House of Commons Hansard #124 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was marine.

Topics

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 92 will be answered today. .[Text]

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Do any of the following agencies provide governor in council appointees with tax free allowances and if so ( i ) what is the amount of the individual allowances and ( ii ) the reason for the allowances, for example, second residences and/or transportation: ( a ) Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages; ( b ) National Film Board of Canada: ( c ) Canada Industrial Relations Board; ( d ) Canadian Dairy Commission; ( e ) Atomic Energy Control Board; ( f ) Canadian Space Agency; ( g ) Immigration and Refugee Board; and ( h ) Privy Council Office?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Leeds—Grenville
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Jordan Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister

No “tax free” allowances are provided to governor in council appointees, however, some of these appointees do receive allowances which are specified as being “net after tax”. They are not tax free. These types of allowances normally cover travel and living expenses incurred during temporary relocation and are generally in line with those available under the Treasury Board integrated relocation policy.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

I ask, Mr. Speaker, that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from September 27 consideration of Bill C-8, an act respecting marine conservation areas, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Marine Conservation Areas Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I apologize if the request I made was not properly put on paper, although the House was aware that pursuant to consultations yesterday the first order to be called today would be the motion for the appointment of the privacy commissioner, not Bill C-8.

I understood that debate would be rather brief but it was to be the first order called today.

Marine Conservation Areas Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry the Chair was not aware of the order that had been agreed but I will put the question to the House.

Marine Conservation Areas Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Have you taken for granted that the House had given its consent that this motion would be the first item discussed today?

Marine Conservation Areas Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is not a matter of consent. The government is entitled to change the designated order for anything under government orders. I do not believe that it is a matter of the consent of the House because we did not begin with the item the clerk read at the table. I believe it is completely normal for the government to determine the order in which we will deal with items under government orders.

Privacy Commissioner
Government Orders

September 28th, 2000 / 10:10 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That, in accordance with subsection 53(1) of the Act to extend the present laws of Canada that protect the privacy of individuals and that provide individuals with a right of access to personal information about themselves, Chapter P-21 of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1985, this House approve the appointment of George Radwanski of Toronto, Ontario, as Privacy Commissioner for a term of seven years.

First, I want to thank Bruce Phillips whose mandate ended on August 30 and who carried out his duties with integrity and professionalism.

An eminent journalist, Mr. Phillips served as deputy privacy commissioner from February 1990 to April 1991. He then assumed the position of privacy commissioner from April 1991 to quite recently, namely August 30.

With the ongoing responsibilities and the extremely delicate nature of the position of privacy commissioner, it should be filled quickly.

Therefore, pursuant to subsection 53(4) of the Privacy Act, the governor in council may give any qualified individual the powers and functions of the incumbent of this position. George Radwanski has therefore been appointed acting commissioner.

I hope that all members of this House will support the appointment of Mr. Radwanski as the next privacy commissioner.

The Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Government Operations met to consider Mr. Radwanski's appointment last Thursday, September 21. The committee reviewed Mr. Radwanski's extensive experience which, as I am sure all hon. members will agree, makes him very well qualified to assume the role of privacy commissioner.

A former journalist, Mr. Radwanski is currently president of his own public policy and communications consulting firm. From 1965 until 1985 he held journalism positions of increasing responsibility for various newspapers, including associate editor of the Montreal Gazette , Ottawa editor and national affairs columnist with the Financial Times of Canada and editor in chief with the Toronto Star .

Indeed, he was honoured by his peers in the journalism profession on two occasions, namely in 1980 and 1981 with the national newspaper award for editorial writing.

Following his departure from the journalism field, Mr. Radwanski entered the public service when he was appointed by the then Ontario premier, David Peterson, to head major studies into matters of importance to the Canadian public, including a study into the service sector in Ontario.

In 1996 at the request of the Canadian government, Mr. Radwanski chaired the mandate review of the Canada Post Corporation, a very important task.

During his journalism career and indeed his professional activities following his departure from the journalism field, George Radwanski has demonstrated a commitment to Canadian values and to serving the Canadian public. His long and distinguished career will hold him in good stead in this future position.

With his background he will bring to the position both knowledge and experience with the delicate and difficult problems of balancing the public's right to know and the individual's right to privacy. He will also bring to the position of privacy commissioner the independence of mind of a journalist, which I am sure all hon. members will agree is an extremely important qualification for the job of privacy commissioner.

In conclusion, I encourage all members of this House to support the motion to have the House approve the appointment of George Radwanski as the privacy commissioner.

Privacy Commissioner
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, the official opposition certainly supports the appointment of Mr. Radwanski as the privacy commissioner.

For years now the official opposition has asked that when appointing people like this to key positions, the individual should be interviewed by certain standing parliamentary committees, and that was done in part in this case.

