We're going to get started, as we have quorum.
Welcome, everybody, to meeting 56 of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, February 7, we are continuing our study on Bill
Today, from Our Right To Know, we have Margrit Eichler, the president, and from the Organisation For Economic Co-operation and Development, we have Paul Schreyer, the deputy director of the statistics directorate, who is with us by video conference all the way from France. Bonjour.
We also have, from the Statistical Society of Canada, Brian Allen, the past president and, as an individual, Jean-Guy Prévost, a professor in the political science department at Université du Québec à Montréal.
We're going to get right into it.
Margrit Eichler, you have up to 10 minutes.
Thank you for inviting me to speak before you. Permit me to briefly introduce myself. I am a retired professor of sociology and equity studies. I taught at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto until 2011. I am here in my capacity as president of Our Right to Know. We are a registered advocacy group with the mandate to advocate for the free conduct, communication, publication, and archiving of research. Our slogan is “Public Science for the Public Good”.
The major data gathering institution in Canada is Statistics Canada. The well-being of Statistics Canada is therefore close to our hearts. Although there are a number of issues that could be addressed, I will restrict myself to only one point: the relationship between Statistics Canada and Shared Services Canada. When we learned that the former chief statistician had resigned in protest over the lack of independence of Statistics Canada, we contacted him to learn more. While I have never met Mr. Smith face to face, there have been many written and oral exchanges. What we learned from these alarmed us. We then contacted a number of experts to compare their view of the situation with that of Mr. Smith's. We found no reason to doubt his integrity and veracity.
The minister, in his remarks during the debate in the second reading of Bill made it clear that high-quality data are needed to be able to make informed policy decisions. He makes a strong and convincing case that this requires independence of the national statistical service. If passed, the bill will increase the political independence of Statistics Canada. We strongly applaud the intent of the bill on this count. However, given such clearly stated intent, it is puzzling that there is no assurance of administrative independence.
Imagine that you were the chef for a huge gala dinner for hundreds of people. The contract has been signed. The overall framework has been agreed upon, the menu has been decided, the serving times have been set, the sous-chefs will be hired. Then, you find out that there is an unanticipated wrinkle: there is a housemaster who will determine which and how many pots you can use at what time, how many burners you may use at what time, and how many and which sous-chefs you may hire. In other words, you realize that you would be in a position of responsibility without the authority to make sure that the menu can be served as planned. At this point, you would probably tell your employer to cook the meal himself.
While Statistics Canada's job is infinitely more important and complicated than creating a gala dinner, however splendid it may be, the agency does find itself in a similar situation. Bill says this, and I will quote it in an abbreviated manner:
The Chief Statistician shall....
decide, based strictly on professional statistical standards that he or she considers appropriate, the methods and procedures for carrying out statistical programs....
[and] control the operations and staff of Statistics Canada.
However, according to Wayne Smith, Shared Services Canada has complete control of the critical informatics infrastructure supporting Statistics Canada. This amounts to an effective veto power on the part of Service Canada over any project, program, or initiative of Statistics Canada that requires modifications to informatics infrastructure—and, in the world of official statistics, any significant change does.
What are the consequences of this arrangement? They include delays of major transformational projects, for instance, the integrated collection operations system and the integrated business statistics platform; an unwieldy, user-unfriendly website; idling project teams; delays in delivering needed hardware; problems in maintaining aging equipment; cost estimates disconnected from reality; and unnecessary financial difficulties.
In other words, for a statistical agency, whose primary objective is the production and dissemination of data and information, Service Canada is an inefficient system. It does not allow Statistics Canada to operate at a peak level of performance. It wastes human and financial resources.
We consulted with my former classmate and distinguished CRC Chair Monica Boyd. She is an expert user of Statistics Canada data and has been seconded three times to Statistics Canada on a visiting senior fellow basis. She described to us three of the recent problems associated with the shift to the Service Canada platform: it has become very difficult to find information; how issues are arranged is not always logical; posting of information that normally was routine now appears to be erratic. Recently a major set of analytical papers produced at Statistics Canada could not be accessed for two weeks.
She considers the relationship between Service Canada and Statistics Canada as a cancer that is slowly affecting the entire system. We argue that this is probably due to the fact that Statistics Canada has a different structure and a different logic from the other departments that are serviced by Service Canada. Most departments deliver programs and services; Statistics Canada delivers data analyses.
