Evidence of meeting #149 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was election.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Andrew Lauzon
André Boucher  Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, Communications Security Establishment

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Thank you for the question. I'm glad to hear that it sounds as if we have multi-party support for action, which I think is very encouraging.

I would say that I think we're at a time globally when other countries around the world are also looking at how we can best achieve the objectives that we all share, which is to ensure that people are able to express themselves online, but not do it in a way that would lead to activities or actions that harm our society. I'm really glad to hear the comment you made.

What I've talked about publicly already is to say that this is a moment where, really, all options are on the table. I really welcome the committee looking at this. I think that's a great opportunity.

I'm very interested in following what other countries around the world are doing at the moment. I would point to the U.K., which released a white paper on Monday that puts forward a really interesting concept of the duty of care, which is something that I think is novel and interesting in terms of how social media platforms would have a responsibility to look at—

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Minister, if you don't mind, I'll move on.

I don't really feel we're getting a direct answer from you in regard to the action you're willing to take. I understand you are evaluating best practices internationally, but I think Canadians are looking for a response as to what you are willing to do to find that balance. So I, along with Canadians, very much look forward to what is ahead in regard to that.

Moving on, in regard to the third part, you've said that CSE, CSIS, the RCMP and Global Affairs Canada are working together to ensure a comprehensive understanding of and response to any threats to Canada. However, in my evaluation so far, which is laid out in a good document, I think, the CSE 2017 document, we look at the motivations of nation-states, hacktivists, cybercriminals, etc.

In my opinion, Minister, it's not enough that we understand and respond to any threats. What are you doing, along with your counterparts, specifically to deter cybercriminals or foreign adversaries from influencing the election?

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

We announced, on January 30, a series of measures that we're taking here in Canada to protect Canadians from foreign cyber-threats. Of course, the very nature of foreign cyber-threats means that they are covert, so they're not doing it in a way that says, “Hey, we're here doing it.” There are lots of conversations going on at the global level that are denouncing this kind of activity. Counterparts around the world have stated that, and we have stated that here in Canada. I think the very facts that we have the SITE task force up and running, which is actively monitoring this, and that we have our public protocol that will inform Canadians are really important steps, things that didn't exist before here in Canada, quite frankly. This is a really positive thing.

The other part of the announcement that I think is really important to mention is the $7 million that was announced for civic digital and media literacy initiatives for Canadian citizens to have a broader understanding of the digital environment particularly in elections.

April 11th, 2019 / noon

Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Thank you, Minister. I appreciate that.

Again, I'm not really seeing a direct, clear path of action that I think Canadians and I would appreciate.

The one piece of action you have come out on quite clearly is the critical incident protocol, which we, as Conservatives, were very concerned about, being that this group of five would be left in the control of the government and that we as the opposition parties are beholden to accept what they say, through you, to be full and complete information. I think that we are vindicated in our concern, given the absence and departure of the previous Clerk of the Privy Council. To me, that definitely shows the potential flaws within this.

Noon

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

I would just push back on that. In the development of the protocol, all of the parties had input into that. Although it was not parliamentarians, it was each of the political parties.

One thing we did announce, which I think is a very clear and tangible action and is really important to ensure the non-partisan nature of this, is the fact that we have extended security clearances and ongoing briefings to each of the leaders of the political parties represented in the House of Commons and up to four of their top campaign staff. This is something to really ensure that everyone is on the same page and gets information to build that trust and to have that trust. That is something that is ongoing.

Noon

Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

I think we should have included the Chief Electoral Officer, but perhaps we can have that conversation another day.

Noon

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

I'd be happy to talk about what the Chief Electoral Officer stated when this announcement was made, which was that, in fact, his job is to administer the election and that he has been engaged in this process, and that it is up to the security agencies to determine whether there has been a threat.

I think that's a really important—

Noon

Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

That sounds ridiculous, Minister, that the one administering the election could provide a free and fair election, very frankly.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

We're finished this round.

We'll go to the NDP.

Mr. Christopherson.

Noon

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister, thank you very much for attending again.

I just want to say that, unlike some ministers past, not once have you played a game or taken the opportunity for scheduling changes in order to dodge or avoid the questions. Some of them have been pretty tough meetings. You were always willing to be accountable, and that's appreciated. Thank you, Minister.

I want to ask one question, and then I want to turn to my colleague, Mr. Cullen, who is far more immersed in the minutiae of this and will ask far better questions than I would. However, I have one.

On the protocol panel, I look at the five members: Clerk of the Privy Council, national security and intelligence adviser, deputy minister of this, deputy minister of that, and deputy minister of another. Every one of them is, of course, appointed by the executive. Parliament is much like my dad: Trust everyone, but always cut the cards.

Assuming that nothing is going to change—we have a majority government that has decided this is the way we're going to do it, so this is the way we're going to do it—will there be built into the process an opportunity for Parliament to review the information this panel received and the actions they chose or did not choose to take?

Noon

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

There is a plan to report, following the election, on how it reported and how it functioned. I am sure that this committee, following the election, could take that up.

Noon

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

That sounds a little wishy-washy. They're reporting to whom? Either there's going to be a review by Parliament or there isn't. If they're going to issue a report—

Noon

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

The report will be presented to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. The NSICOP can review it.

Noon

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

All right. What about PROC?

Noon

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

I think that because of the classified nature of the information.... NSICOP was set up so that parliamentarians could review classified information.

Noon

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Yes, I understand that. We might need to have a little bit of a discussion about that. I can appreciate that. Again, I've spent some time in that world, but at the end of the day, they are guided by some pretty strong issues around intelligence, and that's not what we would be seeking. We would be seeking the information that was given and any action that was taken or not taken, as much as can be divulged. If it has to be a two-tier process and we get a report from our committee, fine, but—

Noon

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Perhaps that's a good way to do it.

Noon

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

At the end of the day, that body should not be allowed to proceed when they're appointed solely by the executive without having, at the very least, a key scrutinizing process at the end to ensure they did what Parliament would expect, and if we can make any improvements going forward.

Clearly, that's a little bit of work. Hopefully, we can tie that up before we rise in June, Mr. Chair.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

There will be a classified version that goes to NSICOP, and there will be a public report available as well. If PROC wishes to study that, I think that would be absolutely welcome, and I think this process should be reviewed following the next election. I absolutely welcome that from parliamentarians.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

That sounds good. We just need to nail down the details, Chair, but we can do that.

Thanks, Minister.

Now I'll pass it to my colleague Mr. Cullen.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Thank you, Mr. Christopherson.

Welcome, Minister.

It's interesting, because the flaw of the design was somewhat exposed when the Clerk of the Privy Council sat in front of the justice committee and ended up resigning because, as he said in his letter, he had lost the faith of the other political parties. That was inherently one of our concerns with the design of your process going into something as sensitive as an election and the decisions that get made. Whether to divulge that there's been a hack of a political party or not can sway an election, as you would imagine, one way or the other.

Mr. Boucher, I have a quick question.

You said in your recent report, which confirms a report from almost two years ago, that hacking into our elections is—I think the term your agency used was—very likely, in terms of foreign cyber-attack. Is that right?

12:05 p.m.

André Boucher Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, Communications Security Establishment

Attempts of foreign interference into our elections are very likely.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

We've seen in the past, in the U.S., the U.K. and France, that one of the points of attack has been political party databases. Is that correct?

12:05 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, Communications Security Establishment

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Is that also true for Canada?