Before I proceed any further, I would like to pay tribute to the previous privacy commissioner, Mr. Bruce Phillips. It was my privilege to meet with him on several occasions and I have a lot of respect for the gentleman. He did the office a great honour and carried out his responsibilities with respect and also with great confidentiality. I am sure that Mr. Radwanski will do the same.

I want to refer back to the particular interview process that took place at the parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Government Operations. This particular committee met and the members of the committee were invited “to an informal meeting for the purpose of consulting with the interim privacy commissioner.”

The hon. member opposite just indicated that the committee met to consider the the appointment of Mr. Radwanski. To the best of my recollection there was no motion made at this particular committee, neither was it ever indicated that there was a consideration here. It was for the purpose of consulting with, which is quite different from the implication left by the words that the hon. member used a moment ago.

Unfortunately, the committee interviewed someone who had already been appointed. In one sense it was really a ratification and, indeed, the motion here before the House is in fact a ratification. It is my understanding that Mr. Radwanski has occupied the position since September 1, 2000.

I want to ask this question. What was the status of this committee meeting at that time? It was my understanding that the committee was to have been conducted in a manner similar to that of a regular meeting of the standing committee. While an interview took place, while there was translation services and while there was a broadcast on the usual radio channels, there was no official record kept of what transpired at the committee meeting.

I submit that there is little practical use of a meeting like this, when it is purely a motion. I want to reinforce the concept that we agree that these kinds of interviews should take place with people who will be occupying key positions. It is essential that we do this. There should be transparency, there should be respect and there should be dignity for the office and also for the people who are being chosen to occupy these positions. In order to have meaningful input it should not be simply a consultation and it should not be simply a matter of meeting with this person.

We met Mr. Radwanski. He was a good individual. He met with the group and expressed himself well and demonstrated that he was able to do the job.

I would suggest that in future the record of these meetings be recorded. It will help both the memory of the members who were there and will also help to make the process transparent and accountable and it will give the respect deserved to these kinds of appointments.

I would like to say something as well about the individual who is being considered today, Mr. George Radwanski. I do not think there is any doubt that he is a very capable individual and that he has extensive academic and experiential credentials to do the job. However, one wonders whether his connections and association, past and present, with the Liberal Party, both federally and provincially, may have influenced the selection of him as the privacy commissioner.

To be specific, I want to refer to some of these connections. First, he was the special adviser to the treasurer of Ontario, appointed by then Premier Peterson to undertake a study of the service sector. He published the study known as “Ontario Study of the Service Sector, 1986”.

Then, in 1987 he was the special adviser for the minister of education in Ontario, again appointed by then Premier Peterson. He undertook a major study which resulted in a publication entitled “Ontario Study of the Relevance of Education, and the Issue of Dropouts, 1987”.

He served as a senior strategy and policy adviser and principal speech writer for the Right Hon. John Turner in the 1988 election campaign. Then very recently, Mr. Radwanski served as a senior policy, strategy and communications adviser to the Right Hon. Prime Minister of Canada in the House today.

During the discussion and consultation in no way did Mr. Radwanski ever try to cover this up or in any way suggest that he did not have these associations. In fact, he had had these associations and was quite open about that. I commend him for that.

He indicated that he wanted to make some recommendations with regard to the Privacy Act so that the act could be brought more up to date and more commensurate with the conditions in the world of government and business today.

He wrote “The Future of Canada Post Corporation”, which was a review of the Canada Post mandate to which the hon. member opposite just referred. The publication was given to the hon. minister then responsible for Canada Post Corporation in 1996. Unfortunately, those recommendations did not go anywhere. I hope the recommendations he will make on the Privacy Act will go a little further than that.

The Canada Post mandate reflected in my opinion both depth of understanding of sound management principles and what a strong organizational structure should look like. His comments, even in this early tenure in the position of privacy commissioner, showed the same kind of understanding and sensitivity that he revealed in that earlier review. I certainly wish him well.

In my mind there is no doubt about the competency of this individual. However, I have the sneaking suspicion that his appointment was not totally void of patronage considerations by those making the recommendation to appoint him the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Privacy Commissioner
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will make just a few comments on what the House has before it today, this motion to appoint Mr. George Radwanski as the new privacy commissioner.

At the outset, I want to say that everything I have to say today should not be taken as a reflection in any way upon the integrity of Mr. Radwanski or his competence as an individual, an administrator or, for that matter, potentially as a privacy commissioner. However, there are a number of concerns that should be registered at this time.

If we have a recorded vote on this, it may well be that we might choose to vote against the motion, not so much as an expression of opposition to Mr. Radwanski, but more as our expression of opposition to the process which has been followed and the fact that the government has missed an opportunity to really do the right thing and break new ground with respect to the appointments being made to these kinds of positions.

