2011 Legislative Session: Fourth Session, 39th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
official report of
Debates of the Legislative Assembly
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Volume 26, Number 3
Introductions by Members
Great British Columbia ShakeOut
Hon. S. Bond
Introduction and First Reading of Bills
Bill M201 — Carbon Neutral Government Repeal Act
Statements (Standing Order 25B)
20th anniversary of Burnside Gorge Community Association
Seaspan Marine Corp. shipbuilding contract
B.C. Forest Discovery Centre
Campaign for prevention of homophobic and transphobic bullying
Prostate cancer fundraising run by Riley Senft
Seaspan Marine Corp. shipbuilding contract and supply of skilled workers
Government response to test results for disease in wild salmon
Hon. D. McRae
Public release of report by Agricultural Land Commission and fill dumping on farmland
Hon. D. McRae
Seniors issues and call for seniors advocate
Hon. M. de Jong
Water monitoring in Hartley Bay area
Hon. B. Lekstrom
Tsilhqot'in Nation consultation on Prosperity mine proposal
Hon. M. Polak
Jumbo Glacier resort proposal
Hon. S. Thomson
Hon. P. Bell
Creston Valley Wildlife Management Authority Trust Fund, annual report, 2010–11
Orders of the Day
Committee of the Whole House
Bill 3 — Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act, 2011 (continued)
Hon. M. MacDiarmid
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THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2011
The House met at 1:33 p.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Introductions by Members
Hon. T. Lake: It's a great pleasure for me to welcome two longtime friends. Mike and Judy Miller are here in the gallery today. Mike and Judy and I — and in fact, the member from Kelowna and West Kelowna — have known each other for many decades, going back to high school years.
Mike is a job creator in Alberta and now here in British Columbia as well. We have had some vociferous discussions over the years, probably because Mike, Judy and I all have red hair. But Mike is not in a position to refute me today, so I can say, Mr. Speaker, that I always won those arguments.
It's a great pleasure to have them here as they make a new home in British Columbia and celebrate their 30th anniversary and a trip to this wonderful province. Please join me in making them very welcome.
Hon. N. Yamamoto: I have a very happy announcement to make. At the end of September my administrative coordinator took mat leave, and I'm happy to announce that last week the arrival of Macy Marisa Lyons Dixon was made to this world. Her husband Kevin Dixon is the EA to the Whip's office. On behalf of the Whip, myself and of course both sides of the House, I'd like to welcome Macy Marisa Lyons Dixon to the world.
Hon. D. McRae: I have some guests today in the chambers from the Comox Valley Christian School. Students Kate Beacham, Mercedes Gaglardi, Tyson Gilroy, Claire Janssen and Ryan Renkema are here, accompanied by their teacher, Joy Tansky, and her husband, Jim Tansky. Please would the chamber make them welcome.
H. Bains: I have two really good friends in the gallery up there — Bruce Ferguson, who is the president and assistant business manager, Construction and Specialized Workers Union Local 1611; and along with him is Manuel Alvernaz. He's their organizer, and Bruce told me this morning that he's the best organizer they've got in the entire international. So please help me welcome those two.
R. Cantelon: Joining us today in the gallery, from beautiful Qualicum Beach, are Ron Jack and Nita Jack, Ron Cicchine and Sue Cicchine, Vicky Burton and Jim Burton. Please make them welcome in this chamber.
Great British Columbia Shakeout
Hon. S. Bond: Mr. Speaker, today all of us in the precinct would like to thank you, the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Clerk for arranging for the legislative precinct to participate in ShakeOut, the earthquake drill that took place, along with 520,000 other British Columbians.
Today, October 20, we hosted Canada's largest earthquake drill, The Great British Columbia ShakeOut. So at 10:20 a.m. we dropped, covered and held on for a minute.
I understand that some people actually stayed under for longer than a minute, but I won't make commentary about who that was and why they were there.
There's also a pundit, Mr. Speaker, who suggested that you and I were actually ducking NDP questions when we were under the table, and we know that comes next, not during ShakeOut. So thank you so much, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all of the members.
Thank you to the staff of the precinct, who did such a great job to allow us to participate this year in ShakeOut.
First Reading of Bills
BILL M201 — Carbon neutral
government repeal act
B. Simpson presented a bill intituled Carbon Neutral Government Repeal Act.
B. Simpson: I move that the bill intituled Carbon Neutral Government Repeal Act be introduced now and read for a first time.
B. Simpson: This bill repeals the legislation that forces public sector agencies to take money out of their operating budgets to buy carbon offsets so that the government can declare itself carbon-neutral each year. There are two main reasons this bill is needed.
First, the government is not carbon-neutral and will not achieve true carbon neutrality anytime soon. In order to declare itself carbon-neutral, the government exempted from its calculations emissions from B.C. ferries, school buses, P3s and emissions from not-for-profits and private companies that deliver government programs and services.
The emissions associated with this Legislature and its independent officers are also not part of the carbon-neutral calculation.
To achieve a true carbon neutrality, the provincial government would have to expend significantly more
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than the $18 million that was clawed back from the public sector last year.
Second, this bill is necessary before the government can return public sector carbon offset money to the public sector for public projects. As long as the government is legislated to achieve carbon neutrality, the public sector will be forced to fund private sector projects with taxpayers' money.
This bill still requires the public sector to track and report on greenhouse gas emissions but no longer to buy offsets. The public sector represents less than 1 percent of B.C.'s total emissions, yet this sector is capped and taxed while as much as 40 percent of industrial emissions are not even subjected to the carbon tax.
Repealing the carbon-neutral legislation should refocus the efforts of government on the 99 percent of B.C.'s emissions that, if not reduced, will prevent B.C. from achieving its legally mandated GHG reduction targets.
I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading of the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill M201, Carbon Neutral Government Repeal Act, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
(Standing Order 25B)
20th ANNIVERSARY OF BURNSIDE
GORGE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION
R. Fleming: I want to talk today about an extremely valuable organization which is located in my constituency of Victoria–Swan Lake. I'm referring to the Burnside Gorge Community Association.
This past August the Burnside Gorge Community Association celebrated its 20th anniversary. Since 1991 the Burnside Gorge Community Association has been committed to serving the varied and changing needs of individuals and families in the area.
Families in my community rely on the wide selection of innovative programs and services that the Burnside Gorge Community Association provides, like family supports and counselling, youth centre drop-in activities, outreach and support for local teenagers. There's also family outreach and parent-and-tot programs and a lot more at Burnside Gorge.
It was founded in 1991 in response to the community's need for child care, family services and community development. At that time their sole staff member, Dean Fortin, currently mayor of the city of Victoria, was working out of a cloakroom in the local Burnside Elementary School.
Well, today the association employs upwards of 45 staff members, and programs at the centre have expanded to meet the growing needs of the community. They now offer a continuum of services and programs that support children, youth and families throughout Victoria, and they do it in an outstanding building, more than ten years in the making, that the city of Victoria and the Burnside Gorge Community Association opened in October 2007.
It's a brand-new, unique and innovative community centre. It's an amazing and beautiful place. It's LEED certified gold. It provides innovative public space inside and a walkable green roof with native plant gardens outside, and it's perched above the Cecelia Creek ravine, which is a daylighted fish-bearing stream that was once encased in cement in the area. I think it was referred to by the Times Colonist's Jack Knox once as a likely place to be the resting place of Jimmy Hoffa.
