Evidence of meeting #8 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was cbc.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Konrad W. von Finckenstein  Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
Graham Sheppard  Senior Annual Returns Auditor, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
Christianne Laizner  General Counsel , Telecommunications, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
Gregory Thomas  Federal and Ontario Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

It strikes me that within section 68.1, where we have the three words that you brought up earlier—journalistic, creative or programming activities—the challenges are, where do hospitality expenses go, where do the costs of running a fleet of vehicles go? If somebody wants to know where those are included, and yet these expenses are being buried in different pieces of the definition and you don't have access, then you lose all access to accountability.

9:35 a.m.

Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Konrad W. von Finckenstein

No, I appreciate why it was drafted and what they were.... I just think they tried to avoid the underlying decision, which is now before you. Should the exercise of this discretion be subject to review by the commissioner or not? It was a funny way of drafting things; I've rarely seen something that says it doesn't apply except it does. It's a strange way of drafting things.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

As I read the history of this whole process and have tried to understand it more clearly, I was frustrated reading about, for example, the delays in the last four years. They talked about the 370-odd access requests that were made in the first year, and then the 100-odd ones carried over to the second year, which further complicated the burden of trying to respond to the early ones, and it goes on and on. Then with the accountability requirements plugged in that they have to complete those requests within a year.... And even then the CBC didn't meet those timelines.

My question is, who should be the clear adjudicator in ensuring that accountability be held in place? Is that something the CRTC has access to?

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Patricia Davidson

A very quick answer please.

October 18th, 2011 / 9:35 a.m.

Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Konrad W. von Finckenstein

No, that is always for the commissioner of access to information. This is really her bailiwick.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Patricia Davidson

Thank you very much.

We will now go to Ms. Brosseau, please, for five minutes.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Thank you very much.

I want to thank the three of you for joining us today.

During your mandate, you said that the four central principles that have been key for you were transparency, predictability, fairness and timeliness. Those principles are also important to us because we are members of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Could you give us more details on the process you use to determine which documents should be excluded? You say that it's like an exception to an exception.

9:35 a.m.

Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Konrad W. von Finckenstein

Regarding CBC, section 68.1 of the act states the following: "This Act does not apply to any information that is under the control of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that relates to its journalistic, creative or programming activities [...]". That's clear. In such cases, the act does not apply.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

It does not apply.

9:35 a.m.

Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Konrad W. von Finckenstein

There would be no issue if the sentence ended there. However, there is another exception. It says: "[...] other than information that relates to its general administration". That means that the act does not apply to journalistic activities, but it does apply to information that relates to its administration.

The issue for the information commissioner is how to check that. Requested journalistic information is not related to administration. However, to make sure of that, she must check the information. The people at CBC say that the act does not apply and that it is up to them to make a decision, which must be accepted. They made the decision and asked that it be accepted, saying that we don't have that kind of jurisdiction. Since the matter involves journalistic information, the act does not apply.

As I was saying, that's a way to proceed I have never seen before. It is very complicated. It's easier to stipulate that the act does not apply to CBC, or to set out an exception for CBC, while allowing the information commissioner to check. That's really what the issue is. There are two possibilities. There is a case before the courts, and there is now an appeal of the decision.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Thank you.

So you ask public and private organizations for information. When you receive the information, do you hold on to it for a certain period of time?

9:40 a.m.

Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Konrad W. von Finckenstein

Yes. All information provided to us is stored for a certain amount of time before it is archived.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

How long do you keep the information? Do you store it for 1, 5 or 10 years?

9:40 a.m.

Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Konrad W. von Finckenstein

No, no.

Would you like to answer?

9:40 a.m.

Christianne Laizner General Counsel , Telecommunications, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

I think that we are required to store information for seven years. However, if the information is important, we store it for longer.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Okay.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Patricia Davidson

Thank you very much. You just have three seconds left, so we'll move on.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Thank you very much.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Patricia Davidson

We'll move on now to Mr. Dreeshen for the remaining time of about three minutes.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

I'll try to get through this.

I wanted to go through some of the appendices that have been presented. Perhaps, Mr. Sheppard, you could give me some of the information on them.

I come from the region of Red Deer, where we have 92,000 people. We lost our CBC many, many years ago, and CTV left as well. One of the things we're talking about, of course, is some of the money that has been transferred. I go back to appendix A(3), where you look at the different broadcasters and the money that has been spent in different parts of the country. First of all, I'd be interested in what the rationale is for some of that distribution—and I realize that it's information from 2006 to 2010.

Second is just a technical point on your local programming improvement fund. We notice Alberta as being the home to Portage la Prairie, which of course it isn't. So I am curious whether or not that was put into the list that you have and whether the funding is in the right spot.

Third is about appendix A(4). The CBC/SRC has received approximately 45% of all of the money that comes from the LPIF. Again, perhaps you could get into the rationale of that.

9:40 a.m.

Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Konrad W. von Finckenstein

First of all, I apologize that Portage la Prairie is shown as being in Alberta. It's clearly in Manitoba. But we know where it is and treat it as such.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

I only wanted to make sure the money was in the right spot, that's all.

9:40 a.m.

Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Konrad W. von Finckenstein

In fact we have a formula for distribution, which is public. Mr. Sheppard will walk you through the details.

9:40 a.m.

Senior Annual Returns Auditor, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Graham Sheppard

Thank you, Madam Chair.

The appendix on the distribution of moneys by region is based on the eligibility of stations. Stations are eligible, based on their location and population. This is for non-metropolitan areas.

Based on the identification of these stations, the amounts of funds allocated to them have been summarized in appendix A(3). You'll see the five regions that have been identified. The amount for CBC has been identified separately from all the others because that information was made available, as you see, in appendix B for each of the CBC stations.

With respect to the amount of funds asked in appendix A(4), the CBC received $34 million, that being 34% of the fund for its first year of operation. You will notice on that page as well the amounts of payments to the fund and the amounts received from the fund by certain integrated broadcasters. As you can see, that totals to the amounts in the audited financial statements in appendix 1.

That's the process that's used with respect to distribution.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Del Mastro, did you want to...?