Evidence of meeting #45 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was cities.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael Riseborough  Director of Terminal Infrastructure, Greater Toronto Airports Authority
Hugo Grondin  Director of the Strategic Support Services Division, Information Technology Service, City of Québec
Teresa Scassa  Canada Research Chair in Information Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual
Jennifer Schooling  Director, Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction, University of Cambridge, As an Individual
Sriram Narasimhan  Associate Professor, University of Waterloo, As an Individual

12:40 p.m.

Canada Research Chair in Information Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Teresa Scassa

There are significant differences between Canadian data protection legislation and what is in place in Europe, including European legislation on the reuse of public sector information. Some of those differences are due to updating, because of the process of reviewing, revising, updating, and producing directives with respect to new technologies. It seems to move forward more quickly and more effectively in Europe than it has done in Canada. The data protection laws at the federal and private sector levels in Canada have been neglected over the years and have been allowed to become considerably out of date. That's certainly one difference.

Another difference is the approach to or the conception of privacy in Europe, as compared to Canada, but I think it's English Canada as opposed to French Canada. I think in Quebec the approach to privacy is much more in line with the European approach to privacy, where privacy is seen much more as a human right rather than something that can be commodified and traded. In data protection frameworks such as PIPEDA, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, you see this idea that as long as people consent to things being done with their personal information, that's fine, and we know that consent has become unmanageable. Sometimes it seems that there isn't an underlying human rights principle that reinforces the value of personal information.

Those are the big differences that I see.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you.

As to human rights, I think the term says it all: it should be up to the person, it should be their right to decide whether or not to share their personal information.

Yet we all know how appealing modern technologies are. Every time we are offered a contract on our cell phone, we immediately click on “I accept” without even reading the contract. Once I took the trouble of reading a contract, only to find that it was completely incomprehensible.

Should that not be one of the first steps that is needed, that is, to require that contracts be understandable to consumers so they can make an informed choice?

12:40 p.m.

Canada Research Chair in Information Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Teresa Scassa

I think that is one of the challenges. That is certainly on the agenda at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. It is currently examining the issue of consent. I think this is an increasingly urgent problem to be addressed in Canada.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you.

Can you give us an example of a multinational in Canada that misused the data it had collected? Could you at least give us the first letter of its name?

12:40 p.m.

Canada Research Chair in Information Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Teresa Scassa

There are certainly companies that have had data leaks and security problems. Complaints have also been made against companies, but I think transparency is also still a problem. How can we know what happens behind the walls? Is the use of personal information consistent with privacy policies? That is always a challenge to understand and know.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Is there a way for us to catch up legislatively on privacy? If not, will we always be lagging on technology?

12:45 p.m.

Canada Research Chair in Information Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Teresa Scassa

I think we are still a bit behind, but I also think we can make up a lot of ground. We can and must make the effort to do that.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you.

Madam Chair, do I still have a bit of time left?

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

You have a minute and a half.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

My next question is for Mr. Narasimhan.

With regard to the major infrastructure project that the government has put forward for the coming years, there is a lot of talk about smart cities right now. Should we not be talking about smart infrastructure first though? What that means is that we should no longer build a building, a bridge, or a viaduct unless it is connected. The goal is quicker tracking in order to take action before the structure deteriorates, so as to protect our investments. We know that we are investing so much right now because, over the years, we have fallen significantly behind in infrastructure maintenance.

12:45 p.m.

Associate Professor, University of Waterloo, As an Individual

Sriram Narasimhan

Thank you very much for this question.

I think you recalled what I think. A lot of the conversations regarding smart communities and smart cities have largely been centred around buildings, power grids, and water distribution systems.

These are very important infrastructure types. But I think that when we talk about the broader context of infrastructure spending, we are entering into an era where the average age of critical transportation infrastructure, for example, is reaching a point where we should be thinking about replacing some of it in a short period of time.

However, budgets are limited. We are living in a capital-constrained environment. We have to do this in a intelligent way. In other words, we have to triage which bridges have enough residual capacity left in them that they don't need to be replaced right away—some minor repairs would suffice—and which bridges and other types of critical infrastructure need replacement right away. The only way we are going to gather and infer this information is by working at it through understanding what the current performance levels are. This also means that, in tandem to investment in infrastructure, we have to invest in the technologies that will help us better understand its health so we can triage and can dedicate resources and capital in an intelligent way.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much. Sorry, I have to interrupt now.

