I call the meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 64 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of June 23, 2022. Members can, therefore, attend in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application. Should any technical challenges arise, please advise me. My understanding is that we have nobody on Zoom, so this should be fairly easy. Please note that we may need to suspend for a few minutes—I'm reading what I have to read—as we need to ensure all members are able to fully participate.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(h) and the motion adopted by the committee on Monday, May 16, 2022, the committee is resuming its study of the access to information and privacy system.
In accordance with the committee's routine motion, the connection tests have been dealt with, so I'm informing you of that now.
I'd like to now welcome our witnesses for the first hour today. From the Treasury Board Secretariat, we have the honourable Minister Mona Fortier, president of the Treasury Board.
Stephen Burt is also here, as chief data officer and assistant deputy minister, policy and performance sector, along with Catherine Luelo, deputy minister and chief information officer of Canada.
Minister, you have five minutes to address the committee. The floor is yours. Please go ahead.
I'd like to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered on the traditional unceded territory of the Anishinabe Algonquin nation.
I would like to thank the committee members for inviting me today to discuss their work on this issue, as part of the committee's study.
I also want to acknowledge the work being done by the Information Commissioner of Canada, whom I met with last month.
Public access to government information is central to democracy. As President of the Treasury Board, I am responsible for overseeing the application of the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act by more than 265 government institutions. Our government is proud to have brought in the first measures to reform the act in more than three decades. Under those reforms, we gave the Information Commissioner order-making power, waived all fees in excess of five dollars and introduced a proactive disclosure regime.
Today, the Open Government portal provides access to 37,000 records and two million proactive disclosure records. According to the Open Data Barometer, Canada ranks seventh in the world when it comes to open data. The legislation we passed also set out the obligation to review the act every five years, creating pressure to ensure ongoing improvement. In 2021‑22, a total of 70.7% of requests were processed within the time frame prescribed in the act. I am not the first to say that this compliance rate is too low.
The first review focused on consulting Canadians, especially indigenous people, to help us learn more about the access barriers they were facing. The Information Commissioner's feedback was also taken into account.
I would like to clear up a misunderstanding. The purpose of the report was to identify challenges, not to develop a plan. The review provides the foundation for the work we are currently doing to improve the system.
The goal of the work is fourfold: improve service delivery, enhance staff capacity, meet the needs of indigenous populations more effectively, and continue to develop measures such as declassification. As soon as I'm able to provide more information about the plan, I would be glad to meet with the committee again.
Indigenous peoples have a unique relationship with the ATI regime, and indigenous peoples should have greater control over their information.
The review identified several needed changes, including broadening the narrow definition of “aboriginal government” in the act and ensuring ATIP practitioners have the tools to deliver consistent service for those exercising their right of access. Some have advocated changing the act. My current priority is to improve administration of the existing law. We strengthened the act less than four years ago. We have a lot of work to do to address the underlying systemic issues, and we will continue to take action to do just that.
We recently launched an enhanced ATIP online platform to make it more efficient to submit a request and receive records, while reducing administrative burden. We have onboarded 251 institutions onto the platform, with more to come. Within a year, over 90% of requests will go through the platform. TBS has selected two modern systems that will provide faster processing of requests. The first 13 institutions are being onboarded to the new processing software this year. The more we automate where we can, the more our teams can focus on their core jobs and the better the public will be served.
To help address staffing challenges, we launched a new community development office to support the ATI communities through recruitment, retention, training and professional development. I would also mention that we are continually improving how the privacy program is administered by providing new tools and guidance to government institutions.
I look forward to continuing to work together on Canada’s access to information system. My officials and I would now be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you very much.
Rarely do witnesses agree on something, but Madam Minister, it's interesting, because virtually every witness who has appeared before this committee answered no to the second question.
It's concerning that we have a massive disparity of understanding and, specifically, your report.... I appreciate the fact that you said you are identifying challenges without providing any solutions. Madam Minister, it's been eight years, counting your predecessors in this portfolio, and Canada's access to information system is struggling. It's failing, and it's causing a loss of confidence in our democratic institutions.
Specifically, when it comes to the retention of staff, that's a huge issue. You mentioned some metrics you're doing to help recruit staff to fill those roles. Can you tell me how many staff work in the ATIP system today?
I want to also thank the minister and her team for being here to answer our questions today.