We also want to mention that we're not aware of any other national statistical service in a developed nation that does not grant administrative independence to its statistical service. To pass the legislation without at the same time removing Statistics Canada from under the control of Service Canada creates a serious set of problems that cannot but hurt what we all want: a truly independent Statistics Canada.
We therefore strongly recommend that complete authority to run its own operations be returned to Statistics Canada in order to enable it to fulfill its duties as outlined in Bill .
Thank you very much.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and committee members. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to appear before this committee. I will provide some comments on individual parts of the proposed amendments to the Statistics Act.
Let me start by saying that my overall impression of the changes is clear. The amendments constitute a significant step towards modern statistical law in close alignment with the “Recommendation of the OECD Council on Good Statistical Practice”. The council that adopted this recommendation in November 2015 consists of the representatives of our 35 member countries. It's the first OECD legal instrument on statistics, and all of our member countries, including Canada, have signed onto it. The implementation of its 12 recommendations and the associated list of good practices are regularly monitored. For me, it's a natural reference point when commenting on the proposed amendments to the Statistics Act.
The first comment I'd like to offer concerns our recommendation number 2, namely ensuring professional independence of national statistical authorities from other policy, regulatory or administrative departments and bodies, as well as from private sector operators.
I'd like to stress here that the professional independence that is sought by the recommendation relates to decisions about statistical methods and dissemination. In our view, this is perfectly consistent with some basic administrative dependence of the National Statistical Office on the executive branch in terms of defining a statistics program or more generally in terms of being responsive to the statistical needs of government and of society at large.
The amendments to the current Statistics Act explicitly confer more responsibilities on the chief statistician. They stipulate that he or she make decisions with regard to statistical methods and procedures as well as dissemination, and they add clarity concerning his or her terms of appointment. They also anchor in law the proposed statistics advisory council.
All of these measures reinforce the professional independence of the statistical authorities and are therefore very welcome in light of the OECD recommendation.
There is, however, one passage that seems to point in a different direction. The draft law in clause 4.1 states that:
Directives on any methods, procedures and operations may only be issued to the Chief Statistician by the Governor in Council, by order
What this says, which is true, is that the subsequent proposed sections impose a strict requirement to publish this order within 15 days, which represents a strong requirement for transparency. Nevertheless, interventions by the executive concerning methods, procedures, and operations remain possible by law. While there may be some sort of constitutional reasons for introducing this passage, it does appear from our perspective that this is at variance with the OECD recommendation.
Looking around the international scene, I also find that it's a somewhat unusual passage in the Statistics Law of OECD countries and appears in some respects stronger and broader in its potential application than are the provisions for ministerial intervention in statistical collections that apply in other Westminster democracies like Australia or New Zealand.
In the same vein, the unchanged provision in the law that indicates that the Governor in Council prescribes the questions to be asked in any census could be interpreted as incompatible with the professional independence of the chief statistician.
Another comment in this context relates to the selection of the chief statistician. The amendments to the law provide few indications about the process for selection, nor are any required qualifications for the position mentioned. The good statistical practices included in the OECD recommendations indicate both that the selection process should be described clearly by law and that the appointment should be based on professional competence only.
Such additions to the text may be worth considering unless there is another Canadian law that generally stipulates the need for demonstrated professional competence for this type of appointment. I'm not in a position to judge that.
Similarly, there is a bit of a question about the selection process for the members of the statistics advisory council. Again, anchoring the council, its principal functions, as well as specifics about the tenure or remuneration of its members in the Statistics Act is decidedly good practice, but there is no explicit reference to the professional qualities or profiles that council members should possess. As a key function of the council is to advise on the quality of the statistical system, explicitly stipulating the relevant professional competence would appear to be a useful thing.
Somewhat in passing, I notice that the size of the council has been set at 10. Now, while this appears to be near the lower end in international comparison, it should also be said that there is a wide variation among OECD countries here. For instance, the Irish National Statistics Board has eight members, the Swiss federal statistical commission has 11, Australia has 16, the U.K. has 14, France has about 40, and Germany has over 50. You have a wide variety of cases, and I guess much depends on the specific functions that these councils are intended to have, so there is no single good practice in this respect.