Mr. Hardie.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Thank you, Madam Chair. I'll be sharing my time with Mr. Sikand.

This is just a quick reflection. It's interesting how in the great, old cities in Britain and Europe there is infrastructure that's been used for 150 years or more. Over here, if something's 50 years old, we tear it down and build something new. I don't know if there's a disconnect there, but that's a story for another time.

I do want to throw out some open questions—just raise a hand or let me know if you want to comment. When we look at technology and we make a choice, it's like taking one frame out of a motion picture that's going by at Lord knows how many frames per second. The challenge is to obviously pick the right one.

In that regard, is there, continuously, a use or a role for futurists? Is anybody friends with any futurists? Do we listen to them anymore, or are they out of date by the time we leave the room?

Ms. Schooling, we'll start with you.

12:45 p.m.

Director, Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction, University of Cambridge, As an Individual

Jennifer Schooling

There is a certain value in doing what we would call horizon scanning to try to look at the potential alternative routes. I think the main value to that is in making sure that you don't preclude potential future options by your choices today, that by making choice A rather than choice B, you don't prevent yourself from making another good choice later on. This relates to some of what we have been doing, which we call “futureproofing”, in which we look at infrastructure assets, for example. We think about the different kinds of stress they might be under in the future and the different kinds of usage patterns they may have in the future, for example. Then we look at how futureproofed an asset needs to be against those changes and how futureproofed we think it is at the moment. Doing that can help you prioritize investments in the areas, if you like, that are weaker, against rising sea levels or increasing urban temperatures or changing demographics and usage and that sort of thing. So there is a role for it.

The nature of horizon scanning is always that it is best-guess work rather than concrete science. But if you don't do it, then it's very difficult to make informed decisions on it.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

I submit that in addition to horizon scanning, we should turn around and look backwards, simply because we may end up in a situation in which we're one power failure away from the Stone Age. If everything we rely on so much all of a sudden collapses—Wow!—what do we do?

With that comment, I'll pass the remainder of my time on to Mr. Sikand.

February 14th, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Thank you.

Ms. Schooling, my question is directed towards you. Not too long ago, we had a witness who was discussing driverless vehicles. I think he said that the U.K. invests £120 million relative to our $3 million in this province. My numbers might be wrong but the disparity is accurate. As you mentioned, England has an old infrastructure. Actually I can attest to that; I lived in Uxbridge for three years.

There must have been a hegemonic shift or a shift in thought, because despite this infrastructure, the funding is so great. I'm trying to understand the thought process or the steps that were taken to become a leader in that field or to even want to shift to such infrastructure.

12:50 p.m.

Director, Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction, University of Cambridge, As an Individual

Jennifer Schooling

One of the aspects of that was some very good lobbying, I think, by our automotive industry to explore the potential.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Okay.

12:50 p.m.

Director, Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction, University of Cambridge, As an Individual

Jennifer Schooling

But there's also the sense that the U.K. government wants to take a lead in the area of smart cities, building information modelling—BIM, as I was calling it—and these kinds of arenas because they perceive that we have a relative strength both in the digital economy area and in some of the developments around automotive and around infrastructure thinking. That was a lot of what was behind the government's investment. They were looking to pick winners, and obviously in our current new political context, they are seeking to do so even more. I think that's broadly the context, but it's also because we have a strong automotive sector here already.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

I guess the lesson for us is that the shift was led by the government.

12:50 p.m.

Director, Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction, University of Cambridge, As an Individual

Jennifer Schooling

It's the government and the automotive council, I would say.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Okay.

12:50 p.m.

Director, Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction, University of Cambridge, As an Individual

Jennifer Schooling

Those industry councils are close to government and they represent their industry. So someone sitting on that industry council from say Ford isn't just representing Ford; it's representing a number of other manufacturers and it's very good at taking the temperature of the industry and lobbying government in a constructive way to get good outcomes.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Okay. Thank you for your question.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Mr. Badawey.