An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Sponsor

Scott Brison  Liberal

Status

In committee (Senate), as of June 6, 2018

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-58.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Access to Information Act to, among other things,

(a) authorize the head of a government institution, with the approval of the Information Commissioner, to decline to act on a request for access to a record for various reasons;

(b) authorize the Information Commissioner to refuse to investigate or cease to investigate a complaint that is, in the Commissioner’s opinion, trivial, frivolous or vexatious or made in bad faith;

(c) clarify the powers of the Information Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner to examine documents containing information that is subject to solicitor-client privilege or the professional secrecy of advocates and notaries or to litigation privilege in the course of their investigations and clarify that the disclosure by the head of a government institution to either of those Commissioners of such documents does not constitute a waiver of those privileges or that professional secrecy;

(d) authorize the Information Commissioner to make orders for the release of records or with respect to other matters relating to requesting or obtaining records and to publish any reports that he or she makes, including those that contain any orders he or she makes, and give parties the right to apply to the Federal Court for a review of the matter;

(e) create a new Part providing for the proactive publication of information or materials related to the Senate, the House of Commons, parliamentary entities, ministers’ offices, government institutions and institutions that support superior courts;

(f) require the designated Minister to undertake a review of the Act within one year after the day on which this enactment receives royal assent and every five years afterward;

(g) authorize government institutions to provide to other government institutions services related to requests for access to records; and

(h) expand the Governor in Council’s power to amend Schedule I to the Act and to retroactively validate amendments to that schedule.

It amends the Privacy Act to, among other things,

(a) create a new exception to the definition of “personal information” with respect to certain information regarding an individual who is a ministerial adviser or a member of a ministerial staff;

(b) authorize government institutions to provide to other government institutions services related to requests for personal information; and

(c) expand the Governor in Council’s power to amend the schedule to the Act and to retroactively validate amendments to that schedule.

It also makes consequential amendments to the Canada Evidence Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Dec. 6, 2017 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
Dec. 5, 2017 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
Nov. 27, 2017 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
Sept. 27, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Department of Industry ActPrivate Members' Business

June 1st, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec

Liberal

David Lametti LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech and for admitting that the government could invest in the economy.

Our government recognizes the importance of innovation as a critical tool for business growth. That is why, like many other industrialized countries around the world, we are offering a financial solution to companies that want to grow, access new markets, and develop technologies that will benefit an innovation-based economy.

Our innovation and skills plan establishes a long-term economic vision for Canada that is fuelled by innovation, strong growth, talent, and a collective will to ensure that no one is left behind.

In order to successfully implement the innovation and skills plan, we have to find new ways to reflect how governments support and stimulate economic growth that is inclusive through greater harmonization, better collaboration, and a strategic approach for supporting innovation in every region of Canada.

Let me be clear. This is not corporate welfare or subsidies for big business. This is smart investment in Canada's businesses, in Canada's people, and in Canadian ideas from coast to coast to coast. These investments will create thousands of middle-class jobs and, in particular, create the economy that we want to have both now and for our children and grandchildren. The support provided by government is done with a merit-based approach and focused on specific projects with results and goals set out clearly.

Members should note that this support is provided in an open and transparent manner, and in accordance with proactive disclosure requirements for grants and contributions that enhance the transparency and oversight of public resources.

Our government's proactive disclosure requirements already meet, and in many cases exceed, the requirements set out in Bill C-396. For example, the member for Beauce said that before, “...taxpayers could go to the department's website and find out which companies had received financial assistance [and] how much they received...”.

I am surprised that the member opposite is not aware that this has been the Government of Canada's practice since 2006, and it is still the practice. In fact, under this government, these requirements have been enhanced.

Since April 1, agencies, crown corporations, and federal departments have been following the new guidelines on the reporting of grants and contributions awards. The new guidelines set clear and explicit requirements for federal agencies with respect to the proactive disclosure of their grants and contributions, and these requirements largely exceed those set out in the bill before us. The guidelines take a whole-of-government approach instead of targeting a single federal department.

All information on federal government grants and contributions will be posted at www.open.canada.ca. Canadians will have access to a single site where they can better monitor how the government is using public resources.