Another observation—and this is my final one—relates to our OECD recommendation number four that stipulates the protection of the privacy of data providers. The existing Canadian statistics law has very good provisions for the protection of privacy and so is fully compliant with the recommendation. My observation relates to the automatic disclosure of census records 92 years after a census is conducted. Now, we did not go through an in-depth analysis of statistical laws in OECD countries to find out about this point in other countries, but none of the laws we looked at briefly—with the exception of the United States—had a similar specific provision for general disclosure by default after a certain lapse of time. We don't consider the 92-year rule at variance with the OECD recommendation, but it is clear that there is an arbitrage between the long-term privacy protection for individuals and their families and other societal interests. Of course, that's an arbitrage decision that you as parliamentarians have to make.
I thank you for your attention and will be happy to respond to any questions you may have.
Good morning, everyone.
It is indeed a pleasure to be invited to appear before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Although the invitation to appear before this committee didn't specify, I view my invitation as representing the Statistical Society of Canada. I'm currently past president. The president, who might normally be invited to appear in my place, is employed by Statistics Canada, and so was recused.
The Statistical Society of Canada is Canada's only national scientific organization representing statisticians in academia, government, and industry. Its mission is to encourage the development and use of statistics and probability through research, education, and the development of public awareness of the value of statistical thinking. One of the bullets of our mission statement is directly relevant to today's hearings, namely, to ensure that decisions affecting Canadian society are based on appropriate data and valid statistical interpretation.
The Statistical Society of Canada has always had a close relationship with Statistics Canada. Indeed, its current president, Jack Gambino, is employed by Statistics Canada. Five additional past presidents have come from Statistics Canada: David Binder, 2005-06; Jane Gentleman, 1997-98; Geoffrey Hole, 1989-90; Martin Wilk, 1986-87; and Ivan Fellegi, 1981. Two of these, namely Wilk and Fellegi, also served as chief statisticians of Canada.
In addition, the society has benefited greatly from the involvement of many members from Statistics Canada. The society has six sections. Each focuses on an area of special interest to members. The survey methods section was one of the first two established, and it has always had dedicated support of members from Statistics Canada. This includes organizing invited paper sessions at the annual meetings and the organization and delivery of workshops on topics of interest to survey methodologists and graduate students.
The society believes that policy decisions should be based on evidence, and this usually involves data. Good data, whether from a survey, census, or other source, rely on both statistical design used to generate the data and on the choice of appropriate statistical methods to summarize the data. Administrative data—for example, tax data and health records—play an increasingly important role in official statistics. The use of appropriate statistical methods is important there as well. For example, the use of such data often involves record linkage, requiring both probability and statistics, and hence the importance of appropriate data and valid statistical interpretations.
The society participated in this committee's hearings, and lobbied extensively, regarding the cancellation of the mandatory long-form census in 2011-12. It also provided a letter of support of a private member's bill, to reinstate the mandatory long form, in early 2015. The society welcomes the opportunity to continue to provide its expert guidance on matters of statistical methods and procedures for the collection and summary of data.
In the brief time I've had to consult with colleagues, the views expressed on Bill have been unanimously positive. It's a step in the right direction, and it's making important changes to the Statistics Act.
I have a few recommendations, mostly related to how the Statistical Society of Canada can continue to make a positive impact on the collection and summary of official statistics in Canada.
The first recommendation is to have a formal search committee for chief statistician that would search widely, worldwide, for the best candidates. This short list of candidates would then be submitted for cabinet's consideration.
Second, consider consulting with the Statistical Society of Canada when seeking members to serve on such a search committee for the purposes of putting forward this short list of candidates.
Third, the Statistical Society of Canada is supportive of the establishment of the Canadian statistics advisory committee. It is recommended that it include members of the Statistical Society of Canada. This could be the president, but it might also be his or her designate.
I thank you and would be happy to answer questions.
My name is Jean-Guy Prévost. I'm a professor in the Political Science Department at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Over the past 30 years, my research has focused on the census and on the functioning of statistical offices, not only from a Canadian perspective, but also from a comparative perspective.
The tabling of Bill arose largely from the 2010-11 census crisis, which resulted from the government's decision to remove the obligation to complete the long-form census and replace it with a national household survey, participation in which would be voluntary. The decision was consistent with the Statistics Act, but it raised a huge public outcry, in large part because the decision was made very quietly, meaning that the public wasn't informed until the matter was resolved.
The issue the requirement to respond and the issue of penalties for refusing to respond are, of course, political in nature, but the government's decision also had a technical dimension. We now know, with evidence, that despite the enormous resources provided by Statistics Canada, the quality and reliability of the results of a survey of a sample of volunteers is unsatisfactory.
