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View Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
I'll acknowledge the hands that are up if you'll just give me a moment. I would like to lead with a statement.
I would like to provide a short summary with regard to the mandate of this committee. One of the observations I made during our last discussion concerning motions was that there seems to be some confusion around what exactly this committee exists to do.
Given the title of this committee, I think it can be assumed that we have the ability to look at anything having to do with ethics or anything having to do with privacy, and that actually isn't the case. I'd like to take a moment to describe exactly what the mandate of this committee is, if you'll indulge me, and we will move forward from there.
You have a document from the analysts. I have discussed this further with them. It is a document called “Background Information”, which was sent to every single one of you. “Work for the committee” is the subject. Within that, the mandate of this committee is described, including the four commissioners and what they exist for.
The first page within that document describes how matters can come about or come under study by this committee. There are two ways. One, issues can be referred by the House of Commons, such as, let's say, a piece of legislation. We would have the responsibility of studying that. The second way things can come to this committee, of course, as you know, is through members of the committee. You can put forward motions and then we would accept them or not accept them for study, based on the will of this committee.
With regard to the mandate, the committee actually studies and reports based on the four commissioners who exist. Of course, the commissioners are the Information Commissioner of Canada, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada and the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
Based on the document that the analysts have provided, which I'm going to briefly go through, if you'll indulge me, paragraph 108(3)(h) of the Standing Orders says that the committee's mandate is to study matters related to the officers I've just listed: the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada and the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
Pursuant to the Conflict of Interest Act, matters related to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons are studied by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. That's an important distinction to understand. There are times when it is appropriate to bring matters to this committee, and there are other times when they are actually best sent elsewhere, for example to PROC, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
Further to this, when we look at the mandate of the four different commissioners, we can see that the Information Commissioner of Canada helps individuals and agencies that believe institutions have not respected their rights under the act. The Information Commissioner of Canada ensures that the rights of federal institutions and concerned third parties are respected. The commissioner ensures compliance with access to information. I leave that with you.
The mandate of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada covers the personal information-handling practices of government institutions and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA, which deals with how private sector organizations protect this information.
This is an important distinction, if I may take a moment to stop here. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is not restricted to public office holders only, nor to federal institutions. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, under PIPEDA, can take on the responsibility to look into private sector matters. The scope of privacy is larger than that of the other three commissioners, and that's an important thing for this committee to be aware of. Where we have a fairly small mandate, perhaps, from the other three, privacy expands it.
The third one here is the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada. Derived from the Lobbying Act, this is to ensure transparency of the lobbying of federal public office holders. This is with regard to lobby groups, of course, being held accountable in terms of the way they are lobbying public office holders, but then, of course, public office holders are also held accountable with regard to whether or not they receive gifts and such from a lobbyist. That's important for the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada.
The mandate of the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is to administer the Conflict of Interest Act, which applies to federal public office holders, and the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, which governs elected members of Parliament. You have public office holders, which would be ministers, the Prime Minister, etc., and then you have, of course, the other act, which governs elected members of Parliament—for example, those who are around the table today. The act and the codes set out a number of obligations and prohibit various activities that involve conflicts between private and public interests or have the potential to do so.
I am going through this very briefly here, but if you have not already done so, please take the time to read through this document. Please take the time to understand what each of these commissioners is responsible for and to understand the different acts that give direction to these commissioners.
As chair, it is my responsibility to determine if a motion falls within the purview of this committee. To the best of my ability, I will consult with the analysts and I will make decisions accordingly, but my reading of the scope within the framework provided here is more narrow than some of the motions I currently have on the table. I offer this as a reflection piece to the committee.
I ask that you consider the mandate that has been outlined for you by the analysts. I also ask that you use that as a guideline when you put forward motions to this committee. This will help us in terms of a streamlined process. This will help me as the chair to honour the wishes of this committee to the best of my ability. It will also ensure that we are doing work in a productive manner.
I am going to hold the floor for one more moment, if I may.
With that, I would suggest that this committee hear from the four commissioners. Mr. Angus moved a motion during our first meeting, and it subsequently got withdrawn. I would like to offer a friendly proposal to the group, if I may.
We have several motions on the floor for studies, and of course we will move forward with those, but it will take a bit of time to set up the witnesses to come. While we're working on that and getting those witnesses lined up, and while we're preparing to take on those studies, my suggestion is that we take the next two meetings, let's say, and hear from these four commissioners, giving them one hour each to come to the committee to deliver a presentation and a summary of their mandate and giving us the opportunity to ask them questions. This would help us to better understand exactly what it is that each of them does and what our mandate is as a committee.
Again, what I would be proposing to you is that each of these four commissioners would have the opportunity to come before the committee for one hour each, and we would have the opportunity to ask them questions after they deliver their 10-minute remarks. Then, after hearing from the commissioners, we would of course continue with our first study, which will be decided by the subcommittee later today.
Would I have the approval of the committee to move forward with this? Is there anyone who would object to this?
Mr. Angus.
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