I call the meeting to order. We are here still on the order of reference of November 29, which is in regard to a question of privilege relating to a premature disclosure of a confidential report on the pre-budget consultations of the finance committee.
Most of our first hour today will be with Ms. Karen Shepherd, the Commissioner of Lobbying. Thank you for coming and seeing us today, and thank you for getting to us this good powerpoint presentation. It gives me a great idea of what your job is and how it works. We may save some time today by having that with us.
Committee, in the second hour we will have with us Louis Bard, the chief information officer. We'll be talking to him about some technological issues. Also, if we can, I'd like to save 15 minutes at the end of the meeting for some committee business. I'm going to suggest that we spend not quite an hour with each group of witnesses and save some time at the end.
Ms. Shepherd, I understand you have an opening statement. If you would make that statement, as briefly as possible, and introduce the guest with you, we'll follow up with a round of questions.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
I am pleased to be here today to discuss my investigative process. I'm accompanied by Mr. Bruce Bergen, my senior legal counsel.
As Commissioner of Lobbying, my mandate is to maintain a registry to educate and to ensure compliance.
My powers of investigation are set out in the Lobbying Act. I have the authority to investigate when I have reason to believe that an investigation is necessary to ensure compliance with the Act or the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct.
I take all allegations of a breach of either the Lobbying Act or the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct seriously. I may choose to look into a matter as a result of a complaint. In addition, I may look into a matter on my own initiative.
Allegations of breaches of the Lobbying Act are primarily linked to registrations, including failure to register as a lobbyist and failure to register within the time limits. Knowingly making false or misleading statements in a registration is also a contravention of the act.
The Lobbyists' Code of Conduct was instituted in 1997 to assure Canadians that lobbying is done ethically and with the highest standards. Lobbyists may be in contravention of the code by breaching either a principle or a rule.
When I become aware of an alleged breach of the act or the code, I must determine what actually happened. I open an administrative review, which is the fact-gathering portion of the investigative process. This process is intended to provide me with sufficient information to determine whether I should pursue the matter by initiating a formal investigation or if an alternate course of action is preferable.
An administrative review can lead to one of four possible outcomes.
First, I may decide to close the review because the allegation is not well founded. An allegation may not be well founded if the activity was not a registrable communication or was not undertaken for payment. In these cases, I advise the subject and the complainant of the outcome in a letter.
Second, I may decide to close an administrative review even though the allegation is well founded. In these cases, the appropriate measures may be to educate the subject or to request a correction of the Registry of Lobbyists. These files are subject to further monitoring.
Third, I can initiate a formal investigation if I have reason to believe that an investigation is necessary to ensure compliance with the act or the code. Once an investigation is initiated, I can summon witnesses to give evidence and I can compel the production of documents. To date, my experience is that witnesses are cooperating and responding to our inquiries, and I have not had to use these powers. Since July 2008, I have initiated eight investigations.
Finally, if I have reasonable grounds to believe that an offence has been committed under the Lobbying Act or any other act of Parliament, I must refer the matter to a peace officer. Since July 2008, I have referred six files to the RCMP. When I refer a file to the RCMP, the act instructs me to suspend my investigation until the matter has been dealt with.
The Lobbying Act carries sanctions up to $200,000 and jail terms of up to two years. If a person is convicted, I can also prohibit the person from engaging in lobbying activities for up to two years.
However, no charges have been laid to date under the Lobbying Act.
If a file is returned to me by the RCMP, following consultation with the federal prosecutor, I may choose to resume the investigation of a possible breach of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct if I have sufficient grounds to do so. The act requires that before tabling a report of investigation, I provide subjects of an investigation with an opportunity to present their views. To ensure due process, it is my policy to provide the person under investigation with a copy of the investigation director's report and give the person 30 days to respond.