The government's decision to impose its point of view led to the resignation of the chief statistician at the time, and that major event is one reason why the decision was considered a breach of the agency's professional independence.
We can legitimately wonder what the independence of a statistical agency is. This concept wasn't widespread in the 1980s, but it is becoming more common today. Of the 34 OECD member countries, 29 have adopted legislation that, in connection with Statistics Canada and its chief statistician, include explicit reference to the term “independence” or one of its correlates, such as “autonomy”, “objectivity”, “impartiality” and “neutrality”. The 1985 Statistics Act is one of five acts that do not contain such a reference.
The reason we have witnessed a movement in favour of an explicit reference to the concept of independence in statistical legislation is that independence and the appearance of independence are indispensable conditions for establishing the credibility of statistical data in a world where data should play an increasingly important role.
In addition to incorporating the idea of independence or one of its correlates into the legislation, OECD countries have resorted to other means to ensure their protection. For example, some have clarified the appointment and dismissal procedures of the chief statistician. Others have set up a body to advise the chief statistician and assess the quality of the work done by the office. Several other countries have opted for codes of best practice and quality assurance programs.
Lastly, we should keep in mind that independence, understood in the sense of protection against intervention by the political authorities in the professional or technical dimensions of statistical work, is never enough. A statistical office must also have clear mandates and authority as well as means to carry out its task. The more recent resignation of chief statistician Wayne Smith illustrates the complexity of these issues.
How does the Bill address concerns about the independence of Statistics Canada? The proposed amendments contain a number of welcome clarifications, but they also contain ambiguities. I will limit myself here to a few points.
The first point concerns the appointment of the chief statistician. The irremovability of the chief statistician for the duration of the term constitutes an appreciable protection, and there is an equivalent precision in several countries. However, nothing in the act confirms what is mentioned in the notes that accompany the bill, namely that this appointment follows an “open and transparent” selection process.
The second point concerns the professional independence of the chief statistician. Subsection 4(5) as amended reads: “The Chief Statistician shall ... (a) decide, based strictly on professional statistical standards that he or she considers appropriate, the methods and procedures for carrying out statistical programs ...”
This reference in the bill to what is generally understood as “independence” is the clearest to date—even though the term is not explicitly used. The list of specific items to which these professional statistical standards apply is consistent with what we have seen in other countries.
However, subsection 4.1(1) states: "Directives on any methods, procedures and operations may only be issued to the Chief Statistician by the Governor in Council, by order, on the recommendation of the Minister.”
It seems to me that we are going right back to what we saw in summer 2010: the possibility of intervention by the political authorities in the field that should come under “professional statistical standards” without prior public debate. If we absolutely want to keep the possibility for politicians to intervene on this issue, the only way, I think, is to allow public debate and to authorize the chief statistician of Statistics Canada to make his opinion publicly known. Otherwise, in the event of disagreement, the outcome will be the chief statistician's resignation, which ultimately results in a loss of public confidence. The fact that the section of the 1985 Statistics Act dealing specifically with census matters remains unchanged in this bill curiously leaves such a possibility open.
A somewhat different problem arises with respect to subsection 4.2(1), which refers to directives on statistical programs. It is legitimate for a government to want to obtain statistical information on areas previously ignored, or for budgetary or other reasons to end certain programs. The bill provides that the chief statistician may require that such directives “be made in writing and made public before the Chief Statistician acts on it.” It is difficult to understand why the chief statistician's ability to require the publication of such directives does not extend to those that would more directly affect what should be his or her area of concern, namely the methods and procedures.
The third point relates to the existence of a quality assessment and consultation body. The existence of such a body is also a way to strengthen and guarantee the independence of Statistics Canada. The National Statistics Council, which was established in 1985, has been an almost invisible structure: this doesn't mean that its members haven't played an advisory role to the chief statistician, but the council had no public profile—no website, two lines on the Statistics Canada website, no list of members anywhere, and so on.
The notes accompanying the bill provide the council with a considerable mandate, but as there are no resources planned to meet the required profile, there is no certainty that this new council will be able to do much more than the previous one.
Furthermore, Statistics Canada's independence is also based on means that exceed the legal framework, including, the body's adoption of a code of conduct comparable to the one that European countries have.
In conclusion, in a comparative study of all OECD countries, Canada appears to be one of the few countries where the independence of the statistical office is not legally or formally protected. While Statistics Canada has long enjoyed broad independence in practice, it was based on a gentlemen's agreement that ceased to exist in 2010.
In this regard, the bill brings two notable improvements: one to the chief statistician's irremovable character during the term of office and the other to recognition of his or her authority over professional standards, methods and procedures.
However, the bill should be clearer on these two points: with regard to the first, by including a reference to the selection process for appointing the chief statistician; in the case of the second, either by deleting section 4.1, thereby recognizing the exclusive jurisdiction of the chief statistician regarding methods and procedures, or by providing, as mentioned in section 4.2, that directives on methods and procedures “should be made in writing and made public before the Chief Statistician acts on it.”
At the present time, there is still a considerable gap between the explanations published on the department's site that reflect a considerable ambition and the bill itself. Basically, in contrast to the current legislation, this contains fairly modest changes to the independence of Statistics Canada.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Welcome to all our guests this morning.
I had the the opportunity last year to go to the OECD's Blue Sky Forum in Ghent. As a former math and physics teacher, I enjoyed talking to people about some of the new things that are being done in statistics: data analysis, and megadata, so I certainly appreciate this opportunity as well, to be able to expand and talk about some of the things that have come about.
As I think we've noted from everyone this morning, there's still a concern about a lack of independence as far as the chief statistician is concerned. Some of the concerns are in regard to Shared Services Canada, as Ms. Eichler mentioned. I think we've heard a lot of that as well from various witnesses throughout the last number of weeks.
Perhaps, Ms. Eichler, you could just quickly pinpoint some of the issues that you have with Shared Services Canada. There was a discussion earlier, I believe, in Mr. Arya's question about cybersecurity, the thought being that Statistics Canada would be more protected if they were with Shared Services Canada. I think there are people who would suggest that might not be something that makes it more secure.
I wonder if you could just quickly give a few comments on that.
As for the advisory council and its size—bringing it down to 10—we have six time zones in Canada and 13 different jurisdictions, and there are so many different types of information that need to be reflected in those who are going to make decisions. I've written down that in Ireland there are eight members, and, I think, in Switzerland there are 11, all the way up to Germany with 50 plus, and France with 40 plus.
When we look at that—and I think it is said arbitrarily that 10 is a good number—yes, there are other people who are associated with it, and other groups that are associated with it, but I think that's one of the concerns that we have. I say that for comment, because I'm wary of the time that I have.
You also mentioned the 92 years and that only the U.S. has a general disclosure by default. These are some of the questions we have. I don't know how long ago that was set up, but 92 years at that particular point in time might have meant they were going to be past a lifetime, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be that way in the future.
I'm just curious as to why you think that would be necessary. I know we've talked to folks who say, “Well, for our historians and for genealogical methods it would be nice if we had it”, but does that not fly in the face of the protection of privacy of data providers? If an option were supplied for them to say, “Yes, we don't care after 92 years, or once we hit 100, we won't even know what's happening”, if that's the situation, can you give us a little bit of input on that, please?
There are things I'd like to continue and have addressed by all around the table.
The security and the provision of the data are obviously very important for those who are actually going to complete and fill out the survey. If you feel your privacy is being undermined, you will not fill out your data properly or you may not even participate, or you may give different results. That's something StatsCan has struggled with during this process of having two chief statisticians resign, which is unheard of.
I can be corrected, but I don't recall any other country facing this type of situation.
One thing that has arisen through this has to do with confidence in the data and, obviously, in Shared Services Canada.
I'll go around for everybody here to answer.
Mr. Prévost, to take this from another vantage point, what advantage is there for Stats Canada to give up ownership of its data and to give up its control of the distribution and the prioritization of that data to a third party? The argument is that it should do so.
The option we do have, though, is for the maintenance of an independent system. In fact, I fought for that independent system when we were outsourcing that information to Lockheed Martin. I felt the investment we would be making in terms of the data and all the money to accumulate it and quantify it, and the value of its use was so important that it should be a sanctuary unto itself and not be exposed unnecessarily to unmitigated risk.
What would be the advantage of outsourcing Stats Canada's collection and distribution of data to a third party such as Shared Services? Do you have any insight? Maybe you don't have any, but I would like to hear from our experts here as to the benefits of outsourcing to a third party for that element.
I think it's hard to underestimate the importance of a sound information system, not only for the executive but also for society at large. That, I think, is a given for any evidence-based policy-making.
The other question, of course, is how do you put that in place? I don't have any particular insights on the specific question of Shared Services Canada, but, of course, if you look at various countries, you do have cases where certain IT services are outsourced, for example, for efficiency reasons because some services can be provided more efficiently that way. But there are major legal barriers in the sense that, for example, under the European Union legislation, the data is not allowed to be stored outside the country. It is not possible to store data in the cloud, for example, because in doing so one cannot guarantee that the data is on national territory, which limits, of course, cloud storage, for example.
The other general tendency that I see is that whenever there is outsourcing in one way or the other, there may not be a transfer of responsibility or liability of the operations by the statistic office. The statistic office has to remain in charge of the management functions in its responsibility for the data. This is not something that one sees outsourced. But, again, I have not investigated this at great length; I'm just giving you my ad hoc opinion on this.
Thank you very much. I think I'll do a little bit of cleanup.
There were a number of different items that I wanted to speak of.
As always, there is the story of the mandatory long-form census, which comes back to the 60,000 people who were part of the Jedi religion when one of the censuses took place.
The suggestion that you're always going to get good data is not necessarily reflective of the way it is. You must have statisticians who are able to look at it and do certain tests on any information that comes in. I recognize that as a significant part of the science of statistics.
What I would like to do is put on record some of the suggestions that have come forth on potential amendments to section 4. This came from Professor Paul Thomas. We had a brief that he sent in, but I'm not sure whether he had a chance to put this on the record. I wanted to go through some of them. He proposed the following:
Section 4.1(1) should be amended to require that before a directive respecting an operational/technical matter comes into force it must be tabled in Parliament and be subject to a 60 day notice and comment period.
That's one of the suggestions he made. The second pertains to that same proposed subsection:
Section 4.1(1) should be amended to clarify that the Chief Statistician has the authority to disagree publicly should the cabinet modify the scope and content of the Census of Population in a manner that contradicts the advice of SC.
The third is on proposed subsection 4.2(1).
Section 4.2 (1) should be amended to require that any policy directive issued by the minister be placed on the cabinet agenda for potential discussion. No policy directive should amount to an indirect amendment of the Statistics Act.
Those are three amendments that have been presented. I simply wanted to put them on the record. I wonder if there are any other thoughts of amendments that one could consider as far as section 4 is concerned.
Does anyone have any comment on any those I have presented?
I realize it is difficult when it is done verbally, but are Are there any specific things that you think we could look at on section 4?
I have the policy paper by the OECD council on good statistical practices, which I'm referring to. One of the parts of this is a commitment to the quality of statistical outputs and processes, dealing with timeliness, punctuality, relevance, accuracy, credibility, coherence, and comparability. It's analyzing data over time and trends, while of course making sure that people can then relate to it. I think the critical part, as we look to the future, of all data analysis is to make sure that it's in a machine-readable form and it's open data, so that people can take a look at it.
It becomes a way for individuals to be able to mine the data and use it in ways that we haven't even imagined yet. I think that's the critical part. Sometimes we just think that what we have is an obtrusive kind of form. As a farmer and a teacher, I know that when the form comes out on May 10 and someone is right in the middle of working 30 days of 20-hours each, it's difficult to have the time to complete that mandatory long-form ag census to grab all of that data. But it's more a case of once you have it, what can we do with it? Who has the ability to go in and purchase the data if they need to and disseminate reports from it?
I'm just wondering. The report talks about ensuring that there's “user-friendly data access and dissemination”, and that's a critical component of it. The final part says, “this also entails a commitment to respond to major misinterpretations of data by users.” I refer back to when, during the recent elections, we had something called “vote compass”, and our national broadcaster decided this would be a good thing to help people decide what their thoughts were or where they would be. I still have people in therapy from when they found out they were Liberals.
Anybody can use statistics for their own purposes, and I think it's critical that we look at it.
I'm just wondering if you could, in the short time that is remaining—or the zero time that is remaining—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!.
Mr. Earl Dreeshen: I'd just like to thank you for being here and giving us your expertise. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm going to conclude as well, with a few comments here. I think the rest of the decision-making becomes a political process for the most part, but I do want to highlight a couple of things that are important for our guest to understand and also with regard to where the government goes.