The new building has allowed them to expand opportunities for residents to get involved in everything from yoga to floor hockey or running clinics and evening recreation. I'd like to invite the House to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Burnside Gorge Community Association.
SEASPAN MARINE CORP.
J. Thornthwaite: British Columbians in every single region of the province have eight billion reasons to smile today. [Applause.]
It's taking up my two minutes. Thanks. I'm down to a minute-and-a-half.
Anyways, for months and months we have all waited to hear the news, and yesterday it was finally delivered, when Seaspan shipyards in North Vancouver was awarded an $8 billion contract by the federal government to build non-combat ships through the national shipbuilding procurement strategy.
The impact of this major announcement cannot be overstated. Every region in our province will benefit from this, including the thousands of British Columbians who will be directly employed by Seaspan to build these ships.
These are great-paying, stable and secure jobs with average salaries ranging anywhere from $40,000 to $120,000 annually. And those aren't just short-term jobs for the next few months. These are jobs that will be here in British Columbia for generations to come.
The spinoff industries that also stand to reap the benefits are limitless — everything from our post-secondary institutions that will train the workers needed to the countless industries that will provide the products and services that will be required to get the job done.
Yesterday we got some incredibly big news, and today something else very big is just beginning to unfold
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in B.C. that can't be measured in dollars and cents. It's a renewed sense of optimism, not just in our shipbuilding industry that will be thriving for years and years to come but into the entire province as well.
This is British Columbia's time to prove to the rest of the country exactly what we're made of. It's been said before, but it deserves to be said again: now more than ever, Canada Starts Here.
B.C. FOREST DISCOVERY CENTRE
D. Routley: I rise to speak to the House about the B.C. Forest Discovery Centre in Duncan, B.C. The Forest Discovery Centre has been in operation for 50 years now, and it is a museum which in its original state was supported by the forest industry and the province of British Columbia and was a repository of forest industry machinery, antique cars. It was the resting place of several buildings from forest communities and forest industry camps.
I grew up in Duncan, and all the people in the Cowichan Valley have come to be very proud of the Forest Discovery Centre and the role that it plays in our community but also in our province in the history of the industry and of railroading.
The Forest Discovery Centre is one of the best examples of an operating full-scale steam railway. In its heyday in the 1960s the Forest Discovery Centre would operate three separate steam-driven passenger trains for the visitors to ride around the properties. There are several different ceremonies and events held there every year, including a Canada Day celebration.
The Forest Discovery Centre is struggling. They're struggling for funding. The forest industry, having come upon hard times, no longer contributes to the level that it did to support the Forest Discovery Centre, but neither does the public support or the provincial government. The provincial government's share of support for the forest museum, the Forest Discovery Centre, has dropped by about 80 percent now, and I'm calling on all members of the House both to join me there and enjoy the Forest Discovery Centre and to step up and stand up for the Forest Discovery Centre.
CAMPAIGN FOR PREVENTION OF
HOMOPHOBIC AND TRANSPHOBIC BULLYING
L. Reid: A year ago tonight people from all over the Lower Mainland gathered in Emery Barnes Park in Vancouver. They wore purple, lit candles and remembered the many people who have committed suicide as a result of homophobic bullying.
The theme last year was inspired by Dan Savage's It Gets Better, a response to a string of suicides related to homophobic bullying. This year two young activists resolve to make it better. Their purple letter campaign seeks to collect personal stories about people's experiences with homophobia in schools, put them in purple envelopes and deliver them to the provincial government and the Ministry of Education.
For the past three months Ryan Clayton and Kaitlin Burnett have been travelling around British Columbia speaking in rural and urban communities and connecting with British Columbians, asking them to share their experiences about the realities, positive and negative, of life in British Columbia for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people and their friends, families and supporters.
Many of these stories have been published on their blog, purplelettercampaign.ca. These stories are incredible, ranging from inspiring to tragic, humorous and powerful to lighthearted and insightful. The purpose of the campaign is to encourage the provincial government to continue working to make sure gay, lesbian and bisexual and transgendered students are safe in our schools.
I have a purple letter box in my constituency office, and I will join Ryan and Kaitlin tonight in Emery Barnes Park. Every child deserves to feel safe and respected, and student safety is a top priority. That's why we have established provincial codes of conduct in B.C. schools, and we look forward to continuing to ensure that all types of this bullying approach have been eliminated in all our schools.
The purple letters are a call to each and every one to make British Columbia the leader against homophobic and transphobic bullying in every part of our province and frankly, hon. Members, in each of our ridings.
PROSTATE CANCER FUNDRAISING RUN
BY RILEY SENFT
S. Hammell: I am honoured to rise in the House to speak about the incredible journey of Dr. Riley Senft. Mr. Speaker, can you imagine running 50 kilometres in a day or 300 kilometres in a single week? That's what Riley did when he ran over 7,000 kilometres of Canadian roads and trails from Newfoundland to Vancouver.
On May 7 Riley set off on a five-month personal quest to save the lives of future prostate cancer victims by educating men on the early detection. On Friday, October 7, over 1,000 people joined Riley as he crossed the finish line at Ambleside Beach, and to date they have raised over $475,000 for this cause.
One in six Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and one in 34 will die from it. Sadly, Riley lost his grandfather to prostate cancer and watched his father battle the disease twice in five years.
Personally, I know how prostate cancer affects the lives of Canadian men. My husband has battled the dis-
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ease, and now my stepson is fighting prostate cancer. Everyone — everyone — needs to know there four steps to action:
(1) If you're between 25 and 34, early detection is critical. Know your family history.
(2) Know the symptoms of prostate cancer and get tested.
(3) Men over 40, ask your doctor for an annual digital rectal exam.
And finally, ask your doctor about PSA blood tests.
Today I congratulate the efforts of Riley and his family for raising cancer awareness and the vital funds in the battle against prostate cancer. And to all of us, remember, the month of November is Movember, for those of you who are planning on growing a moustache for prostate cancer awareness month.
SEASPAN MARINE CORP.
AND SUPPLY OF SKILLED WORKERS
M. Coell: Yesterday, as we know, Seaspan shipyards, with operations in Vancouver and Victoria, was awarded a contract worth $8 billion to build non-combat ships. Like thousands of British Columbians, I was glued to the television yesterday afternoon waiting to hear the news.
I remember a similar feeling of nervous anticipation, as I'm sure that many of you do, back in July of 2003 when our province was awarded the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Well, this is even bigger news. Today all British Columbians are united and standing atop the podium together. Today we are all winners. Now we need to get ready.
It begins by making sure we have the skilled workforce required for the thousands of jobs that accompany this $8 billion contract. Whether it's shipfitters, planners, electricians or plumbers, B.C.'s post-secondary education system is working with Seaspan and the related industries to meet their training needs.
Our institutions have already been in discussions about how their programs, either existing or enhanced, can help to create and prepare the workers that will be needed to meet the needs of this contract. Just one example is the training resource organization which will develop strategies for a new industry-led marine training centre here in greater Victoria, and that's just the beginning.