With the respect to the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct, I would like to point out that it is a non-statutory instrument, and it carries no fines or jail sentences. The act prescribes, however, that I table a report on investigations in both houses of Parliament to disclose my findings, conclusions, and reasons for those conclusions once the investigation into an alleged breach of the code is complete.
I recently indicated that I plan to table a number of reports to Parliament before the end of this fiscal year.
At my December 14 appearance before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, I stated that I would look into the matter of the five lobbyists who received a confidential document from an MP's staff. I would like to confirm today that I am looking into the matter to see if a breach of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct has occurred.
The Lobbying Act requires that I conduct investigations in private. I therefore do not comment on matters that are before me.
Mr. Chair, this concludes my remarks. I look forward to answering any questions you or the committee members may have.
Good morning, and thank you, Ms. Shepherd.
We're looking into this problem of an MP's assistant leaking a report, a draft report of the finance committee, to a lobbyist, of course. Former Conservative Hill staffer--and now lobbyist--Andy Gibbons testified that after receiving the leaked copy of the finance committee draft report, he shared relevant portions of it with his client, Merck Frosst. His e-mail to his client actually states, and I quote: Below is language from the confidential draft report which summarizes what witnesses said about vaccines.
Would this, in your opinion, be a prima facie breach of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct?
In regard to another Conservative staffer lobbyist, Lynne Hamilton's communications log shows that in spite of her being listed as one of Ottawa's top 100 lobbyists for the last three years and having a substantial list of recognizable high-profile clients for the year 2010, she shows only one communication with a designated public office holder. In 2009, she only had four contacts, and in 2008, three.
Do you, Commissioner, take any steps to monitor whether or not the monthly communications reports are in any way consistent with the reports of other lobbyists?
There are two ways that an individual can be subject to a five-year prohibition. I've been asked this question in a previous committee in terms of privacy of information, but maybe I can answer the question another way.
For individuals who are subject to the five-year prohibition, if they were designated under the conflict of interest and post-employment code—if they were exempt staff in a minister's office—and if they left prior to the Lobbying Act coming into force, they were subject to this five-year prohibition, to which there was no possibility of being granted an exemption. So depending on when an individual would have left, they could not have requested an exemption. What that means is that they would be prohibited from lobbying from the date they left office in terms of acting as a consultant lobbyist, an in-house organization lobbyist, or an in-house corporation lobbyist.
When the Lobbying Act came into force in July 2008, it designated a number of individuals, and that would be those who worked in ministers' offices and their staff appointed under section 128 of the Public Service Employment Act. Those individuals may apply for an exemption, and as I said previously, I have taken a very strict view on that. I have only granted four, and the act requires that without undue delay I post the reasons for the four on the website. So if you were to check, the individual in question you're asking about is not on the website.
Thank you, Ms. Shepherd, for being here.
I understand completely the fact that because you have ongoing investigations, there is certain information on the particular lobbyist in question that you can't answer. I appreciate that, so I'll try to keep my comments general in terms and hopefully you can answer the generalities.
If a lobbyist were to receive a piece of confidential information, under the part where lobbyists have to register their contact with public office holders, is there any obligation on the part of the lobbyist to report receiving such confidential information? In other words, I know that lobbyists, when they initiate a contact with a public office holder, have to register it.
As I've said, and the difficulty, I guess.... I'm trying to be forthright with the committee as much as I can be--
Mr. Tom Lukiwski: I understand.
Mrs. Karen Shepherd: --but I'm also trying not to prejudge where I may come out on this case. I can't say.... Unlike the conflict of interest rule, for example, for which there have not only been a number of complaints filed over the years, but for which there's actually case law now, since 2009, there hasn't been anything here.
So prejudging where I may see this in terms of either a principle or a rule is one of the things I'm trying to determine in terms of the actual facts of the case. The allegations you're bringing up, or that the committee is bringing up and looking at, I think are serious enough that without hesitation I opened an administrative review, because I thought I needed to look at this particular issue.
I have two other quick questions.
How much time do I have left, Mr. Chair?
The Chair: You have 40 or 45 seconds.
Mr. Tom Lukiwski: Mr. Ullyatt was a member of a backbench MP's staff, so he was not designated as a...not considered, at least, to be a public office holder.
Mr. Bruce Bergen: A designated--
Mr. Tom Lukiwski: Not a designated public office holder.
Mr. Bruce Bergen: Right.
Mr. Tom Lukiwski: Does that have any impact on whether the lobbyist should register any contact with Mr. Ullyatt? He's not a designated public office holder, so if lobbyists have contact with someone like Mr. Ullyatt, do they have to register that? Do they have to notify your office that they're having that communication?
Thank you for being here, Ms. Shepherd.
From the answers you have given my colleagues, the subject you are currently investigating is a precedent. It has never been done. You are looking for a way to handle it with the tools you have, including law enforcement.
If I am not mistaken, the Lobbying Act is going to be reviewed in another committee.
Could you tell us whether, at present, you anticipate amendments or changes to the Act that would enable you to intervene in a case like the one we have in front of us today, to identify and analyze it better?
Good morning and welcome, Ms. Shepherd, Mr. Bergen. It's a pleasure to see you again.
I would like to start where my colleague Mr. Proulx left off. I will invite you to explain your approach in greater detail in relation to the surveys you can give. I would compare one aspect of your work to what an auditor does, someone who has to have a degree of expertise to see whether the figures presented are plausible or not.
I will go back to Mr. Proulx's example. Ms. Hamilton worked as a full-time lobbyist and made a very good living. She said she engaged in lobbying activities once or twice a year. An auditor would use a survey technique. Not a survey like CROP or Léger does, but a survey in the accounting sense. To see whether the information given is plausible.
I respectfully submit, since this is your field and not mine, that it is not plausible that a person could earn a good living as a full-time lobbyist, that she could be regarded as one of the best and most active lobbyists, and that she would declare only a few lobbying activities in a year.
What investigative techniques do you have for doing these surveys, an audit? How do you exercise oversight in this regard?
Myself, I'm just gobsmacked when I see these statistics.
One of my colleagues--I believe it was Mr. Lukiwski--talked about testimony in other committees. I'd like to touch on that.
You stated in another committee that the crown seems to have a very “high threshold” when it comes to laying charges under the lobbyists act and, as a result, prosecutions have not been commenced in 10 of the 11 cases referred to the RCMP since 2005. One case is still with the RCMP for consideration and, according to your testimony, no lobbyist has ever been convicted under the act.
Would you, with your expert opinion, conclude that this means that possibly the enforcement provisions of the act are inadequate? Or do you believe the enforcement provisions of the act are fine, notwithstanding the testimony you gave to the fact of there being no prosecutions?
Thank you, Madam Shepherd, for coming here today.
I worked as a lobbyist in Ontario for a number of years when I left the provincial parliament. Occasionally I had to make some actions for a client who might have a federal issue, although it was very rare, and when I saw the new act in 2006, I was pleasantly surprised, in fact, at how tough the Lobbying Act was. I had to help train some people who were calling themselves lobbyists, and who wanted to lobby in Ottawa, on what they should actually be doing.
The best example for me is that anyone who has met with a designated public office holder and does not report that by the fifteenth of the next month could be subject to a fine of up to $200,000 and six months in jail, which I think is very tough, and appropriately tough.
Compared to the acts in the provinces and in fact similar acts in other jurisdictions--perhaps the United States, the U.K., or France--how does our Lobbying Act compare in being tough and dealing with the actions of lobbyists?
I have a couple of questions. I'll ask the latter one first.
Again, this is all supposition, but you're now conducting an investigation on a case that's basically unprecedented. You mentioned that you've never really dealt with a case where confidential information has been forwarded to a lobbyist. We're all obviously going to be awaiting the results of your investigation. Is it normal when conducting an investigation...or in this case are you contemplating making recommendations in terms of perhaps changing the code of conduct, strengthening it if it needs to be strengthened and that type of thing?
If you are basically going into uncharted waters, whatever the results are, would you be prepared to come back, either to this committee or to Parliament, and make recommendations on what may need to be done to prevent this type of thing from happening again or to at least put in some further sanctions if actions similar to that ever occur in the future?
Thank you for being here.
I am going to summarize what I have understood from your answers to various questions.
You are conducting an investigation into the situation where confidential documents were sent out by a member's employee to lobbyists who were able to use them. In fact, they even admitted to us, in some cases, that they did use them. In the investigation you are currently conducting, you are trying to determine whether there is a connection between what happened and the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct.
So you are not yet at the stage where you are trying to establish the facts to see whether there was a breach of the Code. Rather, you are trying to understand whether, in the Code, there might be something to get hold of, for a more in-depth investigation.
Have I understood correctly?
As well, you do your work with us, as parliamentarians, and you honour us with your presence here and by explaining your job to us. When you met with the New Democratic Party caucus, you used the expression "practical examples" to describe the best way of looking at the Act from the practice point of view. That lines up very well with the work we are doing here today. Apart from our interest in your job, we have to determine, with regard to Mr. Ullyatt passing on confidential pre-budget information that he was not entitled to pass on, which has been admitted, whether there was reasonably diligent oversight of his work.
We now have to look at the precedents in parliaments on the British model: Australia, New Zealand, and of course England. Mr. Lukiwski rightly said that we are awaiting the results of your investigation, in the sense that we are eager to know them, but this committee's work does not depend on your study. Properly speaking, we do not need to wait for your work, to do our own.
In terms of best practices, or, to use your term, exemplary practices, are there things a reasonably diligent parliamentarian should do in terms of their staff, when it comes to communications with lobbyists? I would like to know what methods you recommend so we can be sure that the communication, whether by email or otherwise, is registered. As elected representatives, we have a duty to report. But you told us earlier that there were best practices in this regard. Would you be so kind as to tell the committee what they are?
Does anyone have any other one-offs? If not, we will excuse our witnesses with our thanks.
You did a good job today. Thank you for coming and sharing with us. I feel better. I understand a little more about what you do, and when you can talk about it specifically, I'll be anxious to read the report.
Ms. Shepherd, this committee also has been asked to look for ways of securing documents. I recognize that it's outside the scope of your responsibility, but as you run into this and research this, if at the end of the day you also find other methods for us to be able to keep secret documents secret, I'd love it if you would also share that with this committee.
I'll call the meeting back to order, please. We have our second group of helpers here today.
Madam O'Brien, it's always great to have you here.
Monsieur Bard, it's always great to have you too.
As you know, we're here studying the order of reference on the breach of privilege on the leaked confidential document.
We're hoping, Monsieur Bard, that you can help us today with perhaps some methods to prevent this from happening again--some remedies, if you will.
I don't know if either of you has an opening statement or if you'd like to just get to questions of witnesses.
We're very pleased to be here today to be able to answer the questions of the committee relating to this very important issue. I don't have an actual formal opening statement, but I simply do want to emphasize that the environment that we are working in, from the point of view of technology, is basically a business application environment. Virtually the primary competence of an MP is communication and so everything we do is to facilitate that rather than just sort of have a kind of lockdown. So that's an important consideration.
When last we appeared before you, the CIO, Louis Bard, was explaining that there are really three components when you look at this kind of situation. There's the technology. There are the actual procedures around the technology. And then there are the people. As I say, the technology we have is a business application environment, so it's not the kind of thing that is set up for encryption and “top secret” and so forth and so on, but we do have procedures within this environment that I think adequately respond to the need for confidentiality and for great care in dealing with sensitive documents.
The difficulty that we run into, and Monsieur Bard made that point
when we appeared before the committee the last time is that some people are not concerned about established procedures. If a cover page clearly says "confidential" and someone chooses to pay no attention to that warning and not be concerned about the confidentiality of the document in question, we are really in a bind.
We saw with the WikiLeaks, on a far larger scale and in a quite different sort of situation, the fact that people get around even the most sophisticated of technologies and of procedures. So the whole question of people is very important, and Louis is going to be in a position to answer, I think, the questions you have about certain characteristics of the way we do the documents that would assist committees.
I think one of the basic things we're hoping will come out of this discussion with the committee is that we would recommend that each committee, once it gets to the point of looking at drafting a report, take the time to step back and have a reflection on what the risks are if the report is leaked. This will differ from one study to another. There are certain things that are highly sensitive. There are others where, for instance, in the study of a bill, all of the sessions have been public as the witnesses have been heard and whatnot, so the report still technically is confidential until it's presented in the House, potentially, but at the same time, people are quite well aware of how the discussion is going.
In something like pre-budget consultations, where there is this level of sensitivity, then there might be some use for the committee to stand back. I'm not suggesting that they didn't do that adequately; they were faced with a different sort of situation. But if they stood back and looked at how much security or how many features of security they wanted to embed in the report that would nonetheless still meet their needs in terms of the facility of getting to the report and so forth, then we think that would be enormously helpful.
It's more a question of raising awareness, but we are still vulnerable to people's decision not to be concerned, as I said, about the intention of the committees they are dealing with.
That completes what I had to say. We are available to answer questions.
We have provided some caucuses on that point with a good explanation about mail communications, all the communications, and what is protected and what is not protected. I would be very pleased to send this to this committee, this particular documentation, but at the same time--and Madam O'Brien mentioned this--there are questions of responsibility and of what you intend to use for which purpose.
If you want to use those technologies to really, really do your day-to-day business, then you are completely avoiding the security measures we have in place at the House of Commons. That's why the committees and members of Parliament have to be cognizant of what is available, what is not available, and how you want to use this technology.
Whenever you are using PIN to PIN, you are using the cellular phone environment. How many of you call us and say, “Well, I'm on my cellular phone right now, so be careful on what you're telling me or what we're talking about”? PIN to PIN is exactly the same thing. If you believe that this technology could be the right one for you, then this is where you have to assess the risk of data technologies, but for me to tell you that using PIN to PIN using some software will be very secure, it's not...I can't tell you that. It's not.
Yes, absolutely. Some committees have used those technologies already. A lot of things currently exist that can really facilitate a lot of that.
I was explaining to Madam O'Brien earlier that at the preplanning stage for a report, the committee clerk, with the chair, and I suppose the committee members as well, decide on the format, the preparation, etc., okay? I think that's a very good vehicle because the committee has control of its report. I think we should really be working with the committee directorate to develop extra procedures, such as a set of questions we need to answer or ask at that point about securing the report.
If the report is of a very confidential nature, well, you may decide that you will not distribute the report electronically but will prepare physical copies and use watermark technologies--you would add a unique identifier for each member of Parliament who has a copy of that report.
You could also decide to password-protect this particular document. You can add properties, such as no copying and no printing, and so nobody can change a document.
You can also decide, as an example, to keep the document on a répertoire somewhere, where you can only access it from your environment. Then you can apply all kinds of protection and security and not use the e-mail system to distribute the document.
There are numbers of vehicles that are there today at your fingertips, I think, for the approach of taking that extra step at the preplanning stage of reports to address a lot of these questions, and in addition to that, when you make those decisions, what should be some reminders for the members. Because at the end of this, if you are making copies yourself in your offices, or if you are sending a report through a Hotmail account or through your PIN devices or some other mechanism, the members also have a very important role in terms of how to participate in protecting this environment. A lot of things already exist without any investment.
I would like to thank our guests for being here. It is always a pleasure to have a meeting like this. We are always better informed after than we were before, particularly after hearing from a computer expert.
Mr. Pierre Paquette: He thinks he's James Bond.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mrs. Claude DeBellefeuille: The question of privilege this committee is examining is very important, it raises a lot of questions. In light of the testimony we have heard, we understand that an incompetent—if I may, somewhat crooked—assistant intentionally disobeyed the law and the rules of the game and sent this information to lobbyists. They must be biting their nails today for having a friendly, affectionate relationship with him, having a drink with him at the Rideau Club or attending the same church. Today they are in difficulty because they had a relationship with this person.
When something that serious happens, the first reaction is always to ask what could have been done to prevent something like that from happening again. On the other hand, will that make parliamentarians' work more restrictive, through electronic and technological means, because a serious thing happened?
I think we must not forget, in doing our analysis, that the consequence of the recommendations we make, for example concerning technological tools, must not be to impede or complicate our job. We must not suddenly transform our practices just because an ambitious and incompetent assistance made a monumental mistake. That is my first thought.
As well, I know there are relatively simple computer techniques. For example, I recently received a report send by a Bloc Québécois member to another parliamentary committee with a password. So it was impossible to delete or change the document. She sent it to the clerk. The clerk was able to open it. She had it translated. The English translation was in DOC format, so all the English-speaking members had easy access to the text. Myself, the whip, I was not even able to open the file the clerk had sent me, because I didn't have the password.
That made me think and say to myself that we have to be careful not to fall on our technological behinds, as we might say in Quebec, and thus make our work more difficult and more restrictive. If that's the case, we will probably not achieve the intended results, because there will always be a way of getting around it. We parliamentarians took an oath to abide by our rules. Our staff are supposed to know this. There will always be dishonest people.
In light of that, Mr. Bard, do you really think the committee should make very restrictive recommendations about technological procedures, to avoid events like these happening again? Would you say, rather, that it was bad luck and we should not make rules and require tools that are too restrictive, for all House staff and members?
Your comments are excellent. You understand the issue and what it means very well.
The approach I recommend stresses prevention and awareness. There is already a lot of concern about the format and composition of the report, who is going to take part in it, but there are also questions about how to protect it and how to distribute it. Certainly in the Parliamentary Publications Directorate we have to have all sorts of procedures for agreeing on how the work is organized, to be able to provide the report in the proper way. There is excellent collaboration among all the committees, chairs, clerks and so on. I think you could make great progress by being more aware of the question of the sensitivity of the information. Starting from there, you could decide whether you want to adopt rules. Maybe yes, maybe no. The rules can be very simple; there are tools that are very simple. I don't think we have to make parliamentarians' lives difficult by installing all sorts of technologies that are going to prevent them from doing their jobs and take away a lot of flexibility.
There is another factor I will mention, if I may. We in the House of Commons administration have to be subject to rules, to codes of ethics, to what is called the Acceptable Use Policy. When we use House resources, we have to be accountable. We also have to agree on how information is to be kept secure and on our powers when it comes to using that information.
Certainly we have security policies for information technology. I understand that this is not the role of your committee, but perhaps, someday, members' employees should also be made accountable in terms of all these practices. It's another and much larger field. You're right, you have to be prudent, and not all committees or all situations call for action to be taken. You really need to take the time to consider the subject at the planning stage, and I'm sure that a lot of measures can be implemented, as needed.
Ms. O'Brien, I have a question for you. I was elected in a by-election. So I received a condensed version of the course given to new members, because I got here when the machine was already running.
Mr. Pierre Paquette: You were starting from the back of the pack.
Mr. Thomas Mulcair: I was starting from the back of the pack after picking up all sorts of bad habits in another parliament.
But I do know that orientation sessions are organized for new members. In those sessions, are documents distributed about the confidentiality of information? Are there instructions, ways of doing things, things you share with the newly elected members?
Again, it's much more complex than the device and the features of the device. It's the complete environment. Madam O'Brien explained at the beginning that we have an environment to conduct the usual day-to-day business of members of Parliament.
If you were in a place like DND, as an example of those places where you want to be purely secure and confidential and you want to control everything, they have a separate environment. They don't use the network. They don't use the mail. They don't use a lot of these things, and you can go so far...it's not just one layer. You have to look at security like peeling an onion. There are many, many layers and securing the device is not helping me if I don't secure the rest of the infrastructure, if I don't secure the wireless network. For PIN to PIN, it's like putting a lot of money in something that is not secure as a technology. CSIS, DND, and the world will tell you that you don't do that. You don't do business on cellulars if it's that confidential. That's why you need to assess the risks and the investment and also manage your environment.
My objective for many, many years has been to try to give the members as much flexibility as possible and not to put on too many constraints. I think every member is unique. You are competitive among one another and therefore I need to give you that flexibility to be who you are and to serve your constituents. Therefore, when you work in Ottawa with the institution, we already have a lot of restrictions. It is a balancing act.
Yes, but I have just a quick question here. A spitball kind of question just came to me. I don't want to give the impression that I think we should institute a new bureaucracy of e-police out there, because there is a certain trust factor for MPs as well as their staff, under which all of us have to work in this environment, and I appreciate that.
From time to time, I'm sure, certain committees will be producing highly confidential documents. It is one thing to put some procedures and protocols in place to perhaps--at least I hope--prevent those documents from being forwarded or released to people who shouldn't see them, but that doesn't really stop, if someone wanted to.... Madame DeBellefeuille said that if people want to cheat, if they want to break the law, they'll always find a way.
One way, obviously, is by examining a document closely enough, without physically forwarding it either in hard copy or electronically, and then verbally informing someone of what it contained. Currently, I understand, there is really no way to stop that from happening.
Would there be a need--or perhaps would there be the capability within the House--if there were highly sensitive documents, to develop a secure site where the documents could be sent? Then, for anyone who wanted to examine the documents, their name and the time at which they examined those documents would be registered. That may be complete overkill. I'm the first to admit it may be out of there. But is that something that could happen?
Yes, I think it could be a combination of things. Yes, we can isolate the document in a particular area. I call that a collaboration site. We can put all kinds of restrictions on that site and then for sure we will know who accesses that site. You can say that you cannot change the document and you cannot copy the document. All kinds of things like this can be done.
At the same time, there are some very well established procedures that exist today in the government for secure documents and what you can do. There are all kinds of rules and decisions you need to make on whether you want to make versions of the document, number the documents, or have people sign. There's all kinds of information that exists.
I think the best way to address that for me...I mean, we can make those available, but at the same time, you really have the key in your hands, and the key in your hands is at the preplanning stage of that report, when you have all those questions. Bring this to the attention of the committee clerk, and it will be very clear at that time, and if need be, sit down with each instance and say, “That's the proposed approach for this particular report”.
Monsieur Paquette, nothing from you?
Mr. Mulcair, anything else?
Are there any questions from other members?
This has been very helpful, and Mr. Young's last question really falls on that: it's the most secure and the least secure, all in the same device. Thank you very much. I may never touch mine.
Thank you very much for being with us today. If you could supply to us what you've suggested on the varying levels.... But I think really what you've said to us today is that committees need to sit down and say, “How secure does this document have to be?” Then you would have a nice little shopping list of security levels that you could supply to the clerks and the chairs of the committees as we do it.
Many of the things, certainly, are in confidence. A steering committee document is still not...but how high a level of security? When we get to certain committees with more need for security, we'll have to ask for higher levels, so I would suggest that our great clerks will also have to be involved in knowing what's available to them. If you can supply us with that report, I think that would help us a lot in putting some remedies to the situation we have here today.
Thank you again for coming here today and helping us out.
I'm going to suspend for a couple of minutes and then we'll go in camera.
[Proceedings continue in camera]