The amount of information to disclose increased considerably, with respect to both the previously announced requirements and the requirements set out in Bill C-396. From now on, federal agencies will have to disclose much more information for each disclosure. This includes a more detailed section on the objective of the awards, the expected results, and the recipient. The bill we are debating today does not contain such explicit requirements.

In addition, if the bill is passed, these publication requirements will be strengthened and modernized by Bill C-58, an act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, currently before the Senate. Bill C-58 introduces the legislative requirement for the proactive publication of grants and contributions in line with the new guidelines that I just outlined.

I also want to clarify a few things regarding some of the statements made in previous discussions on Bill C-396. More specifically, I would like to revisit something the member for Beauce said, specifically that Industry Canada publishes individual loan agreements, or repayable contribution agreements, including the specific terms and conditions of repayment. That is one of the requirements that Bill C-396 aims to impose on Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

I want to make it very clear that ISED, the former Industry Canada, has never published the terms and conditions of individual funding agreements or the agreements themselves. The ISED website contains general documents on the terms and conditions as well as program guides that include information on the repayment of funding contributions. This gives Canadians some idea of the government's objectives and needs when public resources are used to support businesses and it gives businesses an overview of the kinds of measures that might be used to determine their repayment schedule.

By contrast, Bill C-396 requires the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development to publish information on individual agreements, thereby forcing the government to publish sensitive, confidential commercial information on private Canadian businesses. That information could potentially be used by a domestic or foreign competitor to undermine the competitiveness of Canadian firms in the global innovation economy.

This would be of particular concern to smaller, privately owned businesses that are not already required to publicly report on things like revenues and expenditures in the same way as publicly traded companies. These are matters of privacy and security that we need to contend with as well.

In essence, Bill C-396 would place undue disclosure requirements on individual Canadian businesses, and compromise their competitive position in the market. I, for one, would like the member opposite to explain why he thinks it is okay to impose undue regulatory burdens on businesses, especially our small and medium-sized businesses. In fact, they are the largest receivers of government investment, which they using to try to scale up and grow their businesses right here in Canada, as opposed to moving elsewhere.

The newly implemented proactive publication requirements for grants and contributions, as well as Bill C-58, fully support the principles of greater transparency and accountability with respect to the use of public money, without unduly imposing transparency requirements on private businesses and organizations.

In summary, Bill C-396 would not improve the government's proactive publication practices as intended, and would undermine the government's efforts to collaborate with Canadian businesses that benefit Canada by generating investment, developing new technologies, and enhancing Canadian innovation capacity and expertise.

Since forming government in 2015, we have taken concrete action to ensure greater openness and transparency, without compromising business confidence. While the member for Beauce presents the bill under the veil of openness and transparency, we all know that its real purpose is ideological. That member is fundamentally opposed to the idea of taxpayer dollars going to Canadian businesses. His position is clear: he does not believe in investing in the people, ideas, and innovations of Canadian businesses. What is not clear is if he speaks on behalf of his party.

The member for Beauce also questions the relevance and importance of the work carried out by our regional development agencies and their support for small and medium-sized businesses across Canada, support that we have increased as a government. Of course, that is his prerogative, but it is also unclear whether that is the position of his leader and his party, which is especially interesting because he is also the Conservative Party's official critic of ISED and a member of the industry committee. Do they view investing in Canadian businesses as corporate welfare? Certainly we do not.

For all those reasons, our government cannot support this bill. We are going to keep supporting Canadians and Canadian businesses.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 22nd, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-76, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other acts and to make certain consequential amendments, also known as “the bill to change the rules to favour the Liberals because they cannot fundraise competitively, and other consequential amendments”. However, that is just the working title.

I appreciate that the minister for electoral reform has come back to the House. The job done previous to her by the treasury board president has been a mess. Now the treasury board president has shown once again that he is not up to the job, whether it is watching Bill C-58 , the Access to Information Act, or his complicity in ignoring reports that Phoenix was not ready, or his attempt to pass off his $7 billion estimate slush fund as transparency.

The acting Chief Electoral Officer had made it 100% clear to the government and Parliament a year ago that he would need legislative changes completed by April 28 in order to have time to be ready for the fall 2019 election, not starting debate and not introducing the legislation by April 28, but completely finished by April 28, through the House and Senate. However, here we are. Instead of having legislation debated and passed through the Senate by now, the Liberals are now just starting.

