Evidence of meeting #2 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 100000.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Elizabeth Denham  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

11:50 a.m.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Elizabeth Denham

The industry department is spearheading it. The plans are under way. I'm not sure if Industry Canada is contracting it out or if it's actually going to be within their responsibility, but Industry Canada is coordinating that initiative. I can get you more information and follow up on that.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

I'd be interested in whatever information you could get to the committee on that in terms of staffing requirements and overall budget.

Thank you.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Paul Szabo

Go ahead, Mrs. Block, please.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I will echo my colleagues' welcome to you this morning for being here at the committee.

In the time that I've served on this committee, I have come to understand the value of the Federal Accountability Act, which was introduced in 2006. It was the Federal Accountability Act that amended the Privacy Act to extend its application to 15 institutions, including officers of Parliament and crown corporations and foundations.

Expanding the application of the Privacy Act has, I am sure, increased the workload of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. For my understanding, could you expand on this statement and tell the committee about the increased workload that you may have and may now be experiencing as a result?

March 18th, 2010 / 11:50 a.m.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Elizabeth Denham

I apologize; the Privacy Act is not my area, but I can certainly get that information to you within the week. The only observation I can make is that in terms of complaints, these new agencies haven't increased our workload to a huge extent, but I'll get you that information.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

I have a follow-up question.

You stated that your communications research and education department absorbed most of the cost of the work that you've done in preparing for the enactment of the spam legislation. We heard quite a bit last year from the Privacy Commissioner and the access to information commissioner about the need to have their budgets increase to deal with education in regard to their departments.

I'm thinking that when an act like this comes into force, there is education that needs to take place. Do you foresee, when other acts are introduced and enacted, the kind of impact that might have on your department as well?

11:50 a.m.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Elizabeth Denham

I think whenever you have a significant legislative initiative, such as the ECPA legislation, it's going to have an impact on us, but on the horizon I don't see another statute like that. At this time I don't see one that is going to require us to have extensive additional resources.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Thank you.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Paul Szabo

Mrs. Thi Lac, you have the floor.

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

You explained clearly that this $100,000 has already been spent and that this money was taken from other budgets. You mentioned a freeze and said that if you get this additional $100,000, you would use it elsewhere. Would you spend it in the areas you took money from? Or are you going to invest this money in the anti-spam activities, so that it would add up to $200,000 in that area?

11:50 a.m.

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

Tom Pulcine

It is a very difficult question to answer in terms of the timing of the fiscal year. There are very few days left between now and the end of March, so I think it's fair to say that there is going to be very little additional activity with respect to the work to be undertaken as it relates to this legislation.

Once again, it's important to recognize that if the legislation does not pass and receive royal assent, this money will be frozen and will not be made available to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, which I think is a very important point.

If the question is whether we are going to spend more, I suspect the answer is no. If the legislation is to be passed and receive royal assent, all that has to happen before March 31. If it is approved by Parliament, the resources are left with the office. The only financial impact it will have is the impact of how much money the organization, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, has to carry forward from one fiscal year to another as relates to the operating budget concept.

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

I have another question. Mrs. Denham, you said earlier that you did not make any comparison with legislation in other countries. Do you not think you could have saved some money, had you check what was done and was working fine in other countries? We should not try to reinvent the wheel. You did not have consultations with the many countries which passed similar legislation several years ago. You said Canada is the only G7 country without such a legislation. The six other countries have one. Comparisons can be made with more than one country. Checking what is working or not in other countries is a good way to save money, is it not? You would like this legislation passed, but we have no benchmark to be able to tell what is working or not abroad. Would it not be a good idea to check what is working in other countries before we pass a somewhat defective bill that does not work well and with which we could hit a wall?

11:55 a.m.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Elizabeth Denham

I should clarify my statement. This work has been done by Industry Canada, which has been studying similar legislation and enforcement models in many other countries. I said our office has not done a detailed comparison because we are a small slice of the enforcement pie, but Industry Canada has led the study of our enforcement model and has a plan for the budget, etc. It's not that nobody has turned their mind to the experience of the other countries that have enacted legislation.

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

This is an important distinction. That was not our understanding. I do not think I was the only one who did not understand the situation that way. I will let Mrs. Freeman use the rest of my time, for I think she had more questions.

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

I would just like to say that we are at the end of the fiscal year and that we will have to--

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Paul Szabo

Madame, are you going to take the last minute of Madame Thi Lac's time?

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

No, I will leave it to my colleague.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Paul Szabo

Is that what you will do?

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Yes.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Paul Szabo

Yes.

Mr. Rickford, please.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I have a couple of quick remarks. I'm very happy with the work, and I understand the importance of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. I don't have any questions per se. I'm more interested in getting on with some of the other business. I appreciate the work you have done here today and in general. That's all.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Paul Szabo

Fine.

Mr. Siksay, I know you were engaged in the House and were unable to take your slot. Is there anything you want to raise with these witnesses before we move on?

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

I think the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has been very prudent in their planning for this legislation, and the expenditure we're discussing this morning was very appropriate. To have made provision for that in these estimates was very prudent.

We know that this is important legislation and it increases the role of the Privacy Commissioner in certain areas. Certainly the need to consult with other privacy commissioners in other states and organizations is one of the additions that ECPA makes to the role of the Privacy Commissioner. To do appropriate planning for that expansion of the work of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner was right on.

Unfortunately, I think we have another unfortunate consequence of the abrupt prorogation of the House. Legislation that had been worked on diligently in both the House and the Senate was abandoned by the government. It threw the whole planning process across the public service into some disarray and some question as a result. I think there are consequences to those kinds of decisions, and a further delay in this very important legislation is one.

I'll just finish with the comment that I think the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has done very prudent work in this regard.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Paul Szabo

Thank you very much.

The chair has just one question for you to affirm. Treasury Board has reviewed this matter and concurs with the request for the supplementary estimates (C). Is that correct?

Noon

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