Yesterday we celebrated the fantastic news. Today we roll up our sleeves and get down to work. We must now ensure that we rise to the challenge, and rise we shall, because that's what British Columbians do. It's who we are. It's our time. Simply put: it's time to rock 'n' roll.
GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO
TEST RESULTS FOR DISEASE
IN WILD SALMON
M. Sather: Well, yesterday in this House we questioned the Minister of Agriculture about the detection of infectious salmon anemia in our salmon in Rivers Inlet. Now, this is a very serious virus that's not dangerous to people, as the minister digressed yesterday, but is very dangerous to salmon. Yet instead of showing how he is prepared to deal with this threat, the minister went on to attack the scientists who detected the salmon in our waters.
So with the benefit of 24 hours of reconsideration and thought — serious thought, I hope — can the minister explain to this House what he's doing to address this serious threat to our wild and our farmed salmon?
Hon. D. McRae: One of the things I've done is that I was talking to the president of CFIA. I want to make sure we have some messages, not only for this chamber but for the general public. They wanted me to pass on this. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency takes reports of reportable aquatic animal diseases very seriously.
In Canada suspected cases of ISAV must be validated by the national aquatic health program. CFIA right now are collecting the available samples from the research program being conducted by Simon Fraser University. When these are collected, they will be sent to the Fisheries and Oceans national aquatic animal health laboratory in Moncton, New Brunswick, for analysis.
CFIA is also working with the Atlantic Veterinary College to review their findings. If ISA is in fact validated, the CFIA will take appropriate disease control actions and notify World Organisation for Animal Health. CFIA and DFO — this is their mandate to look after. They are taking it incredibly seriously. This ministry, this government, is taking it incredibly seriously as well. Thank you very much for your question.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
M. Sather: I'm pleased to hear — and, of course, it's what I would expect — that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is going to follow up with further tests, and that they should do.
But we're still not seeing any expression of actual concern about this government planning to do something themselves. But the fish farm industry, the salmon farm industry, is concerned. This is what Stewart Hawthorn, managing director for Grieg Seafood, had to say about the detection of ISA. He said: "This could be a threat
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to our business and the communities that rely on our productive industry."
He's right to be concerned. You know, this virus wiped out the salmon farming industry, pretty close, in Chile — $2 billion worth of damage. Now, we want to know what the minister's plan is to deal with this. What is he doing to deal with the threat that's facing us? Other than just saying, "Well, I'm passing it on to somebody else," what is he doing? I want to hear it.
Hon. D. McRae: I want to make sure, as well, that the member opposite knows: it's not what we're doing now; it's what we've always been doing. I'm pleased to say that over 5,000 samples have been tested for ISA in the last several years. How many came back positive? Let me think about it for a sec. Zero — not one.
One other thing that I'd like to bring up as well. Yesterday the member opposite was wanting to quote some articles in the States, and I want to just read into the record, because part of it is true, what he said. "Fish virus experts from the U.S. Geological Survey to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife called the discovery alarming, even while they acknowledged the tests don't make clear how wide-ranging the virus is. The results had not yet been confirmed by additional testing."
Now, this is the one part I really want to bring in here, from that same article: "'We found the sequence of this virus in two samples of wild sockeye, that's all,' said Fred Kibenge, the highly regarded scientist who performed the tests. 'There was no link to disease, no indication of massive outbreak, and we don't know if this is virulent or not.'"
But the reality is that CFIA and this government are in constant communication, making sure that the agencies responsible, CFIA and DFO, are getting down to the answers and making sure that they're available to the public.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a further supplemental.
M. Sather: Well, all we're seeing from this minister is denial, denial, denial. Dr. Kibenge also said: "This is probably the single most feared virus in the fish industry."
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Member. Member, just take your seat for a second.
M. Sather: The minister wants to actually brag about what this government has done for fish? What this government has done for the salmon is try to suppress all the disease records at the Cohen inquiry. How is that for a starter?
And now, even with the chance to think about this, to show that he's actually working with the federal government to get something done, the minister is trying to make excuses once again for doing nothing. It's absolutely inexcusable.
Hon. D. McRae: I'm not sure, Mr. Speaker, if there was a question there, but I want to take it as an opportunity to respond nonetheless.
So how will we define "suppress"? If suppress means actually submitting information to the Cohen Commission, well, I would direct the member to several websites, if you may.
Exhibit 1471 of the Cohen Commission. What does that do? Well, let's just see. It is a summary of PCR tests of fish farms available from the Ministry of Agriculture, given to the Cohen Commission.
But we also want a bit more perhaps — a summary of the testimony with respect to provincial fish data related to ISA. ISA is publicly available, again, at the Cohen Commission, on pages 104 to 112, item 78.
But there's more also. Exhibit 1678 — more information from the provincial government about ISA and fish farm health in the Cohen Commission. If that's not enough, don't hesitate to check out exhibit 1549 on the B.C. fish health database in the Cohen Commission.
We've put forward everything we have. We're not hiding anything.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
R. Fleming: It's well known that budget cuts have compromised the capacity of provincial science staff to do fish oversight properly. That was the testimony at the Cohen inquiry on the future of sockeye salmon. What this situation requires now is additional ISA testing at Rivers Inlet and other sites to either rule out or rule in the presence of ISA in British Columbian waters.
You know what? That's exactly what U.S. senators in the Pacific Northwest are calling for and debating before Congress today, while this minister does next to nothing in British Columbia. I'm glad he's changed his tune, because yesterday he chose to attack the messenger and attack the accredited laboratories that discovered the ISA-positive findings.
So will this minister join with our neighbours in Washington, Alaska, Idaho and California who are taking action and who are ordering funds for emergency tests in their coastal waters, the same North Pacific coastal waters as ours? And can the minister explain how he'll work with the federal government on a strategy to expand testing in British Columbian waters today?
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Hon. D. McRae: I'm surprised the members opposite just don't know the facts. The reality is that if the lab had followed protocol, we wouldn't be having this discussion. When the information was released, it wasn't released, as it should be, to the CFIA. It went to SFU and then to the media.
But the reality is…. I was talking to the president of CFIA again earlier, talking about what they are going to do. They said this. They do the test. They verify the results, and then the federal government — DFO, CFIA — has the authority to go forward and deal with this problem.
But you know what? In my heart of hearts I hope beyond all belief that there is no problem here, and I hope the tests come back soon and verify that for the good of British Columbia. There are 6,000 people along the coast of British Columbia who depend on those jobs for their well-being in our communities.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
R. Fleming: What this minister doesn't understand is the urgency of the situation, potentially, for British Columbia. I want to contrast that to another political leader just to the south of us, Sen. Maria Cantwell, who has been quoted as saying: "We need to act now to protect the Pacific Northwest coastal economy and jobs. Infectious salmon anemia could pose a serious threat to Pacific Northwest wild salmon and thousands of Washington State jobs."
It is no different in British Columbia. We have an $800 million salmon aquaculture industry. We have a $1.5 billion commercial fishery in this province. We have First Nations cultural and constitutional rights to their fishery. And we have seen no such urgency from this minister.
So again, the question is: will this minister get his act together? Will he start to treat the wild salmon threats with some urgency, work with the other agencies and coordinate a response and explain it to the public of British Columbia?