Let us go back a bit. Following the 2015 election, Elections Canada provided a list of recommendations for changes. The procedures committee was looking at these recommendations for a report to bring back to the House. Then out of nowhere the government dropped in our lap Bill C-33 , an act to amend the Canada Elections Act. Before the report from the committee was completed, the Liberals introduced a bill with incomplete information.

The Liberals rushed in a flawed bill, ignoring the procedures committee, and promptly did absolutely nothing for an entire year. If we add in the inability to appoint a permanent chief elections officer, the cynical Bill C-50 to distract from their cash for access scandals, and the desire to create a debates commission, we have typical Liberal ineptness. Well done, mission accomplished.

How did we get here? We went through the sham consultations a year and a half ago on the electoral reform. It was the same consultation meant to change the voting process from first pass the post to a system that would of course favour the Liberals. This is from their website, and it is still up, “We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.”

Henry James, considered by many as one of the greatest novelists in the English language, has said, “To read between the lines was easier than to follow the text.” If we read between the lines of “We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system”, we get if and only if the Liberals get the system they want, one that would guarantee Liberal re-election, then 2015 will be the last under the first-past-the-post system. Further reading between the lines we also see, “If we don't get the system that favours only the Liberals, then we'll abandon the plan”.

It is funny that when we go to the Liberal mandate tracker it shows electoral reform as not being pursued. It is not a broken promise, or thrown into trash or not being pursued. If we go down a bit further on the mandate tracker and look under “Balance the budget”, which is also in their mandate letter to balance the budget by 2019, it says “Underway - with challenges”. There are tens of billions of added debt. Maybe the budget will be balanced by 2045, but we do not know as the finance minister will not answer.

The Liberals are adding $43 billion in debt from when it was supposed to be balanced in 2019 in the mandate to the end of where the budget shows in 2022-23, with $75 billion of added debt over the period from being elected to 2022-23. This is what they call “Underway - with challenges”.

At the operations committee, we asked representatives of the Privy Council Office about this. Privy Council runs this mandate tracker website. We asked them why they would put out this information. It was very clearly a lie and misinformation. They said that the finance department told them to. I feel badly for the Privy Council having to sit at committee and defend such disingenuous information.

Let us go back to Bill C-76 and look at some of the measures in the bill to change the rules that favour the Liberals, because they cannot competitively fundraise, and other consequential amendments. It allows the Chief Electoral Officer to authorize the voter information card as a piece of ID. This is not a voter ID card, as some people are trying to pass it off as; it is a voter information card. People can head to the polls with that piece, which was mailed to them, and vote.

Here are some fun facts from the last election. Non-Canadian citizens were sent the card in the mail, even though they were not eligible to vote. Cards went out with the wrong names. People were directed to the wrong polling station, sometimes 100 kilometres away. There was a 1.5% error rate on the 26.5 billion cards that were sent out, which means 400,000 people got cards with wrong names, wrong addresses, and so on.

In the 2011 election, before that one, three-quarters of a million Canadians moved during the 36-day writ period.

Elections Canada says that the voters list that it draws the cards from is just a snapshot in time. We are going to base the entire integrity of our election on a snapshot in time? Elections Canada says that it cannot even check the voters list to ensure that those on the list receiving the cards are actually Canadians.

To summarize, hundreds of thousands of incorrect cards are going out and three-quarters of a million people are moving during a standard election period. Over a million people potentially could have the wrong card or have someone else's card. Elections Canada is stating that there is no way to check if the cards are going out to Canadian citizens. The integrity of democracy is based on what Elections Canada calls a “snapshot in time”.

This bill would allow Canadians living abroad to vote regardless of how long they have lived outside the country and whether they intend to return. Right now it is five years. It is being challenged before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has not even ruled on this yet and the Liberal government will bring in changes to allow anyone, regardless of how long they have been out of country, to vote.

Three million Canadians are living abroad, wonderful people, spreading the word of hockey in Canada around the world. However, should we allow those who have no intention of ever returning to Canada to help decide our policies in our country? The Ontario Court of Appeals, which ruled on the five year law, stated that it was democratically justified because it preserved the social contract between voters and lawmakers.

