information is the first important step.

To sum up, we feel that the bill strikes a fair and prudent balance between the public's right to information and the imperative of ensuring the protection of the electricity industry, this central infrastructure essential to everyone.

Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today. My colleagues and I would be happy to discuss Bill C-12 or other CIP matters with you.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

Thank you very much. We appreciate that.

I will begin with the Liberal Party. Mr. Holland, please, for seven minutes.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

First of all, thank you to the witnesses for coming today and taking the time to speak to our committee with respect to Bill C-12.

I am going to start with some issues on which I have concern and on which I would be interested in your perspective, and then move to some things you might be suggesting.

Obviously you're quite right, after 2003 and the blackout people understand just how critical a resource electricity is and how essential it is and the devastating impact it can have when there are disruptions.

I am going to draw from my experience, and certainly both Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation, and perhaps all of you, can relate to the important role that municipalities play when these problems occur. For example, if there's a situation in Pickering with the plant, some of the first communications are between the municipality and the station as well as with the local Veridian Corporation, which I was on the board of directors of, and with local utility operators, distributors.

My concern is that this bill doesn't really address municipalities or bring them to the table at all. I am wondering what your thoughts are on that and how you think that might be addressed. Do you think they should be at the table as part of this process? There's barely a reference to them in the bill. Do you think they should be partners at the table and taking part in the broader discussions around emergency planning, when they are, in many cases, the first responders and the people who you would be dealing with right away as well?

9:15 a.m.

Vice-President, Corporate Resources, Canadian Electricity Association

Francis Bradley

I would imagine my colleagues from Ontario would want to reflect on that in their particular circumstances. Certainly in any situation in which our members have been involved, you're quite right, the critical delivery mechanism is often at the municipal level.

Perhaps either Mr. Davis or Mr. Price can talk about the specific circumstances in Ontario and working with EMO.

9:15 a.m.

Jim Davis Director, Corporate Security, Ontario Power Generation, Canadian Electricity Association

I would like to respond to that.

In fact, we do work very closely with municipalities. This bill will go a long way in allowing us to work even closer with everybody across the country. We have an excellent working relationship currently with intelligence and policing agencies right across the province of Ontario, and as I said, we have an excellent working relationship with municipalities.

I don't foresee there being a major problem in continuing that working relationship.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

I guess the question I'm driving at is, when emergency management is being planned and there's talk about whether or not there are adequate resources and adequate ability to respond to emergencies as they develop, would it make sense in your minds to include municipalities at the table in the discussions, more than just in a cursory hope that the provinces get in touch with them and let them know what's going on, but actually including them formally in this process and allowing them representation at the table?

9:15 a.m.

Director, Corporate Security, Ontario Power Generation, Canadian Electricity Association

Jim Davis

I think cooperation with all players is important. Unfortunately, I would have to leave the answer to that question to people senior to me. My position is specifically around the security area, and I really don't want to comment in areas outside of my expertise.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

That's fair.

On the consultation leading up to the development of this bill, Bill C-12, can you just describe to me how the government engaged you on the bill and what consultation you participated in?

9:15 a.m.

Vice-President, Corporate Resources, Canadian Electricity Association

Francis Bradley

Certainly. We have actually been consulted fairly extensively in the development of this. As I mentioned, it's an issue generally that we raised, likely first in the first meeting we had with the CIP task force all the way back in March 2000. It's an issue we raised subsequently in 2001 and 2002, both in face-to-face meetings and in correspondence we had with the head of the CIP task force and then subsequently the deputy minister.

We have participated, as I've said, in a number of meetings, and prior to this current incarnation of the bill—I believe it was first introduced as Bill C-78, if my memory serves me correctly—we were consulted in the months leading up to the introduction of Bill C-78. In fact, we were also briefed on the afternoon Bill C-78 was tabled in the House.

So we had pretty solid engagement for a number of years on the issue, and specifically on the legislation, we had been engaged in the months leading up to, first, the introduction of Bill C-78 and then of Bill C-12. So we were happy with the level of engagement we had.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

It sounds as though you're very supportive of this bill and have been working on its previous incarnations in the previous government as well. But is there anything specifically here—we didn't get a package, or at least I didn't receive a package of information from you, as we have from some, with some changes or modifications or concerns you had—on which you could outline any concerns you may have, or areas where you feel this bill needs to be improved?

9:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Corporate Resources, Canadian Electricity Association

Francis Bradley

We didn't provide a brief because in fact our message is, I think, fairly concise and very specific.

We don't have any comment on the first seven clauses of the bill because it talks about how the government is going to organize itself and how it's going to deliver its services, the responsibilities of the minister, responsibilities of the ministries, and so on. That is the government's business, to manage the government's business. The term they've used previously is “looking after our own house first”.

Our only specific area of interest in the legislation, and the only one that will likely impact us, is in clauses 8 to 10, which deal with the protection of information. That is an issue that we, as I say, have been engaging the government on for quite some time.

Of course, as I said, this is a piece of what is a much larger relationship. A great deal more has to be done to improve the flow of information, cooperation, and coordination, but I wouldn't expect this legislation to address any of those other issues. It's really quite specific and quite pointed, and on the issue we're particularly interested in, it goes where we want it to go.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

I'm sorry, Mr. Holland. Time is up.

Mr. Ménard.

9:20 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

First, I'm very pleased to have the head of security in Ontario among our witnesses. There's one aspect that concerns me more particularly, and that is that Ontario operates a number of nuclear power stations. Personally, unlike many ecologically minded people, I still think that the Canadian nuclear power station system has the immense advantage of using natural uranium rather than enriched uranium, which would be less dangerous.

It's often said that emergency preparedness means preparing for the unforseeable. Can you add some details on security measures that are provided for in the event of an incident, if, for example, there is a loss of control at a nuclear power station. I imagine we can't send in any old police officer or the first person to arrive at the site. Could you explain to us briefly how your action plan is designed?

If an incident of the kind that occurred at Chernobyl happened, who would be responsible for a response?

9:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Corporate Resources, Canadian Electricity Association

Francis Bradley

I am sure Mr. Davis would be delighted to discuss this, but first I'll just point out that although you are quite correct that this is certainly an issue for Ontario because of the number of nuclear stations in that province, it is not unique to Ontario. There are, of course, nuclear generating stations in two other provinces, in New Brunswick and Quebec, although the preponderance of nuclear energy in this country is found in Ontario.

Mr. Davis, do you want to talk specifically about OPG's plans?