Hon. D. McRae: I wish the member opposite would get out of his message box, because the reality…. Did you not hear, just seconds ago…? The other agencies are involved.
The CFIA is the agency that we use to make sure we validate these test results. DFO is the organization at the federal level that is responsible for this. We know this. It has been precedent-setting through the constitution and the courts. Those are the other agencies. That is the action. When the CFIA needs any information from this province, we are right there, right now, to make sure they have any information we can provide. We will work very hard to protect the salmon-farming industry.
But mostly I want to recognize this. The wild salmon industry is hugely important to this province and this country, by all means, and we will not compromise that as well.
PUBLIC RELEASE OF REPORT
BY AGRICULTURAL LAND COMMISSION
AND FILL DUMPING ON FARMLAND
L. Popham: Yesterday I raised the issue about the Agricultural Land Commission report that the minister has had on his desk for almost a year. This week I stood on a farm that has had over 10,000 loads of construction fill dumped on it. This farm is now unfarmable. While the Minister of Agriculture spends his time shuffling papers on his desk, farm after farm in British Columbia is being covered in construction fill.
Will the minister commit today to putting a hold on fill dumping in the agricultural land reserve until the ALC report has been released and a provincial fill-dumping strategy is in place?
Hon. D. McRae: Yesterday I commented that I hadn't received enough questions in this chamber, and I guess I'm getting my wish.
Hon. D. McRae: I guess it was.
But the reality is this. The ALC has compliance and enforcement officials. Those enforcement officials are doing their job. They work hard to protect farmland and to respect the ALC act.
We've also had an opportunity in the past where we've actually deputized members in the Lower Mainland to help with compliance and enforcement as well. By all means, it's a serious issue, one that does not help farming whatsoever. The ALC and this ministry are working to make sure it is limited to the best of our ability.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
L. Popham: I can tell you it's very disappointing for me to watch the Minister of Agriculture joke his way through question period. I am the critic for Agriculture, and I take this issue very seriously.
This minister has kept the ALC report hidden for almost a year. We know — we both know, Mr. Speaker — that the ALC is underfunded. We know that. The enforcement agency is doing the best it can, but it doesn't have the money to do the job. We know that. The public would know that if he released the report.
From what I have heard from stakeholders, I estimate that over the year that this report has been hidden, as many as one million dump truck loads of fill have been deposited onto British Columbia farms.
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This minister needs to get to work. While he's sitting on his hands, farmlands are turning into wastelands. Will the minister commit today to a moratorium on fill dumping on ALR land until that report is released and a provincial fill-dumping strategy is in place?
Hon. D. McRae: I'm not going to be getting the report delivered to the critic for Agriculture on the other side at her convenience. This ministry is doing its analysis. We will respond accordingly. In the end — and I have said this many times, both publicly and privately — we are supportive of ALC, the preservation of farmland and protecting the farmers.
Most of all, I think it's rather shocking. If there was information in the member opposite's hands of a million dump truck loads being put onto farmland and she decides only to raise it in this question period, is that protecting farmland? Why not come and visit me in my office and let me know these serious concerns?
SENIORS ISSUES AND
CALL FOR SENIORS ADVOCATE
K. Conroy: Another day, another case of a senior who has been abandoned by this Liberal government. Ricky Spooner is a hundred-year-old Sidney resident who had planned to move into a facility in Victoria with his wife. After they put down an $8,000 deposit, his wife, sadly, passed away. The operator of the facility kept his $8,000. After repeated attempts to get it returned, it still hasn't been.
The opposition has been raising these stories; the media has been raising these stories — case after case after case that indicate the overwhelming need for a seniors advocate.
Will the Health Minister commit to fully establishing a seniors advocate so vulnerable seniors like Mr. Spooner will finally have a strong voice in this province?
Hon. M. de Jong: I'll answer the question in two parts, if I may. First of all, the example that the member has raised in the House today is one that I find and the government finds particularly troubling. In fact, I dare say, based on the facts that are known, every member of the House would find the example troubling — a 100-year-old man that lost his wife, his life partner, and has then found himself in a position where he is being denied access to funds, a deposit that is no longer of any consequence because they're not going to be moving there.
I have spoken with the family. The member may know — and if she doesn't, I'll tell her today — that I have asked the senior official within the Ministry of Health in charge of licensing to specifically gather all of the information relating to this. The Solicitor General, through the consumer protection legislation that is in place, is working to ascertain whether there has been any breach from that front.
This man is 100 years old. He is a veteran. He deserves to be treated with respect. We will ascertain what the legalities are, but I know what the morality is in this case.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
K. Conroy: The Health Minister says he's ordered another review. That's fine. However, Mr. Spooner needs more than a review. The other families who are facing very similar situations need more than a review. The opposition has been bringing attention to these types of stories for years — seniors who have been taken advantage of, abused. Seniors like Mr. Spooner need a voice, something they're not getting from this Liberal government.
The Liberals had to be shamed into finally reinstating the child and youth advocate position. Will they now do the right thing and put in place an advocate for seniors in this province?
Hon. M. de Jong: Two things. First of all, the member may know that previously the government made a commitment to appoint — as a result of a recommendation, by the way, from a task force on seniors issues — a parliamentary secretary and a secretariat dedicated to examining specific seniors issues. That has happened. Of course, the member for Parksville-Qualicum fills that role ably.
Here's something else that I just want to take a moment to address. I know the member cares about these issues, so that is not an issue for me. But I hope we can have the discussion based on facts. When the member makes comments — as she has, I am told, in the past — that say there are no inspections, that there are seniors facilities that no one visits, that's simply not true. That's simply not true. If the member doubts me, she can go to the website. She can go to seniorsbc.ca and actually access summaries of the reports that are completed as a result of those inspections.
By all means, let's have the discussion to determine how we best protect vulnerable seniors, but let's do so on the basis of the facts.
IN HARTLEY BAY AREA
G. Coons: In March of 2006 the Queen of the North tragically hit and sunk off the coast near Gil Island, loaded with fuel and toxic fluids. David Hahn promised the people of Hartley Bay and the Gitga'at Nation that they would monitor the waters around the site for discharges of fuels and restore the area to its pristine condition. This government's Environment Minister at the time made the exact same commitment.
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An agreement was made with the Gitga'at to cover expenses for ongoing monitoring and testing of marine life in the area, but according to the Hartley Bay Band Council, B.C. Ferries informed the Gitga'at Nation in March of this year that they would no longer honour that agreement.
To the Minister of the Environment: why isn't this government living up to their own commitment and directing B.C. Ferries to live up to their agreement to monitor and return the waters around the site to their pristine condition?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: Obviously, a very serious situation that occurred. The member has raised this issue before. There has been a great deal of monitoring taking place — the federal government, as well, with the waters off the coast — in looking at that. The ongoing work was concluded in the sense that they had monitored it. They couldn't find anything, any seepage. The fuel that was on that vessel has dissipated.
Obviously, there are concerns out there. We are committed to not only ensuring that, as we move forward in the future, we work collaboratively with the band but we meet those expectations. They may not be what the member expects, but I can tell that you we're committed to the environment, just as I'm sure and hope that the member himself is.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
G. Coons: I guess I'm not going to get any answers from the landlocked Environment Minister. The minister previous to this said: "This beautiful area of the province…. We're committed to ensuring its return to its pristine condition. I'm pleased we can move forward with long-term monitoring."