I know the Liberal government loves social licence, social licence for pipelines and for everything else, but I wish it would respect the social contract as has been decided by the Ontario courts.

There is no requirement that any of these expats have to vote in the last riding they lived in or even have visited one of the ridings. My brother, Bob, who left the country about 18 years ago, lives in New Jersey. He has never once stepped foot in my riding of Edmonton West. Should he be allowed to vote in my riding, even though he has never stepped foot in it and left Canada about 18 years ago? I have to wonder how many ridings across Canada in the last election were settled or won by less than 1,000 votes.

Concerted efforts by unfriendly foreign regimes could easily swing ridings by those with no skin in the game. Again, should people with perhaps no roots here and no family here and who perhaps pay no taxes and have not stepped foot in Canada for 10, 15, 20, or 30 years be deciding our foreign policy or what communities are getting funds for infrastructure? Should those who have zero intent of returning be deciding who sits in these chairs in the House?

I mentioned my brother. I love him dearly and still feel bad about knocking his teeth out playing hockey years ago, but I do not think he should be eligible to vote in Canada. He left many years ago.

I want to talk about the ID issue. We heard a lot of misinformation and saw hand-wringing throughout this debate about voter suppression under the Fair Elections Act. Let us look at the truth and the facts. Under the Fair Elections Act, we had an 11.5% increase in voter turnout in the 2015 election. It surged.

Here are some of the IDs that people could use: certificate of citizenship, citizenship card, Indian status card, band membership card, Métis card, old age security card, hospital card, CNIB card, credit card, debit card, and employee card. There is over 60 valid pieces of ID that can be used. People can even get a note from a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter to use as ID.

The bill would allow a maximum of third-party spending to soar through the roof, to allow Tides Foundation in the U.S.A., and Russian influence in Tides, to influence our election here. It is wrong. We have seen the issue of Facebook data misuse and Russian hacking. The bill would allow money from these groups to influence our vote.

We have seen the government try to change the rules when it falters. The Liberals changed the fundraising rules and they tried to change our rules in this place when they found the opposition to be too effective. They tried to change how Canadians voted to rig the next election. Now the government is botching this bill.

Bill C-76 is an omnibus of a mess and should be dismissed.

May 8th, 2018 / 10:30 a.m.
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Information Commissioner of Canada, Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada

Caroline Maynard

Under the current wording of Bill C-58, the institution will not be allowed to turn that down without our approval.

May 8th, 2018 / 10:20 a.m.
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Information Commissioner of Canada, Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada

Caroline Maynard

I can tell you that I have shared three concerns, currently, with Bill C-58. The key area is the mandatory requirements in section 6. I do believe those requirements will limit access and will probably even deter people from asking for information. I've also made clear to Mr. Brison and his team, and to Senator Ringuette, that it's a concern I'd like to talk to them about. I don't think it's necessary. I think the status quo with the Access to Information Act will be better for Canadians.

Also, the transition period for the order-making power is a concern. The lack of enforcement for the order-making power is also something we want to address. The current Bill C-58 doesn't provide me with the authority to get a certification of the orders at the Federal Court level. Not having a mechanism to ensure they respect the orders could potentially lead an institution to not abide by those orders.

May 8th, 2018 / 10:20 a.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Madame Maynard. It's wonderful to have you at our committee again.

I want to follow up on my colleague's direction. Your predecessor was very scathing in her analysis of Bill C-58 and its threat to access to information. The Canadian Journalists for Free Expression have also raised many concerns about the way the act is written and how it will limit journalists' ability to obtain information. Do you share their concerns?

May 8th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Are you looking to Senate amendments to improve Bill C-58 operationally for you?

May 8th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
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Information Commissioner of Canada, Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada

Caroline Maynard

No. The complaints that we've received will have to be dealt with under the current act. Any new complaints received after Bill C-58 is passed will then be affected by the amendments. That's why I was saying that if nothing changes in the amendments, we will end up with three different types of investigation and complaint processes because the order-making power comes into effect a year after Bill C-58 will be approved. That means I'm going to have the old-fashioned complaint system with recommendations, a one-year new system with recommendations also; and in a year from now, then I would have the power to issue orders. This concern has been addressed already through a letter that I've sent to Mr. Brison, and I'm told they are looking into it. I've also sent a letter to Senator Ringuette, who is responsible for the bill. I've addressed those concerns with them.