We see that in the House of Commons the government has decided to move closure on Bill while accepting only one amendment from all the testimony we heard at this committee on, basically, an amendment that was suggested in the original debate that I'd proposed in the House of Commons to at least have a review of that. The rest of the decision-making process will involve political decisions about this.
It's interesting, and I thank the researchers for coming back with regard to a question I had on Shared Services Canada and the bonuses that had been received there and the processes involved. We do have a serious problem here, though, that we have to solve with regard to our census in terms of privacy, to enshrine the independence of Statistics Canada and to protect its integrity at a time when we have formed, with Shared Services, a bureaucratic government agency that's unheralded in Canadian history in terms of its information-gathering component. I don't think we want to undermine the significance of that project that was created, but it is vulnerable to privacy breaches.
I'd point to the privacy breaches that we've all seen in the past. Some of them can be quite dramatic but comical in a sense. We have private industry, companies like Ashley Madison, which has had privacy breaches affecting people. At J.P. Morgan, there was a breach involving banking records. I am a Sony PlayStation player, and we've had a breach there as well. Finally, when shopping on eBay and other sites, privacy has been the most important aspect for consumers, but has often been the least protected. Hence, we have our Privacy Commissioner in Canada to oversee some of these things.
I'll conclude by saying that I think that, obviously, our decision-making and our integrity protection are going to be the most important things for our stats and for setting a model for the world. I found some of the most interesting testimony here today the point that most countries do not outsource their information. One of the things that got me involved in my early career here in Ottawa was the outsourcing of Stats Canada information to Lockheed Martin. There were, obviously privacy issues involved, but also ethical issues. I disagreed with the government's outsourcing of that. In fact, it cost Canadian taxpayers more money to do that, because what we exposed was the fact that it was susceptible to U.S. legislation under the Patriot Act. Moreover, we found out in-house, after the contract was rewarded to Lockheed Martin, that it cost Canadian taxpayers millions more dollars to alter that contract to keep the data here. The so-called outsourcing or privatization of the information to a third party actually cost Canadian taxpayers more.
I want to thank all the witnesses for being here. At the end of the day this is about political decisions and whether or not this government has any intent, whatsoever, to make use of the testimony that we heard and to apply it to legislation in the House of Commons. Apparently, that seems to be void at this particular point in time.
It was great testimony today—very thoughtful and thought-provoking.
I'm going to go back, quickly, to the advisory council. We've been talking a lot about the numbers that should be there. Mr. Schreyer pointed out that there are examples of such councils with eight, ten, or twelve members. I asked what the advantages were of that and they said that they're nimble—for lack of a better term—in being able to respond quickly and get together. I asked about the large ones and there was an indication that larger ones of, say, fifty or so have an opportunity to perhaps have more representation on them.
However, we've sometimes seen in Canada examples of large boards on which, for example, females have not been represented very well or have been only to a small extent.
My question is to all of you, and it's about something I've been grappling with. We just had a bill before us, Bill which talked about diversity on boards and in decision-making. Also, in talking about the Liberal government, the Prime Minister indicated that in cabinet there would be gender parity, an equal number of women and men. Statistically, that's what we have here in this country.
My question is for all of you. I'd like your thoughts about having—regardless of the size, although size is an important thing that we must land on—a diverse board, particularly with more female representation on it.
If anybody would like to kick if off, please go ahead.
We appreciate that very much.
On that note, we have a couple of minutes of housekeeping to take care of, so I'd ask everybody to just stay back.
I'd like to thank our panellists for coming in and sharing their thoughts and ideas with us. It's been very helpful. Thank you all very much, and have a great day.
There are just a couple of things. I'm sure you all received from the clerk information on the Royal Norwegian Embassy, which is for Monday, May 8, possibly Tuesday, May 9. I'm not sure what your thoughts are on that, but I will leave that there, and we can talk about it further on Thursday.
What I really did want to touch base on is that in our first hour on Thursday we will be working on our travel to Washington. We still need to finalize the members who will be going. Earl, I know you're there, but I'm not sure what's happening on the other side. Thursday is the last day before our trip, so we need to be able to finalize some things.
The clerk is going to send out a brief. We've been working on this brief back and forth from what people have been sending us, which hasn't been a lot, but we need to be able to hammer out the details on Thursday because we won't see each other again after that for two weeks.
Then in the second hour we will have the minister from 9:45 to 10:45. Those are the two things.
Are there any questions on the trip?