Now, according to the Hartley Bay council member Marven Robinson: "B.C. Ferries has made many promises. They said: 'As long as the vessel is there and there's fuel inside, we'll keep doing the daily monitoring.'" Also, quoting from the Hartley Bay council letter: "B.C. Ferries reneged on their financial, moral obligation and commitment to monitor the site of the wreckage."
My question to the Minister of Transportation: if this government won't force B.C. Ferries to live up to their commitment, why are this government and this Premier still committing to David Hahn's outrageous pension agreement?
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. B. Lekstrom: It's interesting how you ask the question. It's a serious question. It's about the environment, and I think all of us are concerned about that. There has been ongoing monitoring, as I said in my last answer to the member. We have monitored that. There's been ongoing monitoring. It's obviously clear that the issue of the fuel and the seepage that was on the vessel…. It was felt very early that with the result of the sinking and the depths that it sank to, the fuel was actually released relatively quickly.
We take the role of looking after the environment, although this is a B.C. Ferries issue, very seriously. There is every effort being made, and we will work with the band and individuals to ensure that we meet the obligations to look after the environment, not only for the band and the people that live in the area — for yourself and your constituents — but for every British Columbian, because the environment and the beauty in which we live is fundamental to the backbone and our quality of life. We are not going to forgo that.
TSILHQOT'IN NATION CONSULTATION
ON PROSPERITY MINE PROPOSAL
S. Fraser: The Tsilhqot'in Nation was in Ottawa yesterday raising serious concerns over the second Taseko Prosperity mine application. There was no consultation with the Xeni Gwet'in, the Tsilhqot'in, with First Nations. This is not the way we do business in British Columbia.
My question is to the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation. She must be aware of the grave concerns of the Tsilhqot'in. I know she is. We've raised this in estimates. Why isn't she doing anything to address this glaring failure to consult?
Hon. M. Polak: As the member knows, there is a process underway through which Prosperity and its proponents, Taseko, are seeking approvals through various levels of government.
We understand the concerns of the Tsilhqot'in. My colleague the Minister of Energy and Mines has been working closely with the Tsilhqot'in in terms of addressing many of those concerns. It's unfortunate that he's unable to be here today to outline further what those kinds of activities have been, but I would certainly welcome further discussions with the member, as I know my colleague would as well.
S. Fraser: The minister's response doesn't reflect any of the statements made by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs nor the Tsilhqot'in First Nation. The Premier made an art form out of walking right over First Nations' rights as soon as she was made Premier, on this issue. She completely ignored the Tsilhqot'in, the court decision, the so-called new relationship and the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous people.
[ Page 8261 ]
The government appears to have learned nothing over the first Taseko proposal, where there was no adequate consultation. It has happened again. So why is this project being promoted when it is clear that B.C. First Nations aren't even at the table when it comes to consultation?
Hon. M. Polak: Well, I know that the member would like us to make arbitrary decisions about things like resource extraction, mining, oil and gas — all sorts of approvals. The reality is — and the member well knows this — there is a process underway. The proponents are within that process as we speak, and there has been extensive work done in relationship to the Tsilhqot'in by the Minister of Energy and Mines.
We are aware of the concerns that the Tsilhqot'in have. We take them very seriously, and we are working closely with them to try and address those concerns as this process unfolds.
JUMBO GLACIER RESORT PROPOSAL
N. Macdonald: Ski resorts like Kicking Horse, Revelstoke Mountain and Kimberley Alpine were all developed with the support of the people who lived in my area. They were broadly supported because they made sense. The people in the Columbia Valley know what is best for their land. That's why they've rejected a number of the river diversion projects, the development on the east side of Columbia Lake and the development of Whitetail Lake.
Local people have been absolutely clear that they do not support a resort in the Jumbo Valley. With such strong opposition to this development, when will this government confirm that the proposed land giveaway of public lands in the Jumbo Valley is off the table?
Hon. S. Thomson: The proposal for the Jumbo Glacier resort has been a proposal that has gone through one of the most extensive review processes in history — over 17 years of review. As a statutory decision-maker for this project, what I can inform you is that I'm doing my due diligence. I've been consulting with First Nations, with the proponents and with stakeholders on this issue. We will make our decision in a fair and transparent way.
We continue to do the due diligence. I want to assure the members opposite that this decision, when it is made, will be made in a fair way, recognizing the statutory and legal responsibilities of the decision-maker.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
N. Macdonald: Let's talk about some of the responsibilities. The proposed Jumbo Glacier resort is in the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa national council. They have declared the valley sacred to them, and they have said clearly that they will exercise all legal options to keep this project from moving forward.
It's time for the government to finally make a decision. I agree with the minister on that. Will the government put the interests of local communities and First Nations ahead…
Mr. Speaker: Members.
N. Macdonald: …of their speculator friends, and will they finally put a halt to Jumbo Glacier resort?
Hon. P. Bell: On a day of celebration, on a day when $8 billion worth of shipbuilding contracts were awarded, on a day when 4,000 people in the province of British Columbia are going to be employed in high-paying, family-supporting jobs, what do we hear from the members opposite? They're against fish farming. They're against ski resorts.
They're negative. They're destructive. They're pessimistic. They should be out there celebrating the great news we had yesterday, not going on with the constant destructive approaches that we have seen here today.
[End of question period.]
Hon. S. Thomson: I rise to present a report.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
Hon. S. Thomson: I rise to present the report of the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Authority Trust Fund, the annual report for 2010 and '11.
Orders of the Day
Hon. T. Lake: I now call continued committee stage on Bill 3.
Committee of the Whole House
BIll 3 — Freedom of Information and
Protection of Privacy
Amendment Act, 2011
The House in Committee of the Whole on Bill 3; L. Reid in the chair.
[ Page 8262 ]
The committee met at 2:27 p.m.
Section 7 approved.
On section 8.
D. Routley: The onus is reversed from the original act — from forbidding the collection of personal information unless certain conditions were met to "may collect personal information." Why did the government choose to decide to change the onus in this way?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This change consists of two housekeeping amendments to remove redundant words and to ensure that we're using consistent language throughout the act.
D. Routley: It seems that it's a significant change in the force and effect of the act to change the onus from the collection of personal information unless certain conditions were met to "may collect." It seems that it would require more of an explanation than simply housekeeping. It changes the allowance and the ability of public bodies to manage people's information quite significantly. I wonder: what was the purpose of that?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This amendment — there is a fairly technical explanation, and I am actually going to give the full technical explanation.
The first change in the amendment removes the redundant words "by or for a public body." These words were originally included to ensure that restrictions on the collection of information that applied to public bodies also applied to service providers acting on behalf of public bodies.
However, in 2004 section 31.1 was added to the act to ensure that all of the privacy requirements and restrictions that apply to public bodies also apply to their employees and service providers. As such, the words "by or for a public body" in the section are no longer needed. This is one of a number of similar amendments throughout the act.