May 8th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Thank you, Commissioner, for your appearance today.

Your predecessor composed an unprecedented and scathing evaluation of Bill C-58—a report card effectively with more fails than passes—and characterized it as regressive, in regard to access to information for Canadians. When you appeared before us, you were somewhat more discreet and said that anything in this bill that slows access or obstructs access is a concern and any area where accountability or access is increased represents progress.

In your opening remarks, you've mentioned the potential operational challenges should Bill C-58 be passed as it is today. It's in second reading in the Senate and a number of senators have indicated quite strongly that they will be making amendments to this legislation. Before you know the outcome of this piece of legislation, are some of your investigations or files on hold pending the legislation you will have to work with in the longer term?

May 8th, 2018 / 10 a.m.
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Caroline Maynard Information Commissioner of Canada, Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada

Good morning and thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members.

I am pleased to appear before you today for the first time since my appointment as Information Commissioner of Canada.

Joining me are Layla Michaud, Deputy Commissioner of Investigations and Governance, and Gino Grondin, Deputy Commissioner of Legal Services and Public Affairs.

Let me first thank you for placing your confidence in me to carry out the duties of the Information Commissioner. It is an honour to serve Canadians in this role, and I look forward to the next seven years of working to ensure openness and transparency at the federal level.

My first two months on the job have been very busy and an interesting time of learning. I met with each and every employee at the office during my first two weeks. It did not take long for me to see that I have an excellent and experienced management team, as well as a very dedicated and professional staff. My meetings with employees and managers allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the work done by my office. I also gained a greater appreciation of the 35 years of institutional knowledge that my office holds, and the strong foundation I have to build on.

In addition, I became more familiar with the challenges and the opportunities that the organization faces. This has allowed me to determine where to focus my efforts in the coming months and years.

I have four priorities that I would like to share with you.

My first priority is to address the inventory of complaints my office has yet to complete, while investigating new complaints as they arrive. I will also work with my team to improve operational efficiency and streamline the investigation process to reduce delays when possible.

My second priority will be to take steps to implement the anticipated amendments contained in Bill C-58. These proposed changes present potential operational challenges for my office. For example, if the bill is enacted as currently drafted, my office will have to manage, potentially for a number of years, three distinct complaint and investigation processes due to transition periods in the bill.

My third priority will be to ensure that the day-to-day work of my office is open and transparent. I will also stress these values in my interactions with institutions, members of Parliament, and Canadians. In addition, work is already under way to enhance and refresh my office's web and social media presence.

My goal is to make the complaint process simple and transparent for Canadians. I also want to provide more guidance to both complainants and institutions on the investigation process and the decisions taken, and more timely updates on access to information news and activities.

Finally, my team will work closely with institutions to help them meet their obligations under the Access to Information Act, and we'll address systemic issues. In the coming months, I intend to personally meet with access to information coordinators and the heads of a number of institutions to reinforce the importance of this collaborative approach and promote openness and accountability.

I will embrace every opportunity to collaborate with you and with Parliament as a whole, with institutions, and with other stakeholders, including the Privacy Commissioner. I will also emphasize the importance of sharing best practices. Canadians deserve to have institutions that are open by default and that make access a priority.

For the coming year, and just like the last six years, my office's main estimates are $11.4 million, and I have 93 approved full-time equivalents. Approximately 80% of this funding will go to deliver our investigations program. The other 20% will be dedicated to our corporate services, such as finance, information technology, and human resources.

As you likely know, the government announced $2.9 million in temporary funding for my office in the 2018 federal budget. I plan to use these funds for the resolution of complaints. In particular, I would bolster my investigations team for 2018-19.

I would fill vacant permanent positions and rehire the experienced consultants that my office engaged in past years. This would be good news for Canadians. My office would be able to complete more investigations in the coming year because of this additional funding.