One can understand, to a certain degree, what we normally call patronage when the government appoints people to carry out its policies. It is understandable even though this can be done to excess and improperly with people without merit sometimes getting appointed. Nevertheless, governments have a right to appoint people to carry out policy whom they trust share their world view and can carry out their policy thrusts in any particular area.

However, there are a number of other positions that are not positions in which people are entrusted with the carrying out of government policy. What they are entrusted with is the scrutiny of government policy. Their job is to criticize, if necessary, government policy. For instance, there is no possibility that part of the job of an ambassador is to criticize government policy. He is an extension of government policy. However, a privacy commissioner, an information commissioner, an official languages commissioner and a number of other of those kinds of appointments that may exist either as officers of the House or out in the broader realm of the public service are quite different in that respect. Certainly the Office of the privacy commissioner falls within that realm.

I go back, at the risk of sounding repetitive, as I know I do to some people in the House, to the McGrath report. We suggested in that report that real power be given to committees of the House when it comes to these kinds of appointments and, for that matter, when it comes to a variety of other critical appointments, like the appointment of the head of the CRTC, at that time called the CTC, and those to a number of other government boards and commissions. This was not just to have informal consultations but to give committees real power to hear from potential candidates, not just candidates that the government had already selected, or if it was fixed on only one candidate, to hear from that candidate and make a recommendation. For that matter, we even suggested that the committee have some measure of veto power over whether or not an appointment was to be made.

That long standing recommendation goes back some 15 years. The government had an opportunity here to implement that recommendation in one way or another through having a much more meaningful process than it did, instead of asking us what we thought of a candidate and then appointing him as an interim privacy commissioner.

This is putting the rest of us on the spot now. The government tells us that a candidate is going to come before the committee and at committee we then find out that it is a hybrid event. It is not really a committee meeting but an informal discussion. There may or may not be a record of the conversation. I raised this matter with the chairman at the time and I understood from what he said that there would be a record, but now I understand that there is not. The record is not available. As far as I am concerned, I was misled at the time with respect to the nature of the meeting.

There is a lot to be unhappy about. There is the failure of the government to implement a long standing recommendation when it had an opportunity to do so with respect to these kinds of appointments. We are unhappy with the inadequacy of the government's process, by its own standards.

Mr. Radwanski is capable of impartiality. Even though he was an active Liberal, he has a history of being critical of the Liberal government and the Liberal Party from time to time. That is beside the point. The point is that when it comes to this kind of position the government should have chosen someone who was beyond reproach at the level of perception. I am sure that there are many capable Canadians who have no particular political party association and who would make great privacy commissioners. They would not necessarily come from the public service because, as we know, sometimes bureaucrats have a tendency to secrecy. I do not mean secrecy in the privacy sense, but secrecy in the secrecy sense. They might not fit the bill either.

I am sure that there are Canadians who would have been great nominees. Parliament could have had some role in short listing them and suggesting to the government that it select from half a dozen people. This would have been a much more meaningful process and would have helped, in the public's mind, to reduce the cynicism about parliament being a rubber stamp for things that are decided elsewhere. Let us not kid ourselves. This was clearly decided elsewhere.

We could, for the sake of Mr. Radwanski and for the sake of public perception, have a nice touchy feely debate in the House and pretend that parliament is doing something. That is not what is happening. Parliament has been presented with a fait accompli and an inadequate process. This is another missed opportunity. As far as I am concerned, this is another demonstration of the fact that the government and the Liberal Party are a hopeless case when it comes to democratic reform or doing anything that would really enhance the perception and the power of parliament.

Privacy Commissioner
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, before discussing this appointment, I would like, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, to acknowledge the work of Bruce Phillips who, in spite of often extremely difficult circumstances, did a professional job. Mr. Phillips can only be praised for the impartiality and common sense that he displayed.

At this point, I think that the Parliament of Canada and all Canadians and Quebecers want the privacy commissioner to be someone with good judgment and with the ability to objectively evaluate the facts before him.

We congratulate Bruce Phillips and we wish him a new career that will allow him to use his skills for the benefit of society.

As for the appointment of Mr. Radwanski, anyone taking the time to read his resumé can only agree that this man has a very extensive knowledge of Canadian politics. He is most certainly a brilliant and very intelligent person.

We all know, however, that these qualities are important but do not necessarily provide all the rigour required to hold an office that must be totally exempt from any partisan behaviour. The Bloc Quebecois will not approve this appointment for the simple reason that parliament must be allowed to ask questions to a candidate to the position of privacy commissioner.

This is another appointment made by the executive branch of government and it could be perceived as a political appointment. I believe the government—the one that is still in office—would definitely not want to give that impression. I humbly suggest that the government order that this candidate be called by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to answer the questions of members of parliament. In my view, this is the least we can ask in a parliament that claims to be the most democratic and the best one in the world.