The second change just ensures that consistent language is used. So again, whenever we are referring to a program or activity of a public body, we want to make sure that we are consistent in the interpretation of this term. We have a new definition of "program or activity", and we are using the language throughout the act.
D. Routley: Was this a recommendation of either special committee? If so, who recommended it in submission to the committees?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This was a recommendation of legislative counsel to provide clarity to the section and remove redundancy.
D. Routley: Rather than housekeeping, it appears that this language completely reverses the onus. That seems more than simple housekeeping. Does the minister agree?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I respectfully disagree with the member opposite.
The previous language was that no information may be collected by or for a public body "unless." Now it says that it may collect personal information "only if." It is stated differently, but the intention of this will not be any different.
Again, at the urging of legislative counsel, this was put in for clarity.
D. Routley: What did the Privacy Commissioner have to say about the change in this section?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: There were no concerns expressed by the commissioner on this area.
D. Routley: What did the secret focus groups have to say about it?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: As part of the process of developing this legislation, over 1,600 British Columbians were consulted with. We did that consultation. The actual legislation was not placed before the members of the public with whom we consulted, but there was thorough consultation about the direction we were going to take.
D. Routley: The government has had two committees — one eight years ago, the one I sat on two years ago. It seems to have cherry-picked the recommendations that its own bureaucracy provided to the committee, particularly when it comes to privacy protection amendments. It has ignored numerous concerns of the civil liberties community and the other advocates within the sector.
Then it went ahead — rather than taking advice of those people, that committee, to do a broad public consultation — and set up focus groups with B.C. Stats. We only learned about those focus groups when the bill was read for the first time. We only learned that those focus groups existed at that time.
Now I'm finding out that 1,600 British Columbians were consulted. We don't know how they were consulted, we don't know what they were consulted on, but we do know they weren't consulted on this actual legislation. So it really calls into question the value of the public consultation that's been done and definitely provides a good deal of fuel for skepticism around the outcomes.
I would ask the minister what those 1,600 people were asked to consider, if it was not this legislation.
[ Page 8263 ]
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I regret that the member opposite does not see value in consulting with the public. I certainly see value in it. I'd again like to state that my understanding of the process here is to discuss the amendments to this legislation, and I'm absolutely prepared to do that with the member opposite.
D. Routley: Well, quite to the contrary, the committee recommended public consultation. This side of the House respects public consultation. I certainly would like to see more public consultation. But when public consultation is done in the form of focus groups that are not made public until the first reading of the bill….
I'm the critic. I've been watching the news when it comes to these issues. There was no notification given of this project of consulting through focus groups. There was no broad advertisement for public input. We don't know how these focus groups were formed, what their terms were, who was involved. The minister is content to call that public consultation. I think it's lacking in legitimacy.
I'd like to know, really: if those groups were not asked to consider this legislation, what were they asked to consider? The minister has repeatedly referred to them and referred to public consultation around these amendments. What were those groups tasked with considering?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Again, my understanding of this process is that we are here to discuss the amendments to this act. I am prepared to say this to the member opposite. We consulted with over 1,600 members of the public. The public consultation included public on-line consultation as well as focus groups and a survey.
We were asking questions that would help us to better serve British Columbians. We did that and incorporated that feedback and that learning as we drafted this legislation.
Again, respectfully, I must say that my understanding of the process we're here for is to go through this legislation to clarify areas for the member opposite. I'm perfectly prepared to do that, and I think we're on section 8.
D. Routley: When I ask questions about section 8 and am told that broad public consultation led the government to the decisions that it has made, then I think I have every right to question that consultation — to question what the consultation consisted of, who made those consultations, what the questions were, what was considered.
In response to those questions, I find out that this legislation wasn't put before those people, yet their consultation is offered by the minister as reason for these changes. It seems too much of a disconnect for this member.
The 2010 special committee that reviewed the act, as well as a long line of Privacy Commissioners, has told the government that these kinds of changes to public privacy should be put to public consultation. I'd like to know why the government did not advertise a broad public consultation.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I'm referring to the question that the member opposite began with, and perhaps my answer at the time wasn't clear — that these amendments remove redundant words, and they ensure that the language that we use is consistent throughout the act, that it was actually legislative counsel that urged us to make these changes. That is why the changes to section 8 that we were discussing were made.
D. Routley: When the minister refers to public consultations, and I assume she is referring to the focus groups, will she be tabling the surveys that she referred to earlier in an answer? Will she be tabling the results, the questions and the records of those consultations?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Madam Chair, perhaps I should ask you for clarification about the process here. My understanding is that we are here to discuss the amendments to this act, that that's the process underway here, and that is what I am prepared to do, when and if questions come forward to me about these amendments.
The Chair: Member, under Standing Order 61, we must be strictly relevant to the items under consideration.
D. Routley: And I think my original question was. But, Madam Chair, when the answer to my question is referring to focus groups or consultations, I think it's only right that I pursue that. If the minister is justifying changes to language based on consultations, it should be fair that the minister explain what those are. That is the purpose of what I was doing. I'll attempt….
The Chair: Member, under 61.
D. Routley: Absolutely.
The Chair: The member shall adhere strictly to the wording under discussion.
D. Routley: Thank you, and I will.
I would like to propose an amendment to section 8, and I would like to amend section 8 as follows:
[Section 8, by deleting the text shown as struck out and adding the text shown as underlined:
Purpose for which personal information may be collected
26 A public body may collect personal information only if
(c) the information relates directly to and is necessary for a program an operating program or activity of the public body,]
[ Page 8264 ]
On the amendment.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Speaking specifically to this amendment, I would be opposed to this amendment because we have gone through the act as it's been amended to have consistent language and to refer to "program or activity" throughout the series of amendments throughout the act, and then that term is defined for clarity. So I would be opposed to this change.
Amendment negatived on the following division:
YEAS — 29
NAYS — 42
D. Routley: Section 8 uses the language of "appropriate" collection of personal information, rather than "necessary" collection. Does this mean the government will be collecting information it does not actually need and that isn't really necessary?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This amendment comes from a recommendation from the 2010 special committee that reviewed the act. Their advice was to amend the act to allow an individual to consent to the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information by a public body. So this is different. This is a situation where an individual has actually consented to collection of information, and it does need to be considered appropriate by a reasonable person, so it is different.
D. Routley: Determining what is appropriate versus what was necessary will be up to who, under this act?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The other sections of the act have always allowed for necessary information to be collected, so there's no change there. Information that's necessary for a program can be collected, is collected, and there's not any change there.
This is talking about information that's been collected for a prescribed purpose. The Information and Privacy Commissioner was involved in the development of the language in this particular section. Again, as the member has raised, this is something new and different.
D. Routley: How will what is appropriate be determined? Who will make that determination? And how will people know that their consent has not extended well beyond what they understood to be their consent, if someone else is determining what is appropriate?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The personal information collected for a prescribed purpose…. The specific purposes prescribed here are going to be done by regulation. This is one of the areas where regulations are going to be developed in consultation with the commissioner. Again, the language in this area and these amendments was developed in consultation with the commissioner.
D. Routley: Well, the true meaning of these amendments won't be known until the regulations are specified, and the minister confirms that. Yet this act is implemented upon proclamation, so it will be in effect and in full force before the regulations are developed. This seems to be a large risk to take with such an essential freedom that we are meant to be protecting here.
