Evidence of meeting #10 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was year.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jennifer Stoddart  Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Elizabeth Denham  Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Chantal Bernier  Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Tom Pulcine  Director General and Chief Financial Officer, Corporate Services Branch, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

That's good. Has this been a long-range plan?

Perhaps I could ask Tom--

12:10 p.m.

Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

12:10 p.m.

Tom Pulcine Director General and Chief Financial Officer, Corporate Services Branch, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

When the plan was first developed, I think it was over three or four years, so it is a long-range plan.

As the commissioner made reference to, it touches both on the recruitment issues and the retention issues. As it has evolved in our office over the last two years, I think there has certainly been more focus on the retention than the recruitment. Whereas in the previous two years there was probably a lot more focus on the recruitment side, now it's certainly more focused on the retention.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Do all the changes with the social media impact your long-term staffing plan?

12:10 p.m.

Director General and Chief Financial Officer, Corporate Services Branch, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Tom Pulcine

In terms of certain aspects, for sure. For example, we put a video on YouTube to try to attract people to our office. I guess the short answer to your question is “yes”.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Thank you.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Paul Szabo

Thank you very much.

Ms. Simson, please.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, Ms. Stoddart. It has been a while, but I find your sessions informative, and I, too, want to add my voice to the congratulations for the work you did on Google.

I want to turn to something that's of particular interest to me. I've written your office and I know you've done a lot of good work on this. It's with respect to finding the delicate balance between national security issues and even, say, a tough-on-crime agenda...balancing obvious security issues with the right to privacy.

I just wanted to ask you if you familiar with the U.S. practice that was implemented post-9/11, fairly shortly after that, whereby the U.S. federal government, in the name of national security, had the ability to intercept communications that might or might not have links to terrorist activity and to retain information on individuals as a result of those intercepts.

The practice has been called the “special access program”. Are you familiar with it? If so, do you know if that has any implications for Canadians?

12:15 p.m.

Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Jennifer Stoddart

Thank you.

If I may, Mr. Chair, I would ask Assistant Commissioner Bernier, who has a long experience in national security issues, to speak to that.

12:15 p.m.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Chantal Bernier

In Canada, of course, as you know, the efforts in that regard took the form of Bill C-46 and Bill C-47, which died on the order paper. That would not allow interception of communications without a warrant. What that would allow is for an Internet service provider to give the law enforcement authorities or national security authorities the customer name and address behind an IP address. That is the effort that the Canadian government has made to have some widening of—

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Does your office have any specific concerns with respect to that piece of legislation?

12:15 p.m.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Chantal Bernier

We have two main concerns. There are more details in the letter that I referred to earlier.

The two main concerns are this power to get from Internet service providers, without a warrant, a customer name and address, and second, we find that the oversight governance structure provided for in these pieces of legislation is not clear and perhaps not as independent as it could be.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Is there something that your office could have done? I'm curious. We're seeing with this type of legislation and the tough-on-crime agenda the government has that certain aspects of bills may or may not tip the balance. What I'd like to find out is whether your office is ever consulted in the drafting process of some of this legislation. Are you asked for feedback as to potential problems this could pose down the road, unforeseen problems that are not apparent at the drafting stage?

12:15 p.m.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Chantal Bernier

It depends. For example, through the privacy impact assessment review process, the RCMP will submit some initiatives to us. We review them to ensure that privacy is respected. We will make recommendations and we are often very successful.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

But in the legislative drafting process—

12:15 p.m.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Chantal Bernier

In the legislative drafting, sometimes we are consulted, but in the case of Bill C-46 and Bill C-47, we had been consulted throughout the years in the preparation of this legislation. But then it was tabled and we reacted after it was tabled.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Is there anything specific that you could do with that legislation that would perhaps add a little more balance or give a little more comfort to Canadians?

12:15 p.m.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Chantal Bernier

We have made specific recommendations. We have specifically asked that the authorities who request these powers justify why they need them with greater clarity. We also requested that there be more definition around the oversight process.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

I did express this in a letter to the commissioner. For all intents and purposes, it looked like a great piece of legislation with respect to anti-money laundering legislation and terrorism. But it rolled into the fact that ordinary Canadians, in the course of buying a house, have to release their social insurance number, which can be stored God knows where and in God knows what way. Because of the identify theft issue, which has become a huge issue, that wasn't necessarily a good thing.

Would it be a good suggestion that we have a little more consultation with your office when we're drafting legislation of this kind to avoid these kinds of unanticipated results?

12:20 p.m.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Chantal Bernier

Absolutely, and some departments do that. I think it's fair to say that in the end they benefit from it as much as Canadians, because we provide advice and they can therefore change their draft legislation and make it more privacy sensitive--

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Before it's tabled.

Thank you.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Paul Szabo

Mr. Rickford, please.

April 27th, 2010 / 12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses.

I, too, would like to congratulate you on your hard work, particularly in eliminating the backlog. Congratulations on that.

Just as a reminder, I noticed that you're doing consults in three cities, in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary. Of course, we'd always welcome you in the great Kenora riding, and it would be good, unlike previous governments, to pay some attention to some of the rural and remote areas that can no doubt make a good pitch on this issue.

I want to talk about estimates. Your report on priorities and planning--hereinafter RPP--indicates proposed increases in planned spending this year related to the implementation of the Electronic Commerce Protection Act. Your office was recently before us on the supplementary estimates (C) for 2009-10 with, I believe, a $100,000 item that was also linked to this implementation.

My questions are as follows. I'll just put them out there.

The Electronic Commerce Protection Act is Bill C-27 from the second session of the 40th Parliament. As of the date of publication of your RPP, it has not been reintroduced into the House during the third session, so how are you calculating implementation costs over a three-year period for a bill that has not yet been introduced?

Second, in your testimony to the committee on the supplementary estimates (C) for 2009-10, when you were here in March, you stated that the $100,000 allocated for this item has already been spent. Is this your projected future spending for the same kinds of activities on which that $100,000 was spent or for something else?

Finally, do you plan to include requests for these extra amounts in the upcoming supplementary estimates later in this fiscal year?

I'd be happy to repeat any of those questions if you didn't get them.

12:20 p.m.

Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Jennifer Stoddart

Thank you.

I will start, and then I will ask our chief financial officer to continue, because these are fairly specialized issues of public accounting and I know that we have some accountants here.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Sure. I can appreciate that.