Ideally, however, my office would be provided with permanent funding to allow me to permanently increase the size of my team and bring stability to the office. The volume of complaints my office receives is increasing. My team registered nearly 2,600 new files in the year that just ended on March 31. This is a 25% increase over 2016-17. As more and more Canadians submit requests under the act, the number of complaints will keep growing. I'm very much of the view that temporary funding and temporary staffing will not address the challenges my office faces. To meet this demand, my office needs more permanent funding.

I am pleased that the President of the Treasury Board announced last June that my office's resources will be increased on an ongoing basis in response to the adoption of Bill C-58. However, this funding will not be sufficient to meet the growing demands on my office and serve the needs of Canadians.

In closing, I wish to emphasize two aspects of the positive impact an increase in permanent funding would have for my office. First, as I've said, it would bring stability to the organization. I could hire enough employees to ensure the act is appropriately applied and respond to complaints in a timely manner. I could also retain these employees from year to year, providing needed continuity. Second, I could pursue innovative options for making the investigation process more efficient. I would like to capitalize on technology to enhance my office's service to Canadians.

That being said, thank you, again, for inviting me to appear today. I look forward to further opportunities to report on the progress I am making against my priorities and on my statutory mandate.

I would be pleased to take your questions.

April 23rd, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

This is almost exactly the same as amendment LIB-22, however this applies to CSIS and CSE and, as I said before, it deals with any potential ambiguity that Bill C-58 brings into play. It addresses a drafting error, as the official mentioned.

April 23rd, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

This amendment would clarify that the intelligence commissioner can receive information when evaluating ministerial decisions, subject to a privilege under the law of evidence. It seeks to address in particular any ambiguity relating to privileges under the law of evidence that would be posed by Bill C-58.

Department of Industry ActPrivate Members' Business

April 19th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Mary Ng Liberal Markham—Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to being open and transparent about how taxpayer dollars are spent so that Canadians are better able to hold Parliament and the government accountable. In fact, we have recently introduced proactive disclosure requirements for grants and contributions that enhance transparency and oversight of public resources. These requirements set a higher bar for openness and transparency with regard to financial support provided by the government. These guidelines exceed many of the requirements laid out in this bill.

In June 2016, as part of the open government action plan, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat committed to increasing the transparency and usefulness of grants and contributions data. The initiative was spearheaded by a TBS-led committee of 37 participating departments, agencies, and crown corporations, known as the Committee on the Reporting of Grants and Contributions Awards. This was part of the first major renewal of the proactive disclosure requirements for grants and contributions since the policy first came into effect in 2006. As a result, starting on April 1, 2018, federal departments, agencies, and crown corporations have been following the new guidelines on the reporting of grants and contributions awards, which consist of three major themes.

First, the government will now have to disclose all grants and contributions, not just those over $25,000, as required previously. In fact, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, the department targeted by this bill, has been following this practice for its grants and contributions since last January.

Second, all government grants and contributions information will be posted on the open.canada.ca platform rather than on each federal organization's website. This will give Canadians a simple, one-stop repository that will better enable them to oversee how their government is using public resources.

Third, the amount of information to be disclosed has been dramatically increased. Previously, each grant or contribution disclosure contained basic identifying information, including the value of the award, the name and location of the recipient, and limited information on the purpose of the funding. Now the government will publish a much more robust amount of information for each disclosure. This includes a more comprehensive section on the purpose of the award, the expected outcomes, and information on the recipient.

In addition, if passed, these reporting requirements would be strengthened and modernized through Bill C-58, an act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, which is currently being reviewed by the Senate. Bill C-58 would create a legislated requirement for the proactive publication of grants and contributions aligned with the new guidelines I just explained.

In seeking to legislate these requirements, rather than enacting them through policy, the government is looking to enhance the accountability and transparency of federal institutions to promote an open and democratic society and enable public debate on the conduct of those institutions.

As I have just shown, the current proactive disclosure requirements and proposed legislative changes through Bill C-58 would provide Canadians with robust oversight of public resources. Importantly, this would be done, unlike with the proposed bill, without compromising the competitive position of individual firms.