I've spoken in this committee before about my previous experience with access to information as a journalist. That was 25 years ago, and the system wasn't perfect. It took a long time and it took a lot of money. Often you didn't get any relevant information back, so it's not like it's been a steady improvement. It's not like another government has done better in terms of ATIP. In fact, this is the first government in 30 years to improve the system in any way.
I'm wondering if you, or perhaps your staff, could talk about how you've managed to address some of the systemic barriers that are in this system and improve some of the administrative tasks with regard to access to information. Does that make sense?
Yes. Thank you for your question.
Let's remind Canadians who are watching today that Bill was adopted by our government four years ago, and we are in a process of reviewing the act. Many of those decisions at the time gave more power to the Information Commissioner, and we were also able to eliminate all fees beyond a five-dollar application fee.
I would like to now turn to the fact that, since then, we've been putting a lot of effort into working on more administrative tools that we need to bring forward to reduce the burden and the load that we have seen increase over the years. For example, we now have the Open Government portal, which is really helpful in getting those requests done more quickly. As I said to a question earlier, we have also tried to give staff more tools by training them and by giving them more opportunities to manage.
Maybe I'll turn to Catherine to talk about the digital aspect, if we have time to do so.
This is my first appearance in front of this committee. Thank you for having me this afternoon. I'm still a relative newbie to government. I've been less than two years as the chief information officer of Canada. I'm joining from a 30-year career in the private sector, so this is a space that's incredibly interesting for me.
We are dealing with an analog problem in a digital world. To build on what the minister said, we're dealing with a lot of paper-type records to which we're trying to provide access to Canadians, and we're doing so by trying to migrate into a digital world.
The minister has highlighted the fact that we've set up this portal. We are intending to fully onboard all departments within government so that Canadians have a common front door into the process—that's an aspiration we have for digital right across government—and to provide processing software, as she noted, that's going to be helpful in automating.
Really, at the core of the talent crunch we're in right across some of these more expertise-related areas is trying to move as much as we possibly can to an automated form, including some of the service requests we're seeing as part of the access to information requests such as immigration status. Trying to really stand those up as services is a big part of how we want to tackle that.
The report sets out conclusions, but it has not stopped us from advancing things while we're looking at and building out an action plan.
I can't answer that question, but I can get a bit more information.
Like you, I think that's something all members experience in their constituency offices. We are in the process of putting tools in place to deal with those cases.
As I said earlier, in the past, we processed files in paper format. Now, we receive files in various formats. That is why we are putting digital systems in place.
I also want to reiterate the importance of encouraging people not to necessarily submit ATI requests, but to consider submitting service requests when they want to access records, without having to go through the ATI system.
That said, we have to respect the fact that Canadians have the option of submitting ATI requests.
Thank you for that question.
Again, during the review, it was highlighted that information management requires improvements to create a more efficient ATI system. We've identified several key actions to address some of these issues by, for example, the inclusion of building operational capacity through, as I said, recruitment, training, investing in modern IT software and enhancing practices and directives.
However, I do—and we must—recognize that much more needs to be done to improve the access to information regime. A more consistent, strategic life-cycle management of the Government of Canada's information could yield broad improvements across government, service delivery and program efficiencies. Therefore, we're really looking at how we can make sure that we reinforce the system and strengthen it.
I have had the privilege of working on both sides of the declassification file, from a national security standpoint and now as chief data officer for the government.
What I would say is that the pilot project has shown us some of the challenges of looking at historical files and declassifying them, and the kinds of resources it requires to do that work.
I would invite the committee, in the course of its review of the Access to Information Act and the report, to consider what recommendations it might want to make to us as we move into the action plan the minister referred to here. There is a need for some policy direction. When you look at what is happening in the international domain on declassification, there are some very rigorous policy set-ups out there. The U.S., in particular, has automated, systematic and mandatory declassification regimes.
I think we need to look at what options would suit Canada and figure out where it is we need to go in this space in order to set the right course for that action plan.
Mr. Green, thank you for your intervention.
I was thinking $50, but if you want to be benevolent and have $25, then that's fine.
A voice: There's inflation.
The Chair: Okay, we're done with the time for Mr. Green's round.
I said four minutes, but we're probably closer to three at this point. Just to let you know, we're going to Mr. Kurek, and we may have Mr. Barrett intervene at some point. Then I'm sorry, Mr. Fergus, but you'll have three minutes this round.
I'm going to call the second hour of this meeting back and welcome our witnesses.
We have Ken Rubin, who's an investigative researcher. He's here as an individual. From the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, Mike Larsen, president, is on Zoom today. From B'nai Brith Canada, we have David Matas, senior legal counsel, as well as Michael Wenig, a lawyer with Matas Law Society.
Just before we begin, we do have bells at 5:15 and votes at 5:45. I'd like to get to 5:30. Do we have unanimous consent at this point to go to 5:30?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Okay. That's perfect. Thank you. That should give us enough time.
Mr. Rubin, I want to welcome you. You have five minutes. Please go ahead.
Mr. Chair, for a minute I thought I was in a study session instead of a serious legislative committee, but I'm going to show you why you have to take things seriously.
Since I came to testify nearly six months ago, several detrimental changes to the right to information have occurred.
One is the refusal to call a public inquiry, given the lack of substantive public information on foreign influence on Canadian affairs in elections. Another roadblock is the government's accelerated use of artificial intelligence as part of its largest switch to data-driven decision-making operations, which the minister was hinting at. There is also mounting evidence of secrecy in government contract outsourcing. That comes with the comptroller general cautioning officials not to say or reveal much. New entities like the Canada growth fund are being set up largely outside the access to information regime. Public inquiries have made releases showing that dysfunctional and secretive cultures of the RCMP and National Defence are being allowed to flourish.
In addition, the new federal employee hybrid workplace scheme makes processing access requests more difficult and less of an essential service.
Finally, before the committee, it's very late and she didn't really get into the Treasury Board review, with no recommendations and no hope for any recommendations except some vague action plan. She only confirms that the government wants to impede and delay meaningful access reform. The truth is that Treasury Board has done incredible harm over four decades, making full disclosures impossible.
This committee must sanction Treasury Board for its inept, self-serving review and recommend that Parliament remove it from having a central role in access to government records. In its place, the committee should recommend that an arm's-length freedom of information agency be set up under a revised law to handle and promote public information disclosures. What is first required is that the right to information squarely and clearly should be seen as a guaranteed constitutional right falling under the freedom of information section of the charter.
A transformative right to know has to be immediate with full disclosure of health, safety, environmental and consumer data, with the same disclosures for decision-making records and financial transactions and accounts. That requires quick access without fees. Should officials not honour their obligations for documenting, servicing and disclosure but try all kinds of creative avoidance, they must be subject to stiff penalties.
The inclusion of broad coverage of agencies receiving or using public funds can no longer be ignored. What also has to come to an end is the broad array of exemptions and exclusions to access. Authorities have created myths about cabinet and bureaucratic operations and records being sacrosanct. This must change as places like New Zealand have shown it can.
The last time around in Bill , what was created and what needs to be undone was a retreat from full disclosure through a two-tier system. It's a system in which sanitized summary data on permanent exclusions of ministers and the Prime Minister's Office was falsely sold as a so-called advance. Ottawa needs to drastically change from being a place of spin communications, closed-door meetings and gagging employees.
Canadians need a dramatic new way to access data and be able to participate in and know about Canadian government affairs.
This committee and its 28 or so recommendations can help lead the way. Let's hope so. The minister isn't going to do it for you.
I'm senior legal counsel to B'nai Brith Canada. I have with me Michael Wenig, who's here to help answer questions. Mr. Wenig has been working with another lawyer at B'nai Brith, David Rosenfeld, on the requested records that we discuss in our brief. He has also helped to draft our proposed amendment to the Access to Information Act.
Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and I welcome the opportunity to address the committee on the subject of remembering the Holocaust.
Canada, as a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, is committed to Holocaust remembrance. To remember the Holocaust, we must remember the victims, but we must also not forget their murderers. While the murderers are alive, that means bringing them to justice. Once they are gone, it means providing public access to the record of their atrocities.
During the Holocaust, the murderers were in Europe. After the Holocaust, the murderers scattered around the world to escape justice. Thousands came to Canada. Howard Margolian, a historian with the war crimes unit with the Department of Justice, in his book Unauthorized Entry, estimated that 2,000 Nazi war criminals and collaborators entered Canada after World War II. Canada's program on crimes against humanity and war crimes stated in one of its reports that, since beginning its work, the Department of Justice had opened and examined over 1,800 files.
The effort of understanding and learning the lessons from the Holocaust must never stop. For that history to be written, the files of those who have been identified to the war crimes commission or the Government of Canada, or investigated by them, must be made public. We have a duty to the victims not just to remember that they died but why they died and how they died. The picture of the memory we paint must be real and complete. That picture must include the murderers.
Right now, we are woefully short of meeting that goal. The efforts of B'nai Brith Canada to obtain access to relevant files and documents have been constantly frustrated and have gone nowhere.
One element is part II of the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals. That part II recommended urgent attention to 20 files and further investigation of 218 others. We don't have that part II. We don't have the names of those who were recommended, and we've asked for this without success.
There is the follow-up to part II. What happened to those 20 cases of urgent attention and the 218 for further investigation? We've asked for that. We don't know.
There was a report commissioned by the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals on the history of Nazi war criminals in Canada from the 1940s to the present. Mr. Justice Jules Deschênes recommended that the historical report be made public in its entirety, but it was not. There were substantial deletions through our access to information request. We've had some of them removed, but there are still significant deletions that remain.
Then, of course, there are the 1,800 files that the Department of Justice and the RCMP were dealing with. What happened to them? Who are they? Again, we don't have that information.
We're recommending two proposals.
First is to amend the Access to Information Act so it would mandate disclosure of records relating specifically to alleged Nazi war criminals in Canada and to any other Canadian residents who have been complicit in carrying out the Holocaust.
Second, we're recommending the establishment of a publicly accessible digital archive of Holocaust materials by requiring all government agencies to compile and submit to Library and Archives Canada all of the agencies' Holocaust-related records, and then require Library and Archives Canada to organize and place the records in a digital archive that is readily accessible to the public.
Now there is something very specific about the Holocaust archives in the European Union general data protection regulation, which provides for specific public access to those sorts of archives. There are also some statements, policies and recommendations in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance about access to archives about the Holocaust: that they be made available to independent researchers. Canada, of course, is a member of that alliance.
Philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We cannot remember a past that remains hidden from us. Only through public access to Holocaust archives can we learn lessons from those archives.
Learning lessons from the Holocaust is a legacy we can create for the victims, creating meaning from the senseless death of so many millions of innocents. To learn those lessons, we need access to the archives that can convey them.
Thank you very much.
My name's Mike Larsen. I'm the president of BC FIPA and a faculty member in the criminology department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. I'm joining you from my office here on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples.
I'm grateful to the members of the committee for inviting us to speak with you again after our first presentation in the fall. I'm grateful for participating in the study of Canada's access to information and privacy systems. This is really important work, and we commend the committee for giving it sustained attention.
When I appeared before the committee in the fall of 2022, I provided an overview of the features of a strong and effective access to information system for Canada. I also provided a written brief, focusing on eight key areas to reform the ATIA.
Since that time, the Treasury Board presented its “Access to Information Review Report to Parliament”, covering many areas for possible reform and further study. I'll focus my remarks today on just a couple of themes that warrant emphasis.
The report addresses the importance of a professional framework for ATIP staff. We call for investment in a culture of access and note this requires adequate training and resourcing and a real commitment to transparency at the leadership level. That includes a consideration of how government responds to the work of this committee and to the Treasury Board report.
Senior officials, elected representatives and cabinet set the tone. When the release of information is selective and strategic, shaped by political considerations, or when witness after witness, commissioner after commissioner and committee after committee describe the ATI system as broken, fallen behind or dysfunctional, and the response is to leave the official status quo substantively unchanged, this comes across as an endorsement of opacity, not a commitment to transparency.
The TBS report emphasizes the deep connections between trust in public institutions and the transparency of these institutions. From our perspective, this is absolutely foundational. A line in the report that stands out to us is:
Across multiple channels of engagement input into this review, the greatest complaint about the ATI regime is poor compliance with the law.
This is discouraging to read but not unexpected. Focusing on improving compliance, while essential, often leaves us looking backwards, rather than at substantive reforms to the law that are necessary to build a modern access regime that serves the public interest.
What kinds of reforms? The TBS report mentions a number of possibilities. In our review, there are some serious priorities.
First is creating a legislated duty to document to ensure that core decisions are recorded. Second is embedding a strong public interest override in the act. Third is imposing caps on extensions to requests, rather than relying on the open-ended and nebulous reference to extensions for a reasonable time, and requiring commissioner authorization for further extensions. Fourth is shifting the exemption framework to reflect a harms-based approach, rather than categorical or discretionary exemptions based on classes of record types. Fifth, following UNDRIP, is removing barriers to access to information for indigenous communities and moving towards indigenous data sovereignty, particularly as it pertains to records pertinent to specific claims and reconciliation. Sixth, though it was not emphasized by the TBS, is including all entities that deliver public programs or services under the scope of the act, including the PMO and ministers' offices, and ensuring that federal political parties fall under the scope of federal privacy laws, recognizing voters' rights to know about how their personal information is being used. Finally, we have radically revising and limiting the section 69 exclusion of cabinet confidences, shifting it to a limited exemption, subject to review.
How governments approach the matter of cabinet confidences is a bellwether for their general position on transparency. I note that, as we meet today, the Supreme Court of Canada is hearing an important case about whether the mandate letters issued by the Ontario premier to his ministers are subject to disclosure under FOI, or whether they will be withheld as privileged cabinet deliberations. Several provincial attorneys general are intervening in support of an expansive reading of cabinet confidence. BC FIPA is intervening in support of the public's right to transparency.
The case reveals much about how Canadian governments at all levels think about transparency. It's absurd that, in a democracy, documents such as mandate letters, which are essentially the marching orders for elected governments, can be withheld from public scrutiny, yet this may be precisely what cabinet confidence exclusions permit.
These are all core areas for law reform. I really want to emphasize that. The TBS report also discusses administrative supports, the modernization of technology and process, and expanding commitments to open government beyond the auspices of the ATIA. These are all worthy initiatives, but they can't take the place of a modernization of the law that underpins the right of access to information.
We're at a crossroads for transparency in Canada. Trust in public institutions is eroding. FOI regimes are failing to provide the public with timely and complete access to information. Some governments, notably B.C., are actually backsliding by introducing application fees for FOI requests. Information that pertains to the public interest is parked behind broad exemption clauses or the brick wall of cabinet confidence. Our access system often functions as an impediment to reconciliation.
On a hopeful note, and I will conclude here, there's a great deal of consistency in the recommendations for reform that have emerged over the years. Indeed, I would argue there's a clear road map. The question, therefore, is not, “What's to be done?”, but rather, “Will we act?” On behalf of BC FIPA, I hope the answer is yes.
Thank you. I jump at the opportunity to speak to this.
It's a deterrent fee. This is not really a cost recovery fee. It's a fee that's designed to make people think twice before using the FOI process. In B.C. we went from having no fee to really a mix now of $10 for some organizations and public bodies, and others that haven't implemented the fee just yet. As you say, there's been a really disastrous drop in the use of the act, especially by journalists who are looking to use it for accountability purposes.
My organization is filing more FOI requests now to monitor the effectiveness of the new regime under this situation.
Reducing the barriers to access information is fundamentally important in a democracy, and a fee is a barrier. We strongly support the removal of fees, and we certainly would oppose any increase in fees, including in the federal ATI system.
I'm heartened by the removal of processing fees as part of the federal reforms, but we really want to make sure that people are able to get accurate and timely access.
I believe the government doesn't want to do anything except millions of dollars on digital stuff, which will make access to information harder and will make personal information and the consent of individual Canadians to give it harder.
I have nothing against digitization, but when it's being done at the cost of millions of IT contracts and the enterprise architecture at Treasury Board that the public knows nothing about, and now it's going to be called an action plan and there are no legislative amendments that get—as Mike Larsen is saying and Canadians are saying—any more material, why should we have to, as MP Barrett said, pass motions in committee or have public inquiries mandated like the Public Order Emergency Commission, the Rouleau commission? Why can't we, just as average Canadians, get information?
We can't do that because this government doesn't want to even start the process. They've had every opportunity. The last time they retreated the bill, they didn't advance the bill.
It's not coming through, unfortunately.
A voice: What is the difference between an independent agency and what we have now?
Mr. Ken Rubin: It's like night and day. Why would you want a cabinet committee called Treasury Board, whose main goal is to repress information, in charge of your access to information?
If you had access officers who weren't being trained and more money put into the CG office to brainwash them into gatekeeping so that there would be more exemptions applied.... If you had officers in the central agency who were trained—like, say, Mexico has a better system—who are there to promote and release information, who are not there to line by line try to delete information, when you have agencies that are in need of extra services, you'd have the pool of people there.
I think we've put the wrong horse and cart together here.
Thank you very much for the question.
I think rebuilding trust is a vital step for this committee to be thinking about. One thing that can be done, I think, is to impose some limitations on the delays that are systemic in the system. Right now, the Access to Information Act permits open-ended extensions and consultations that can further exacerbate extensions.
In practice, what this tends to mean is that people who are seeking to exercise their right to know and to retrieve records that will help them to make informed decisions as part of a participatory democracy are just met with nothing—a silence—in many cases. I think I said this in my testimony in the fall: In a silence, people feel free to fill in the blanks in terms of speculation, conspiracy and ulterior motives.
Imposing some clear timelines that are actually followed and enforceable, I think, is a vital step to be made here.
Absolutely. We have quite a few in our brief here.
I think the cabinet confidence issue is also an important one here. Many of the records that people are really interested in pertain to why government is doing what it's doing, how it's rationalizing those decisions, who is making those decisions and on what basis. Let's be honest: A lot of those records actually do pertain to the deliberations of cabinet.
Having what Mr. Rubin has characterized as a brick wall around cabinet confidences—I like that term—really does not serve the interests of the public's right to know. Definitely having some process so that this is no longer a sacrosanct provision but something that can be contested as a legitimate exception is important, I think.
The third thing, I would say, is imposing a harms test for the operation of exceptions rather than having categorical exceptions that deal with certain kinds of information. When information is withheld from the public—and it is our information; it's public information—it should be because releasing it would cause some kind of demonstrable harm, not simply because the government is exercising its power of secrecy.
The confidence that Canadians have in their democratic institutions is fundamental. We have independent officers of Parliament, whom Canadians trust to serve as independent arbiters of what happens with government. We have seen the important role the Ethics Commissioner has played since the creation of that office, and it added a level of accountability that wasn't there before, though I would argue that higher standards need to be applied.
We have standards that we have right now that need to be applied in a way so that Canadians are sure this is done in a manner that's beyond reproach, and that even the appearance of a conflict of interest is avoided in the appointment of the officer of Parliament, who's going to be discharging those duties and conducting investigations.
While I do hope we can dispense with this motion quickly with members of the committee having had it in their possession since Thursday of the week prior, I look to the committee. Hopefully, we can get to a vote, but perhaps you would like to take a moment to excuse the witnesses if this isn't going to come to a vote right away.
If the witnesses do have anything they would like to submit to the committee, please do. This is an ongoing study. I know we have another study scheduled for next week with a list of witnesses. If you can provide that to the committee and the clerk, that would be appreciated.
Before I go to Ms. Hepfner, keeping in mind the time, I really need to get this budget approved. Perhaps I can do this now. I will go to you in a second, Lisa.
We have a budget for foreign interference in the amount of $9,850. Is there any question on the budget at all?
Can I get unanimous consent from the members?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Ms. Hepfner, I may have to cut you off at some point, because we did agree to go to 5:30. Please go ahead.
I wanted to advise the committee that I am opposed to this motion. I will outline the reasons why.
First off, it's an interim position for six months. Ms. Richard has been in that office for more than 10 years. She served as number two to the previous...Mr. Dion, for much of his term, so she is the most obvious choice to replace him on an interim basis. She should already have an invitation to appear on the main estimates.
I don't understand why we would invite for this particular question. He is not the minister responsible. He recused himself from the decision. He would have absolutely nothing to say as part of this discussion.
I think the final point is the timing. We already have a number of studies under way. We're involved in important studies on access to information. We have other studies that have been proposed that I think are very important—like the TikTok study. When this motion talks about immediacy, it gives me pause. It makes me wonder what we're putting aside for something that's really just a partisan dig and has no relevance to anything important that we're doing here.
I want to go on the record about this, and, again, this isn't about impugning somebody who has clearly worked in this department for quite some time. I can't fathom a scenario where the commissioner would have to recuse themselves for the purpose of a perceived conflict of interest. I think that fundamentally erodes the faith in the institutions that we should be restoring.
I have a hard time believing that, in this population of ours, we couldn't find another person who.... Regardless of whether there's a conflict of interest or not, if there is a perception of a conflict of interest in the public's eyes, that's a problem.
I just don't understand why this government proceeds to continue these own goals, these self-owns. I would hope that, through the course of this study.... Not only that, but to put pressure on the person who has been appointed with an asterisk beside them for the entirety of their term is also not fair.
I would hope that the government or perhaps the commissioner would come to a more practical solution on this particular matter, which is why I will be supporting this motion. I think it's a completely unnecessary thing to do at this point in time when our democracy is fragile and there's cynicism out there. I will be supporting this.