House of Commons Hansard #103 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was transportation.

Topics

Human Resources Development
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Reform

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, when 18,000 Canadians requested copies of their own files, the government shut down the database. Did the human resources minister have a conscience attack and realize that her massive files violated individual privacy rights, or was she afraid of how people would react when they found out how closely their government watches them?

Two weeks ago the minister denied there was a problem. Then she lurched into damage control with the all too familiar refrain, “Don't worry, trust me”. Canadians do not trust her. They were horrified to learn that the minister who cannot keep track of grant applications and bungled a billion dollars on job creation programs had their most personal information.

The Liberals' campaign team saw their re-election dreams going up in smoke. Shovelgate deeply wounded them and big brother was sure to bury them. With her image consultant coaching from the sidelines, the minister made a U-turn and became Ms. Privacy Protector.

Once again big sister is asking Canadians to trust her. Canadians are asking, “Why should we?”

The Environment
Statements By Members

May 30th, 2000 / 2:10 p.m.

NDP

Louise Hardy Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, recently parliamentarians attended an ecological summit and yesterday a forum on aboriginal health.

The summit included a presentation by Dr. Schindler from the University of Alberta who said that considering the importance of water to all life, it is strange that freshwater has been Canada's most mistreated and ignored natural resource. Canadian citizens are paying the price for governments not protecting our water supply and the environment.

The quality of drinking water is a major issue in Ontario. For the north the concentrations of PCBs and other pollutants in fish, caribou and birds are high enough to require human consumption of traditional aboriginal food to be restricted. The government is fully aware that in the north we have PCB levels five times higher than anywhere else.

It is time that the Liberal government changed its cavalier attitude toward the environment and enforced environmental laws and regulations. We demand action and remedies on the cumulative effects of organic pollutants. The government is responsible for the price that northerners are paying due to these pollutants.

New Member
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that the Clerk of the House has received from the Chief Electoral Officer a certificate of the election and return of Mr. Loyola Hearn, member for the electoral district of St. John's West.

Mr. Loyola Hearn, member for the electoral district of St. John's West, introduced by Mr. Peter MacKay and Mr. Norman Doyle.

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Edmonton North
Alberta

Reform

Deborah Grey Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, more than 18,000 Canadians have written to the human resources department asking for copies of their files from the big brother database. According to the Privacy Act, the minister has 30 days to respond to that and comply.

Yesterday the minister suggested that Canadians who have asked for that information will have to write again and tell her that they really, really want copies of their file.

Why is the minister not complying with the Privacy Act?

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should quit chasing headlines and get her facts straight. No one has to reapply. If they have asked us for the information, they will receive it.

She is right that it will take us some time because we have dismantled the files. We have been working with the privacy commissioner's office so that we will not have a significant delay. No one who wants the information will have to reapply.

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Edmonton North
Alberta

Reform

Deborah Grey Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I do not think we are chasing headlines, we are chasing the truth. It would be just slick if we could find it as soon as possible in the House.

Yesterday the minister claimed in the House and in her press release that she had dismantled the big brother database. She also claimed that she would respond to the thousands of requests from Canadians to see their personal files. On the one hand she said that she had destroyed that database, and on the other hand she said that she will provide copies of it to Canadians.

It is pretty simple: Does she have access to that information or does she not?

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, maybe the hon. member should review Hansard from yesterday where I said that indeed the system had been dismantled and that we would ensure that those Canadians who want their information will get it. We will help them facilitate getting that information from agencies like the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency which now has its information that was in our consolidated files back in its hands.

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Edmonton North
Alberta

Reform

Deborah Grey Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, now you see it, now you don't. The minister's track record proves that she simply cannot be trusted and yet she does have access to all Canadians' most private information. Her own press release said that access to the big brother database would still be granted on a case by case basis. Not only is the information still there somewhere buried in a computer, I bet she can find it, but it also will still be used.

The question is this: Is it not true that the only thing this minister has really dismantled is her own credibility?

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I think the opposite is quite true. It is the hon. member opposite who continues to bring fear into the hearts of Canadians. She should pay attention to what happened yesterday, look at the response of the privacy commissioner and actually accept that we are in the process of dismantling the file. The privacy commissioner is overseeing its dismantling. She can go to him and ensure that the job is done.

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, talking about yesterday, the minister said that she acted quickly to deal with concerns about the big brother database.

It turns out that what really happened was that the privacy commissioner spent months trying to get the government to dismantle the database and only when he hit roadblocks with the minister did he go public.

Why did the minister give the impression that she acted quickly when in fact her hand had to be forced?

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, let me just quote what the privacy commissioner said yesterday. He said “I think it is fair to say that from the outset the department recognized that major changes had to be made and I did not have to persuade them at all”.

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will quote from yesterday's Hansard where the minister said “I announced the dismantling of the longitudinal labour force file. It comes less than two weeks after the privacy commissioner tabled his last advice on this file”. This gives the clear impression that the minister acted very quickly. That in fact is not the case, is it?

The privacy commissioner has been urging this minister for months to get rid of this big brother database file and she refused. Only after the public found out about it did she act. Why did it have to take public disclosure to force her hand?

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I have been consistent on my views on this issues right from the start. I continue to believe that good information is required to build good public policy. I continue to believe that the privacy of Canadians is paramount. I have said in the House that I will work with the privacy commissioner to ensure that we continue to have the balance, and that is exactly we have done.

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government has been gathering personal information on members of the public unbeknownst to them since 1979, with some information dating as far back as 1971. Human Resources Development Canada has announced it will dismantle the megafile.

The link may be dismantled, but the data will be kept. What guarantee can the Prime Minister give us that all this information will not be combined again one day, and unbeknownst once again to the public?

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, again I would direct the hon. member to look at the commentary from the privacy commissioner, the officer of the House that we trust to safeguard the privacy of Canadians. He has identified that he is in full support of the undertakings that we announced yesterday.