Good morning, Mr. Chair and committee members.
Thank you for this opportunity to meet with you to discuss Bill C-12 and to inform you about the viewpoint of the members of the Canadian electricity sector.
My name is Francis Bradley. I am Vice-President of the Canadian Electricity Association, which represents all electricity-related areas of activity in Canada, including production, transportation, distribution, customer service and electric energy marketing.
I'm responsible for the association's critical infrastructure protection activities, or CIP program, which was launched in January 2000.
The chairman of our CIP working group, Dave Baumken, from Hydro One, was unable to join us today. He's actually in Germany representing Canada at a NATO event, but he asked that I convey his greetings to the committee and offer, on behalf of CEA, to provide a subsequent briefing to the committee on the security of the electricity sector, at the committee's convenience.
With me today are the persons responsible for the security activities of three of the largest electricity businesses in the country.
Chris Price is with Hydro One, the Ontario transmission and distribution company. Jim Davis is with Ontario Power Generation, the largest power generation company in this province, with hydro, thermal, and nuclear generating facilities.
Jean-Guy Ouimet represents Hydro-Quebec, the main producer, transporter and distributor of electricity in Quebec. Mr. Ouimet is also the chair of our task force.
Following my introduction, we'll be pleased to discuss our views on Bill C-12 and on the challenge of protecting the electricity industry in Canada.
Our critical infrastructure protection initiative looks at both physical and cyber threats and events. It takes an all-hazards approach, and it includes work on such diverse issues as pandemic planning and marijuana grow ops.
Given the interconnected nature or electricity in North America, we work closely with the North American Electric Reliability Council, the NERC. In fact, a Canadian, Stuart Brindley, of Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator, is the chair of the NERC CIP committee, and he's a former chair of our group.
The regulatory framework of Canada's electricity industry is different from that in the United States.
In the U.S., the federal administration holds essential authority for regulating this industry. In Canada, it's the provinces that have most of the powers in this area. It goes without saying that this aspect has at times made our security activities more complex, requiring coordination between federal and provincial authorities and between federal departments.
In addition to our North American activities through the North American Electric Reliability Council, we also collaborate with other sectors in Canada and with a wide range of government officials at Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Natural Resources Canada, the RCMP, and CSIS, to name a few.
The association launched its CIP initiative following the Y2K transition. While Y2K was seen by many to be a non-event, we learned a great deal during the transition, most particularly about infrastructure interdependencies and the importance of information sharing.
During the Y2K transition, the federal government's activities were coordinated through the National Contingency Planning Group. The NCPG played a critical role in engaging all infrastructure sectors and providing analysis of the interdependencies between the various sectors. Their analytical work was subsequently captured in a March 2000 report entitled “Canadian Infrastructure Interdependencies”. I highly recommend it to the committee, as it left no doubt as to the importance of electricity.
Electricity is the original and ultimate example of just-in-time manufacturing. It cannot be stockpiled in large quantities like other commodities.
From the moment someone switches on a light or boots up his computer, the additional electricity that action requires must immediately be available at a power station that may be located hundreds or even thousands of kilometers away.
The importance of electricity to the economy was detailed in a discussion paper published by PSEPC that reviewed the 2003 blackout. Permit me a moment to quote from that NCIAP discussion paper, which came out in November of 2004: The August 2003 blackout provided an object lesson in infrastructure interdependencies by demonstrating how a disruption in one infrastructure can cascade across others. This was the largest blackout ever in North America, leaving 50 million people from New York to Toronto without power for up to two days. Ontario's public health infrastructure was stressed due to hospitals operating on emergency generators. Food and water supplies were put at risk. Grocery stores were forced to discard thousands of dollars worth of food and water treatment plants operated on emergency power. Thousands of Ontarians felt a cash crunch due to closed banks and disabled bank and debit machines. Transportation and commuting were disrupted when gas stations were unable to pump gasoline (pumps require electricity to be able to operate). Flights were cancelled at both international airports in Ontario (Toronto and Ottawa). An extraordinary volume of calls created tremendous backlogs on 911 systems, and cellular transmitter stations failed when their battery back-up power was exhausted.
Given the importance that electricity plays in our economy, CEA began engaging the federal government on CIP early in 2000, initially through the federal government's CIP task force; subsequently with the Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness, OCIPEP; and then with Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, PSEPC. We've worked cooperatively with governments and government officials on a wide range of initiatives over the past six years, from providing input on policy matters to developing scenarios for and participating in tabletop exercises.
However, from the start of this relationship, our most urgent concern has been the issue of an effective information sharing framework.
According to the assessments that the government itself has conducted, the private sector owns and operates 85 percent of the essential infrastructure. It is mainly responsible for protecting its own property.
An effective two-way movement of information between the private sector and government is essential to our success.
The importance of protecting industry-provided information has been acknowledged by the Department of Homeland Security in the United States. Through their protected critical infrastructure information program, they have recognized that they need to work with the private sector and provide protection for information.
Even if an information sharing framework requires much more than mere protection of the information that the industry provides to government, we consider protection the basis of a relationship of trust between these two partners.
The protection accorded to information provided by industry to government in Bill C-12 will allow for a far greater depth of collaboration. We believe that it will greatly enhance the partnership that already exists between industry and the Government of Canada, and that it is the backbone of a much bigger relationship.
It's been said that there's a wealth of information available in the public domain about the vulnerabilities of our sector. This may have been true once, but no longer is that the case. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the industry moved rapidly to remove information from the public domain that could compromise the safety and security of systems, and in 2002 we began adhering to a North America-wide standard for protecting potentially sensitive information.
Industry has information that cannot be shared without the protection provided for in Bill C-12, and we believe that it would benefit PSEPC as well as federal security, intelligence, and law enforcement to be able to access this information in the planning and execution of infrastructure protection activities or law enforcement activities, which, if not implemented appropriately, could lead to unnecessary threats against the electricity sector.
For things to be this way, a complete information sharing framework is still necessary. Protecting information is the first important step.
To sum up, we feel that the bill strikes a fair and prudent balance between the public's right to information and the imperative of ensuring the protection of the electricity industry, this central infrastructure essential to everyone.
Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today. My colleagues and I would be happy to discuss Bill C-12 or other CIP matters with you.