What considerations has the minister given to the implications of this situation, where the regulations are not yet developed and yet the act will be implemented upon proclamation?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: It is true what the member has said about this act going into effect once proclamation has happened. However, there will be no regulations. Nothing actually can be done with this until the regulations have been developed in consultation with the commissioner. Certainly, I would hope that the member opposite would be reassured by the fact that the actual language here was developed in consultation with the commissioner.
[ Page 8265 ]
D. Routley: Somewhat reassured, yes, but the fact remains that the true meaning of what this will…. The true effect this will have when it is carried out and implemented won't be known until those regulations are developed. This is, I think, what led the commissioner to her caution that the devil is in the details, and there's much work yet to be done on this act.
Unfortunately for the public, who would I think appreciate a debate on these issues, the regulations and rules won't be subject to debate in this House, only these amendments. So I think what we're discussing here points out how the real effect of these changes won't be known until the regulations are in place, and the public are denied an opportunity to debate the form of those.
I wonder if the minister has given any thought to how this bill is proceeding, this section in particular, where we see an amendment to the way personal information is to be collected, yet the real meaning of that we can't debate here because the regulations aren't in place.
It seems we need more assurance than the minister has given so far.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Again, this particular amendment was recommended by the 2010 special committee that reviewed the legislation. If information is gathered, it can only be used for the specific purposes that are prescribed by the regulation. The member opposite spoke of the potential for information being collected for one purpose and used for something else, and that is not possible under this amendment.
There will be regulations developed. There will be specific purposes prescribed by those regulations, and that will be the only thing that that information will be able to be used for.
B. Ralston: In section (h) there is reference to a provincial identity information services provider, and I gather that is to be defined or designated under subsection 69(1) of the present act — by referring to the appendices, that seems to be what it is.
Can the minister give an example? Some obvious ones would suggest themselves, such as the motor vehicle branch or perhaps the Medical Services Plan, but what is the intended breadth of this definition in its application?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Our intention is that there would just be one ministry that would be the provider, and that would be the Ministry of Citizens' Services and Open Government.
B. Ralston: So then the ministry itself would aggregate all of the potential databases that collect this kind of personal information? I'm thinking…. There's quite a range. I mean, you apply for a fishing licence. I suppose that information is required that discloses your personal identity to establish that you live in the province in order to get the B.C. rate as opposed to the foreign rate.
Is that the intention — that all of these databases, then, would be aggregated under the ministry that the minister presides over, and that would be the way in which this would proceed?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: In fact, the intention and the actual reality is the exact opposite of that. There is not the ability to aggregate that in the way the member opposite has suggested. It will not be allowed under the act.
B. Ralston: I'm not completely understanding this. Perhaps I'm alone in that, but there may be others who don't follow that.
So the ministry is going to have legal responsibility for all these databases, but they will be kept by other ministries? For example, my example of the fishing licences. That will not be part of the data — personal information that's collected by the ministry that the minister presides over at present? Is that how it's going to work?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: What will happen is an individual will be able to access services on line using their secure identity, but the actual information, such as what the member opposite has spoken of, the fishing licence, will be kept in the ministry that's appropriate. So the information about that person will be in the silos that are appropriate and cannot be aggregated, but our ministry will have the ability to allow people to securely identify themselves on line so that they can access government services.
B. Ralston: Just to conclude on this, then, section (h)(i) refers to "a provincial identity information services provider." I understood the minister to say that there will be but one, and that will be her ministry. Am I understanding that correctly?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Yes, that is correct.
D. Routley: In section 8, dealing with 26(e), "the information…necessary for the purposes of planning or evaluating a program…." and the section before it, (d)(ii), "a reasonable person would consider the collection appropriate in the circumstances," I have an amendment that I'd like to move.
I would like to introduce an amendment that would change the wording in 26(d) from "appropriate" to "necessary." I have an amendment here that would do that.
[Section 8, by deleting the text as shown as struck out and adding the text shown as underlined:
Purpose for which personal information may be collected
26 A public body may collect personal information only if
[ Page 8266 ]
(d) with respect to personal information collected for a prescribed purpose,
(i) the individual the information is about has consented in the prescribed manner to that collection, and
(ii) a reasonable person would consider that collection appropriate necessary in the circumstances,]
On the amendment.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I would speak against this amendment. This amendment would actually take away the purpose of the original amendment. Government already has the ability in other places in the act to collect information that is necessary.
The purpose of this is that if there is an area where there is a program where government doesn't actually need the information — it's not necessary — but a citizen is choosing to have information collected to make things work better for them…. This is something that's actually driven by the citizen, and it's with their consent and their choice. Then, in that case, the information still has to pass the necessary test, but this adds something. It also has to be appropriate — the information that's collected.
This is a different area. This is an area where it's a program that the citizen is choosing to avail themselves of. This is something that we believe will make things more responsive for the citizen but — just to be clear — not necessarily something driven by government need or what is necessary but rather, with consent, what the British Columbian wants.
D. Routley: Yes. Well, in response to previous questions, the minister indicated that it would be more the part of the public body to determine what's appropriate. Now the minister is saying that it will be the citizen who determines what is appropriate. It seems an unnecessary change and one that broadens the scope of what could be considered necessary.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This again was a recommendation from the special committee. This is what they recommended: that the act be amended "to allow an individual to consent to the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information by a public body." That was the recommendation.
This is, again, an area different than other parts of the act where government collects information that's necessary. This is a program where the citizen chooses to avail themselves of a program, and then the amendment states that the collection needs to meet the test of being appropriate.
D. Routley: What will be the limitations on the use of that information? Will it be, then, open to data sharing, or will it be part of any of the data-sharing initiatives being billed to the government currently?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This information would be used the same as any other information which we collect. It can only be used for a prescribed purpose. It cannot be used for other purposes unless the citizen consented for it to be used for those other purposes.
D. Routley: What form will that consent take? It's not described in this act what form the consent will take, how the citizen will make that consent, how it will be requested of them. That seems to be one of the devils in the details that the Information and Privacy Commissioner was referring to.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The language around consent to the disclosure of personal information is in the act, and it has been in the act since 1992. What it says is: "The consent of an individual to a public body disclosing any of the individual's personal information under section 33.1 (1) (b) of the Act must (a) be in writing, and (b) specify to whom the personal information may be disclosed and how the personal information may be used."
D. Routley: Well, the form of the consent is particularly important when we consider that this amendment act, the stated purpose, was to adapt to new technologies and permit government to more effectively employ data-sharing and data-linking initiatives. So if the citizen is consenting, will they have full appreciation of what that consent entails — the scope of that intent?
If they are asked to simply consent to the collection of their data for a service that they're trying to access or a process or an activity of government but are really being asked to consent to having that data shared from program to program or ministry to ministry, then how will the government ensure that people really understand the scope of their consent?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The way that people consent has not changed at all within the act. I'm just going to give some details from the act.
"A public body must ensure that an individual from whom it collects personal information or causes personal information to be collected is told (a) the purpose for collecting it, (b) the legal authority for collecting it, and (c) the title, business address and business telephone number of an officer or employee of the public body who can answer the individual's questions about the collection."
