In this corner, wearing a “don’t forget about me” attitude, is the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. And in the other corner, wearing a “good to finally get order-making powers” attitude, is the Information Commissioner of Canada.
I set it up this way because I just finished reading Daniel Therrien’s statement to the ETHI committee that is listening to stakeholders involved in Bill C-58. The proposed law would amend the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act, but it’s clear that the majority of changes are geared toward the ATIA side of things. While the Privacy Commissioner’s statement is well-written and polite, I can’t help but feel that there’s trouble brewing between the two offices because it looks like one of them will get order-making powers — even when it comes to the personal information exemption in the ATIA — and the one without is concerned that there will be a lack of consultation on that front.
Read the statement yourself, and let me know if you agree with my assessment.
Apart from the fact that it seems like our two federal offices are quibbling over this issue, I think it once again raises the larger issue of whether or not we need two commissioners. After all, the provinces do quite well with commissioners acting in both positions, and it seems to avoid the worry that one perspective is being given pre-eminence. Maybe that’s on the MPs’ minds, as well. I don’t feel strongly about it one way or the other, but it does seem to work in many other countries, like the U.K., for example.
Lastly, and forgetting for the moment the idea of having just one commissioner, I think the whole Bill C-58 debate must include the issue of more meaningful reform to the Privacy Act. As it is, it just seems sad to me that Parliament is more interested in making small fixes to only one side of the ATIP industry. My only hope is that they are using the ATIA side of things as a warm-up to get going on the privacy side of things. Fingers crossed.
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