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View Erin Weir Profile
CCF (SK)
View Erin Weir Profile
2019-06-18 18:32 [p.29339]
Mr. Speaker, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the election of our first government in Saskatchewan, agrees to apply and votes yes.
View Erin Weir Profile
CCF (SK)
View Erin Weir Profile
2018-10-05 12:43 [p.22286]
Mr. Speaker, the government has been trumpeting the fact that the new USMCA does not contain investor-state dispute provisions. However, we have the government trying to ram through the trans-Pacific partnership, which includes investor-state dispute provisions. Those provisions of NAFTA empowered multinational corporations to directly challenge our democratic laws, regulations and policies before secretive commercial tribunals.
Could the member for Jonquière offer any insight as to why the government thinks it is such a good thing to remove those provisions from NAFTA, and that is a good thing, yet it seems to believe investor-state dispute provisions are somehow appropriate in the trans-Pacific partnership?
View Erin Weir Profile
CCF (SK)
View Erin Weir Profile
2017-12-05 17:19 [p.16046]
Madam Speaker, the member for Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan and I worked together on the government operations committee to put together a report on whistle-blower protection in the federal public service. We heard harrowing stories about public servants enduring hardships and taking risks to blow the whistle and release information to the public. It struck me that if we had a stronger access to information system, where citizens could obtain information that the government does not want to divulge, there would be far less need for our brave public servants to take those risks. I wonder if the member for Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan would care to reflect on that observation as well.
View Erin Weir Profile
CCF (SK)
View Erin Weir Profile
2017-12-05 17:36 [p.16049]
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to once again speak to Bill C-58, but it is a bit disappointing to have to make some of the same criticisms of it that we on the opposition side have been making throughout. Notwithstanding some of the comments we have heard from the government, the bill actually has not been significantly amended and many of the original problems with it persist.
I would like to address this legislation in terms of three headings: first, the scope of the act; second, exceptions to the act; and third, the difference between proactive disclosure and access to information.
In terms of the scope of the bill, it is important to note that the Liberals were elected on a promise to extend access to information to the Prime Minister's Office and to the offices of other cabinet ministers. Bill C-58 would not do that. It is really part of a litany of broken promises by the government. Here we think of electoral reform. We think of the promise to close the stock option tax loophole. We think of the promise to restore door-to-door mail delivery. The government is building up quite a track record of broken promises and, unfortunately, the commitment to extend access to information to cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, is another one of those broken promises.
I had an opportunity at the committee on access to information, privacy and ethics to ask the Privacy Commissioner whether there were any privacy reasons that the government could not extend access to information to those cabinet offices. He confirmed that there were no such privacy reasons and that as far he was concerned, it would have been and would be feasible to extend access to information to the offices of cabinet ministers. Our first major disappointment with the scope of the bill is the fact that it fails to extend access to information to the very cabinet offices the government promised to include.
The second heading I would like to address is exceptions to the act. There are already exceptions related to cabinet confidences and policy advice to ministers. These exceptions have proven to be quite troublesome, because it is easy for the government to define almost anything as policy advice to a minister or as somehow being subject to a cabinet confidence. It is a very broad-sweeping exception that the government can use to not disclose information. Unfortunately, Bill C-58 would not correct this exception.
The really bad thing about Bill C-58 is that it creates new exceptions that would allow the government to not disclose information that citizens are requesting. In particular, it empowers the government to deem that an access to information request is frivolous or in bad faith. It is difficult to put government officials in the position of having to try to define the motivations of people making access to information requests. This is a very poor criterion on which to accept or deny access to information requests.
What is this really all about? The example we heard from a couple of different government members throughout this debate is the case of “an ex-spouse [who] ATIPs his or her former spouse's work hours on a daily basis or their emails”. There is obviously a problem with that type of request, but the way to respond to that is through proper protections of privacy, not by deeming the request itself to be frivolous or in bad faith. It is obviously the case that the government cannot disclose certain information for privacy reasons, and the privacy protections need to be very robust in federal legislation.
However, the idea of protecting privacy is not a justification for giving the government broad, sweeping powers to deem that particular access to information requests are frivolous or in bad faith. We do need to have proper protections for privacy, but those in no way justify the new exceptions introduced in Bill C-58, which try to get into the motivation behind an access to information request, which is a very difficult thing for the government to ascertain, and a very difficult thing for citizens to trust the government to ascertain in an objective and proper way.
The third aspect of the legislation that I would like to address is the difference between proactive disclosure on the one hand and access to information on the other hand, because of course one of the aspects of Bill C-58, which the government touts, is the notion of increased proactive disclosure. We have the idea, for example, that the government will proactively disclose ministerial briefing books. A cynic might suggest that this provision will to result in government officials and ministers' assistants spending time drafting briefing books for public consumption. Knowing they will be proactively disclosed, they will just prepare documents that they are happy to have disclosed and that do not really contain a lot of sensitive or controversial information. We are very concerned about that, but even if we assume that would not happen and that everything would be done entirely in good faith, we still have to face up to the fact that proactive disclosure, as positive as it might be, is no substitute for access to information.
Proactive disclosure is about the government choosing to disclose certain things. On the whole, it is good for the government to proactively disclose more documents, but access to information is fundamentally about citizens being able to request information that the government does not want to disclose and does not think it should have to disclose. There is a very important distinction to be made here between proactive disclosure, which is a good thing and the government is touting, and access to information, which is what the bill is supposed to be about.
To sum it all up, I would like to conclude by reading a quote from the Information Commissioner's report on Bill C-58 entitled “Failing to Strike the Right Balance for Transparency”. She said:
In short, Bill C-58 fails to deliver. The government promised the bill would ensure the Act applies to the Prime Minister's and Ministers' Offices appropriately. It does not.
The government promised the bill would apply appropriately to administrative institutions that support Parliament and the courts. It does not.
The government promised the bill would empower the Information Commissioner to order the release of government information. It does not.
Rather than advancing access to information rights, Bill C-58 would instead result in a regression of existing rights.
View Erin Weir Profile
CCF (SK)
View Erin Weir Profile
2017-06-20 20:05 [p.13038]
Mr. Speaker, I greatly appreciate my colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan's effort to present the Conservatives as the true defenders of evidence-based policy.
It is possible that the legislation we are debating this evening was motivated by the recent resignation of the chief statistician. However, the last time a chief statistician resigned was under the former Conservative government in response to its decision to eliminate the mandatory long form census.
Therefore, could the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan educate us as to how eliminating the mandatory long form census supported the commitment of the Conservatives to evidence-based policy?
View Erin Weir Profile
CCF (SK)
View Erin Weir Profile
2017-06-20 21:03 [p.13045]
Madam Speaker, the member for Winnipeg North is correct that the NDP will support this legislation because it makes some minor improvements. However, it does not address the most recent threat to the independence of Statistics Canada. What motivated Wayne Smith, the former chief statistician, to resign was the lack of IT support provided to Statistics Canada by Shared Services Canada. This legislation does not solve that problem.
I note that there was a provision in the budget bill allowing the minister responsible for Shared Services Canada to exempt certain organizations from the requirement to use Shared Services Canada. However, at the government operations committee we were told that this provision would not be used to exempt Statistics Canada and allow it to acquire the IT support it requires for its needs.
Therefore, I am wondering if the member for Winnipeg North could explain to us how, whether through this bill or some other means, the government intends to ensure that Statistics Canada has the IT services it needs to conduct its research and fulfill its independent mandate.
View Erin Weir Profile
CCF (SK)
View Erin Weir Profile
2017-06-20 21:56 [p.13052]
Madam Speaker, the bill we are discussing is about Statistics Canada's independence. The main threat that we have seen to Statistics Canada's independence recently was the lack of IT support from Shared Services. That is what prompted former chief statistician Wayne Smith to resign.
It seems to me that this bill does not address that problem. As I noted in a previous question for the member for Winnipeg North, the budget implementation bill does contain some provisions for the minister responsible for Shared Services to provide exemptions so that certain government entities could get IT services from other places. However, the government operations committee has been told that this exception will not be provided to Statistics Canada. It will still have to go through Shared Services.
I am wondering if the member could let us know what the government plans to do to ensure that Statistics Canada receives the IT support that it needs in order to fulfill its independent mandate to conduct research and provide the evidence and data that we need to make good public policy.
View Erin Weir Profile
CCF (SK)
View Erin Weir Profile
2017-06-20 22:03 [p.13053]
Madam Speaker, in response to my question about the relationship between Statistics Canada and Shared Services Canada, the member suggested that Shared Services will get better over time.
In the meantime, does the member think it is reasonable to allow Statistics Canada to procure IT services from other sources that are currently able to provide them?
View Erin Weir Profile
CCF (SK)
View Erin Weir Profile
2017-06-20 22:26 [p.13056]
Mr. Speaker, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent covered quite a bit of ground in that speech. I would like to pick up on the beginning of his speech and the last answer.
I am wondering if he could clarify for the House whether it is currently the position of the Conservative Party that the long form census should not be mandatory.
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