Bill C-396 would require private businesses and organizations to release sensitive commercial information, potentially compromising their competitiveness and market position. This bill would effectively obligate the government to publish the commercially sensitive and confidential information of private Canadian businesses, information that could potentially be used by a competitor, domestic or foreign, to undermine the competitive position of Canadian companies in the global innovation economy. This would be of particular concern to smaller, privately owned businesses that are not already required to publicly report things like revenues and expenditures in the same way publicly traded companies are.

The Government of Canada supports firms looking to scale up, expand into new markets, and develop technologies that support a modern, innovation economy.

The government's support for innovators and entrepreneurs is essential to achieving the goals set out in the innovation and skills plan to build an economy that works for everyone, an economy where Canadians have access to high-quality jobs and where Canadian businesses are well placed to compete in a rapidly evolving and competitive global marketplace.

Despite what the member opposite who has tabled this bill claims about this kind of support, the government is not in the business of corporate welfare. Rather, the government's support for innovative projects and collaborations helps Canadian firms enhance research and development activities, which benefits Canadians and Canada by generating investment, developing new technologies, and enhancing Canadian innovation capacity and expertise.

From the development of new clean technologies to the scaling up of small businesses, the government supports entrepreneurs and researchers working in various sectors of the economy who demonstrate the potential to drive forward Canada's innovation economy. The government will continue to support cutting-edge research that drives innovation and the development of new products and services for global consumers.

This is just one of the many ways the Government of Canada is working toward creating a competitive business environment that will benefit all Canadians and also attract investment. We have made significant strides in advancing this ambitious plan to strengthen the middle class, create jobs, and ensure a clean and inclusive future for all Canadians.

Just recently, we successfully announced the selection of five innovation superclusters. Small and medium-sized enterprises, large companies, academic institutions, and not-for-profit organizations will work together to advance Canada's technological capabilities.

We are also simplifying the way we support innovators with the creation of Innovation Canada to serve as a single point of contact for entrepreneurs looking to grow their businesses and as a gateway to government programs and services. The government provides a broad level of support to businesses looking to scale up, expand into new markets, and develop technologies to grow an innovation economy.

Governments should not be compromising sensitive commercial information that would undermine the competitiveness of those firms or Canada's attractiveness as a place to invest. The new, proactive disclosure requirements the government has put in place already strengthen the oversight of the use of public resources without creating a disincentive for businesses to get the help they need to benefit Canadians.

Bill C-396 would impede the government's efforts to better support innovation and entrepreneurship in Canada. Strong collaboration between ISED and the business community is essential to successfully drive forth the innovation and skills plan, create jobs, and improve the standard of living for all Canadians.

April 17th, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Sure. The amendment clarifies that, when investigating complaints, the review agency has access to information that is subject to common law privileges under the law of evidence not otherwise named, such as police informer privilege. The intent was always for the review agency, again, to access this class of information, but making this explicit removes any ambiguity.

Finally, Bill C-58 makes explicit reference to privileges under the law of evidence. This raised the possibility that the absence of such language from Bill C-59 could be interpreted as suggesting a lack of access. This avoids that risk by making the review agency's access clear in legislation.

April 17th, 2018 / 11:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

This amendment would clarify that, when conducting reviews, the NSIRA has access to all information except cabinet confidences. That would include information that is subject to common law privileges under the law of evidence, such as police and former privilege. The intent was always for the agency to access this information, but making it more explicit removes any potential for disputes should they arise in the future.

Finally, Bill C-58 makes explicit reference to privileges under the law of evidence and it raises the possibility that the absence of such language from this bill, Bill C-59, could be interpreted as suggesting a lack of access. As such, the need to make the review agency's access clear is here with this amendment.

Access to InformationAdjournment Proceedings

March 1st, 2018 / 6:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Kim Rudd Liberal Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said, we are proud to be the first government in over 30 years to make substantial improvements to the Access to Information Act. We understand that more must be done, which is why Bill C-58 includes a mandatory review of the act every five years, the first review beginning no later than one year after the bill receives royal assent.

Let us be clear, Bill C-58, for the first time in 34 years, gives the Information Commissioner order-making powers. That is an advancement. For the first time ever, the act applies to the minister's offices and to the PMO. That is an advancement. For the first time ever, the act applies to 240 federal entities from the courts to the ports. That is also an advancement.