So none of that is any different. That all remains exactly the same with respect to collecting. The thing that this particular amendment changes is that if there's a program that a citizen wishes to participate in, they can consent to have information collected.
The member opposite has referred to information being sent around from program to program and ministry to
[ Page 8267 ]
ministry. It's contemplated that there would be programs, specifically laid-out programs, that were across ministries. In fact, we have that now. If a person chose, for the specific purpose of a program like that, to allow their information to be collected, then they can consent to do that.
D. Routley: The consent form. There is currently a consent form that's used. It says the person by name, then:
"(a) acknowledge and agree that the coordinator may at any time assign to the province or any person or organization nominated by the province all the coordinator's rights and obligations under the agreement between the coordinator and me respecting my participation in the project;
"(b) acknowledge that at the request of and as directed by the province, the coordinator will deliver to the province or to any person or organization nominated by the province all records and other materials, including my personal information produced or obtained by the coordinator with respect to me and my participation in the project client file; and
"(c) consent to the coordinator delivering my client file to the province or to any person or organization nominated by the province."
Is that the sort of form that consent might take?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: While we are not familiar with the particular form that the member opposite has quoted from, it's conceivable that different programs in different ministries would have different forms.
What the legislation states is that they all have to comply with the law, and that's the particular area that I read out before. The public body has to clearly indicate to the citizen why they're collecting the information, the legal authority for collecting it and then how it will be used, and that has to happen every time.
D. Routley: Well, the case of that consent form shows that the devil really is in the details when it comes to these issues. If the consent forms are in that form, and I've seen that particular form, then it would obviously, by that wording, open up that information to be shared at the whim of the coordinator of a program.
Without their regulations and rules in place that would describe the architecture of consent, I don't think citizens can feel confident that their information is adequately protected, despite the generalized language and assurances of the act and of the minister's response.
It seems that the changing of the language to the word "appropriate" could in fact imperil the protection of privacy, in conjunction with consent that isn't of the form that I've described. Since the minister can't describe the consent, then we're left to wonder what it might be.
Doesn't the minister feel that perhaps it wasn't necessary to change this language?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The recommendation that came forward from the special committee on this particular issue was actually very broad and would have allowed much more latitude than is in this particular amendment. This was developed in consultation with the Information and Privacy Commissioner. She worked with government in the drafting of this particular amendment.
I'd remind the member opposite that if personal information is being collected for a prescribed purpose for a specific program, none of that can happen, none of that can be operational until the regulations are complete. So there won't be any activity on this until the regulations have been complete. Again, this is a program that a citizen is choosing to participate in. That's what we're talking about in this case.
D. Routley: Well, the form that I read from is the integrated case management consent form. It seems that what we're here discussing is an amendment act to provide the tools necessary for data linking and the integrated case management program. That is the consent form that people are asked to sign.
How can a citizen who is seeking a service in one area of government be expected to be aware of and fully appreciate the scope of that consent, when the government's stated intention is to allow the horizontal movement of information across ministries — programs following the client, client following the programs across ministries — if that is the form of consent?
It's wide open. It basically gives the right of government to assign the responsibility for that person's private information to anyone they nominate. Without these regulations in place and with this language saying that we're going to collect the information that's appropriate, upon consent…. We don't really define what is appropriate. That's supposed to be left up to the citizen, who's also left to decide whether consent is appropriate — not knowing what that consent might entail, the scope of that consent.
I think the minister needs to explain clearly how these two things will work together and how people can feel confident that their privacy will be intact.
[D. Black in the chair.]
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This is certainly a highly technical area of amendments. I may need to get the question clarified from the member opposite. But whatever the form is that he has before him and that he's read into the record, it can't actually have anything to do with this amendment, because currently collection of information with consent is not allowed in the act.
This is the first time. This is where we're putting it in. This is in the event that a citizen wants to participate in a program, that they're able to consent to having this information collected — and, again, for a prescribed purpose, not for multiple purposes. They're not for undisclosed purposes but for a prescribed program.
[ Page 8268 ]
Again, to the member opposite, none of this can take place until the regulations have actually been developed, and that is being done in consultation with the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
Amendment negatived on division.
M. Farnworth: Just a couple of questions for the minister on this particular section. Section 26(g) says: "the information is collected by observation at a presentation, ceremony, performance, sports meet or similar event (i) at which the individual voluntarily appears, and (ii) that is open to the public," and it's a public body.
Can the minister say what type of public body they would expect would be collecting information? I'll use an example. For example, would the public affairs bureau be considered a public body, and would it be…? The example I use is the minister presenting medals or awards to a group of individuals, and then pictures are taken, and subsequently those pictures are going to appear in government publications. Would they be allowed to appear in a political publication, for example? Is that the intent of this particular subsection?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The public affairs bureau, PAB, is now called government communications and public engagement. It's part of the ministry. It would be considered a public body.
The member opposite asked for other examples. There are apparently over 2,000 public bodies, but an example would be a health authority, a university, a ministry. Those would be some examples. Specifically, though, for this amendment, the event has to be an event that is open to the public. So there could be many examples of that, but something that maybe was widely advertised that a member of the public could freely attend.
M. Farnworth: Would it also include, for example, a sports organization — let's say a minor hockey association? Would that be classed as a public body? I understand that there are 2,000 examples. I just want to understand the scope of what is classed as a public body. So certainly a government ministry would be classed as a public body. Does it also extend to the local government level and also to a community organization? Would that be classed as a public body — like a minor sports organization, for example?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The minor hockey association would not be a public body, but the local government would. The minor hockey association is a great example as an illustration, though, because they are covered under the PIPA legislation, the Personal Information Protection Act. In fact, the language here is lifted right out of that act, so they would already be under these kinds of rules but under a different act.
M. Farnworth: So then this doesn't deal with community organizations. It deals specifically with what would be classed in the minds of most people as a government-based body. That would be a public body. So it could be a ministry. It could be local government. It's of that nature, as opposed to, let's say, a community organization such as a minor sports group, which is covered by different rules. Okay.
When the minister says "freely advertised and available to the public," would that include, for example, an event that has a fee charge to it, or would that be treated differently? Let's say you're going to an event that's put on by a public body where you pay an entrance fee. Would that be covered by this, or would that be covered separately?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This would apply as long as it's open to the public, as long as the members of the public can choose to attend. Whether there's a fee or not would not be relevant. It's whether members of the public can attend, as opposed to a by-invitation-only event.
M. Farnworth: How does this section differ from what would currently happen? Let's say, for example, the minister is handing out awards to a group of people. The pictures are taken, and the names are taken. In order to use that, let's say, photographic image or that information in a publication, would you right now have to get the express permission of each of the individuals? Or is that already covered, and this is, in essence, doing what's already…? This is not something that's new, if the minister follows what I'm saying.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Really, what this section is doing is bringing the practice in this act into line with what is already in PIPA, as I mentioned for the sports example, and really acknowledging that when people are at a public event, their reasonable expectation of privacy….
When you have voluntarily gone to a public event, the reality is that many times — and we know this — people are photographing using their cell phones, etc., and when you go out into public, you acknowledge that that can happen.
But really, what this is doing is bringing this part of the act, using very similar language, into line with the private act.
M. