Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.
Good morning, colleagues. I don't really want to start without our colleague from the NDP, but this meeting is likely going to be a very short one, so I figure the sooner we start, the sooner we can be done.
Just so you know, we're in a public meeting right now. Typically, when we do committee business, we start in camera, but we're in public right now. I just wanted to make you guys aware of that. If anybody wants to move...I don't have a problem with it being in public, but sometimes when we're discussing things like witness lists and so on, then we might want to be cognizant of that. I'll just make you aware of that.
First of all, I want to say thank you to Joël for covering for me at the last committee meeting. Regrettably, the witnesses that we had lined up for today fell through, and in discussions that I had with our clerk, I said that maybe we'll just use 15 or 20 minutes today and figure out where we're going to go, because I think the study and the witness list for our current study on the Privacy Act is winding down. We can start giving a bit of direction maybe to the analysts on what we would like to see, so we can consider that for today as well.
I know that Mr. Lightbound has a motion. I'm not sure if he's prepared to move it today, but it would give us some clarity and opportunity to discuss what we're going to do when the Privacy Act study is complete.
As it stands right now, for next Tuesday, we have three witnesses. Next Thursday, we have Mr. Gogolek who appeared before us on access to information. He's going to be back from the B.C. Freedom of Information meetings. We also have Adam Kardash who was before us, as well, and Michael Karanicolas from the Centre for Law and Democracy is going to be here on the Privacy Act.
Next Tuesday, we're hoping to get Immigration and Citizenship, CBSA, and RCMP as witnesses. I think they were the ones that we wanted to get today, but it didn't work out. Next Thursday, we have CSIS and potentially Karen Shepherd and a few other people appearing before the committee. That exhausts our list for this particular study, so we'd better have a plan going forward to do something else. Unless anybody else has any other witnesses that they want to bring forward for the Privacy Act at this time.... We're not hearing a whole lot of new information any more. People are coming in, and we're basically having the same discussions over and over.
If that proposed work schedule going forward is fine, then we're going to need something to do on Tuesday, November 1; Thursday, November 3; and Tuesday, November 15. We'll have the break week there and that's veteran's week. On Remembrance Day, we will be back in our ridings, and it looks like we might have Mary Dawson and Karen Shepherd coming as part of the discussion we had earlier about the extensions to their appointments.
We're going to try to fit those two in at some particular point in time; however, beyond Tuesday next week, we're very thin on things to do.
We had submitted a name for someone from the European Union that has to do with implementing the new data protection framework that they brought in. I just spoke to the clerk, and I'm looking for some direction but I think that's worth pursuing just because they seem to be at the cutting edge of that.
Mr. Blaikie, we do have room in the witness panel for next Thursday and potentially even next Tuesday if the various departments that didn't show up today can't come next week, as well. We'll definitely get that on the list. It sounds like a very good idea.
This is not a new revelation, but as the chair, I operate through the clerk. We make the request into the various offices. It's incumbent upon all of us. As members of Parliament, we can go over and ask one or both ministers if they could please find it in their schedule to make an appearance before the committee. It would be very much appreciated.
Yes. There's a motion I've given notice of regarding a study of PIPEDA. I think you have all gotten that motion. PIPEDA has not been reviewed in a couple of years, and it's up for review. It's on the table, so I'd be curious.
I had two suggestions. One would be more timely, and one we could do to fill space whenever.
First, we've heard from the Privacy Commissioner and we've heard from Michael Geist with respect to information sharing and the impact on the Privacy Act, but well beyond the Privacy Act, the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, and the implication of that act, which formerly was part of Bill C-51, but no longer is. The Privacy Commissioner had spoken about how he's trying to get more information from departments. He didn't really have a full update as to the impact of SCISA.
I'm also on the national security committee. We are engaging in broad consultation right now. The minister is engaged in that same consultation, but it's fairly broad. This committee could be fairly specific, drill down specifically to the impact of information sharing, and SCISA in particular. That will be one proposal for now.
Down the road, just to fill a couple of days, I think it would be useful to review the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, specifically section 15 and the practice of sponsored travel. I think it's ripe for change and it's something this committee should look into.
But that's to fill space. I don't think there's a particular timeline—
I would want to double-check that. I've spoken to the Ethics Commissioner staff specifically about this act and its implications, so I'd be surprised if we don't have something to say on it. But maybe that's right, in which case—
I like the idea regarding the sharing of information act. As there's this whole review going on with Bill C-51, this committee could perhaps have input to give government with regard to those specific provisions. I think it would be a fairly short study.
We can say we'll review the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, its impact on privacy since its implementation, and whether there are any changes that should be proposed in the course of the government's national security consultation and review.
I'm assuming, Mr. Erskine-Smith, that as the mover of the motion you have some proposed witnesses you would be interested in entertaining. Other parties would have to make some efforts to find some witnesses for that.
I don't see anybody opposed to it. Is there anybody who wants to speak in opposition or just make some comments on this particular motion?
I would suggest that we do this first and then PIPEDA afterwards. I would be willing, Mr. Chair, to move my motion but to amend it, because currently it's worded “directly following the end of the current study”, so that we would move to PIPEDA after we've studied the....
Colleagues, there's nothing wrong with the committee entertaining two different pieces of work at the same time.
One of the things that I'm finding as chair of this committee, and this is not a slight against the clerk or any of the analysts who are here, but sometimes our witness pool is pretty.... There's great depth in the pool but there's not great breadth in the pool. There's a very small list of people this committee generally calls to appear before it, and we sometimes run into scheduling conflicts.
I don't have a problem personally managing two different studies at once, and I don't think anybody at this end of the table has a problem with that. We may actually want to do both PIPEDA and this review at the same time, depending on witness availability. We might make the committee's time more effective that way. It's just a suggestion.
Yes, that was the sense that I got. That's what we'll try to do.
I have a couple of comments. In the previous Parliament, the PIPEDA was examined, but only in the context of social media. Is that correct? There was a report done in the last Parliament that dealt with PIPEDA, but I believe it was only so far as the impact on social media.
At some point in time, I think the committee will have to decide whether or not we want to adopt the work of the previous Parliament. We don't need to have that discussion right now. I would just encourage colleagues to have a look at that. We can decide how we want to adopt it, whether we want to re-examine it, and whether the information in that report holds true today or not. I just bring that to your attention.
We'll start getting witnesses right away, but I think we can safely proceed on the examination of the entirety of PIPEDA. Social media is changing constantly. Everything is changing constantly in that particular world, so things that were done three years ago might already be a bit obsolete.
All in favour of the PIPEDA study?
(Motion agreed to)
The Chair: Now we have a work plan going forward. Excellent.
Could we also take a few minutes, perhaps not today because we just received it—I'm not really even sure if it's necessary—to go through the response to our report from Minister Brison. He sent that to us this morning, I believe.
Sometimes, when we have a witness list that might only have one or two witnesses for the study, we exhaust the questions that we have for that witness after the first hour and a bit. If it's okay with you, Mr. Jeneroux, and if it's okay with the rest of the committee, what I'll propose is that we then use a little bit of time in an upcoming meeting to discuss that.
Would that be satisfactory to the rest of the committee? Okay.
That's a good question. Does the committee see a need to do any travel with the upcoming study of PIPEDA? I think that will depend on the witness list, actually.
For PIPEDA, because it does broadly affect the general public, there is going to be a much different level of interest in that review than there is in the laws that pertain to how government does anything, because government is centred for the most part here in Ottawa.
I can assure you, through my experience with this, that once the broader public finds out that we're reviewing the Personal Information and Protection of Electronic Documents Act, people are going to be a lot more interested. It might be something that we want to entertain, just to make sure that we get out and talk to as many people across Canada as we can.
I mean the Canadian public. Most people we've been dealing with so far have been academics, people who watch government, and government itself. That's the legislation that we've been reviewing. This legislation affects every single Canadian, so it has a different interest pool.
The reason we ask this question is that it takes a long time to go through the committee travel approval process. If we're going to study SCISA first, that does give us a little more prep time to decide whether or not we're going to travel or if we need to travel. Otherwise, we're bringing witnesses in here, or we're teleconferencing, video conferencing, or whatever the case may be. It is definitely a lot cheaper, but sometimes not nearly as effective. We'll want to make that determination.
What I'm hearing right now is that we have no immediate travel plans, but we're leaving it open depending on whether or not we see a need. Okay? All right.
Mr. Chair, when you go for funding for committee travel, you need to have a specific plan in terms of which cities you want to visit, so I think it's premature right now to have that discussion, but it's something to think about.
I would gladly prepare that on your directive. If you instructed me as your chair to do that, I would do that.
I can tell you, because I do sit on the subcommittee of the Liaison Committee—and I can't talk about what happens in camera at those meetings—that money is tight in the travel budget, so we need to be cognizant of that. If we want to travel in the fiscal year, we should be trying to secure that sooner rather than later.
Sorry, there is one last thing we need to do, and this is an excellent opportunity to give our analysts a little bit of direction. We're winding down the study on the Privacy Act and we need to allocate some days to go through a report. We should probably give the analysts a little bit of direction on what we would like to see in the report.
I'm not sure if anybody's ready to do that today, because we haven't heard from all of the witnesses at this particular point in time. Does anybody have a deadline in mind for when they would like that report to be in front of the House?
Yes, we can do that. We can set aside some time for that. Right now, I'm wondering if there is a particular deadline for when this committee wants to have a report in front of the House. Do we want to have it in just before Christmas?
What I propose is on the meeting of the 1st, the Privacy Commissioner should be given an opportunity to come back and have a discussion with the committee based on all the testimony that was heard.
I suggest we give the first hour and a half of that meeting to the Privacy Commissioner, and then we spend the last half hour giving instruction and direction to the analysts. After that point, we wouldn't hear any more witnesses on the Privacy Act. Then the analysts can have the rest of that week and all of the break week of November to do their work. When we come back, we don't have anything in the meeting of the 15th. We can use the week of the 15th and the 17th for the consideration of the draft report.
Would that be okay? Would you have enough time for that?
In going forward after the SCISA study and the PIPEDA study, one of the things that emerged in the Privacy Act study has been the complete lack of regulation of political parties when it comes to the protection of private information of Canadians.
I think it would be interesting to study that further and try to get a sense of whether in our opinion government should be coming forward with some kind of new legislation in this area, or making modifications to the Elections Act, the Privacy Act, or PIPEDA. I think it's an issue Canadians would be interested in, and it speaks directly to the protection of privacy of Canadians' information.
I think this would make for a timely and interesting study upon completion of either the SCISA study or the PIPEDA study. I would move that this be our third item of business after the completion of either of those others.
All right. That's something to think about. It would be handier for us at some point in the future to have an actual formal notice of motion, and the wording of the study, but it's something that's there.
Yes, I think so. At least that way we can have a conversation about whether we think this is something worth doing. I think it is, because if we don't do it, I don't see who is going to take the lead on getting a handle on what those various issues are and where the appropriate place is to have a more codified—
I was thinking there are a number of witnesses who have stated that they are not sure whether political parties' personal information on Canadians should be included within PIPEDA. That might fall within the ambit of what we're going to study when it comes to the PIPEDA study. It could also be a section of our study.
It may. In my opinion, what has become clear is that there's a lack of clarity on where exactly that falls. In some of the research on this, some people say the Privacy Act might be the place to do some aspects of it, others say PIPEDA might be the place, and others say the Elections Act might be the place to do some aspects of it.
That's why I think having an independent study, or a study independent of any particular piece of legislation, makes sense. This would allow us to not be restricted by the scope of any particular existing act. We could therefore answer the questions as to whether, in the committee's judgment, regulation in this area is necessary; where it belongs, if it is necessary; and whether it should be in a new act or an existing act.
I'll just say it's a good idea based upon the testimony we've heard. Given that it's far enough away, I have no problem committing to it. However, if other timely matters arise, and we think we should deal with them, those should take precedence in the interim.
I think PIPEDA is another one where we could do it two years from now, and it would make no particular difference. This is the same thing. If issues arise and we want to deal with them, SCISA being an example, unless there's a legislative timeline where we have to review PIPEDA.... My point is that there are a lot of good ideas to study. This is one of them. I am happy to commit to it, but if there are timely things we want to deal with to have input on government decision-making, I think those should take precedence.
To sum up, Mr. Erskine-Smith's answer was yes, but not necessarily yes. That's what he indicated. I think I'm in the same boat. I think we'll actually learn a fair bit through PIPEDA, and there may even be a recommendation through that.
In terms of committing in the long term to some of this, I agree with Mr. Erskine-Smith that there's a lot of information and interesting stuff to come out of PIPEDA that we should consider as well, so I support going down that road, but yes, it's a ways off. If it's flexible in the motion, I guess we'd support it.
I think that's what Mr. Erskine-Smith alluded to as well, which is that based on what we're going to study, it might be a recommendation in our review of PIPEDA. But Mr. Blaikie's point is that it is a unique enough item that it might still be worth studying in its own right after that.
Because we don't know what's going to happen during our PIPEDA review, we can't make the determination right now, but we do have a motion on the floor. That doesn't mean that if it's not dealt with through PIPEDA we couldn't change our minds later on and not do the study. We have that ability as a committee.
For the time being, I need some direction on whether or not to add the proposed study by Mr. Blaikie to our work plan.
Here's what I noted, and correct me if I'm wrong. The motion is that the committee undertake a study on privacy with regard to federal political parties and whether or not changes should be made to the law upon completion of the two other studies agreed to.
Does that work? I'm open to flexibility on the wording around what the exact nature is of what we'll be studying, but the idea really is to come up with a recommendation on whether there should be a new law or whether an existing law should be changed in order to regulate the use of private information by federal political parties.
My only concern is one that Mr. Erskine-Smith has shared, which is that we might be enlightened through the study of PIPEDA in terms of what needs to be done, or whether it requires a formal study or not, or if we have enough information gathered. I just find that we're committing to the formal study, which could very well change after we've heard from our witnesses on PIPEDA.
It's very unlikely anything that comes out of the PIPEDA study is going to supersede the need to deal with the issue as its own issue.
In the testimony we've heard already, we've heard that it's an awkward fit within PIPEDA. It may be that there's a remedy within PIPEDA. That's not the only thing we're going to be considering during the PIPEDA study. I doubt that this issue is even going to come to dominate it, because there are a lot of other important issues within PIPEDA.
I don't share that concern to the same extent that somehow what's happening with the PIPEDA study is going to supersede the need to look at this as its own issue. I don't see any harm in committing to looking at it as its own issue. If it is the case that in PIPEDA we hear from witnesses we haven't already heard from who say that PIPEDA is the absolute best place to do it and here's how to do it, and if we're all agreed that it's the best way to do it and we have a recommendation that says, “Here's something we should be doing in PIPEDA with respect to the private information of Canadians and federal political parties”, then so be it. At that point, I think the committee could change course and say that this motion has in fact been superseded by the PIPEDA study.
I don't think there is any concern now—and there certainly isn't on my part—that somehow this motion isn't warranted simply because we might come up with a solution from witnesses, some of whom we have already heard from. I'd be interested to go out and hear more witnesses on this topic, but from what we've heard, PIPEDA may well not be the place to do this.
Mr. Blaikie, in my discussions when we get witness lists and the clerk comes to me or anybody else for direction on what witnesses to bring, if I know that we have a study on the books to look at and a witness comes forward who is going to testify primarily on private information with regard to political parties, I would probably defer that person to that study rather than include them in the PIPEDA study. Do you know what I'm saying?
Mr. Daniel Blaikie: Yes.
The Chair: It would be nice for me to know one way or the other if we're going to do both. It makes the management of witnesses a lot more predictable and easier to do.
I just think that right now maybe we should wait for the study to unfold, to see whether or not information is derived from that study that would be useful in answering this question. If it's not, then we can always look at the motion later, as opposed to trying to hypothetically guess what may or may not emerge. Something may emerge. Something may not emerge. At least this way, in regard to the witness list, if we feel that this is something that we want to study under PIPEDA, we can create a witness list that would answer some of those questions, because a lot of the witnesses, whether you call them within PIPEDA or outside PIPEDA, would still be there.
Just looking through the stuff prepared by our analysts in terms of statutory reviews, the Lobbying Act is due to take place, 2015. Phase-ins were mentioned as part of the minister's response back to us on the previous study that we did, so I appreciate the spirit of where Mr. Blaikie is coming from, in terms of wanting to schedule our work so we know where we're going, but I think it's a little premature at this point in time to go down that road.
I don't have a problem with having it put to a vote. I think it's prejudicial, frankly, to think that an adequate response might come out of the PIPEDA study. One of the issues that's at issue, and we know this from witness testimony to the committee on other acts, is that we don't know if PIPEDA is the right place. To say let's wait on the PIPEDA study when one of the questions the study I'm proposing would have to answer is whether studying PIPEDA would be the appropriate way to go about studying this issue, prejudges where that question belongs.
Yes, I don't mind. It wouldn't be the first time I've voted against the majority, so I don't mind having it come to a vote. My feelings won't be hurt. I think that's probably the best way to decide this.
—if you would agree, maybe if we just amend it to remove “upon completion of the two current studies” or “the two studies we are undertaking”. Would that be satisfactory to you? Thereby, there would be no more timeline that restricts us.
As I said, I have a pretty thick skin. If you want to move that as an amendment, fine, but we just did have quite an open opportunity to be able to put forward committee business. I think we struggled a little bit to come up with two items, and having three, I don't think, would be unprecedented or overly cumbersome for our committee.
I have an amendment now and the amendment is to delete all the words after “law”, so the amendment would then read, “That the committee undertake a study on privacy with regard to federal political parties and whether or not changes should be made to the law.”
I don't know of any complaints. Mr. Blaikie used the word “remedy”. Remedy usually suggests that there is a problem. I don't know if there is a problem, but there are people suggesting that there might be a problem and there might need to be a remedy.
Mr. Blaikie has rightly pointed out that, whether that falls under the Privacy Act, PIPEDA, or the Elections Act, we could.... His study is proposing we take a look at whether there are concerns and how they should be dealt with.
For instance, if you are dealing with a government entity, you have a right to know what information they keep about you, and you have a right to request that incorrect information be corrected. You have no such right with a political party. They have no legal obligation to furnish you with the information they keep about you, and you have no right to have incorrect information changed.
That's the debate we are having. It might well come up under PIPEDA, as well. It might be during our report. Because we did hear about it in the Privacy Act, it may come up as a recommendation even with the Privacy Act. We don't know how this is going to work out. We are simply entertaining the notion of having a study about this one particular issue at this particular point in time.
We are back to the main motion, as amended. Does anybody else wish to speak to it?
We've already dealt with it. In the future, we'll know. It's not fair to members to do that at this particular point in time.
Unless there are any other items, I think that concludes our business for today. I got you out of here in just about an hour. Enjoy the rest of the day. We'll see you here with our witnesses on Thursday.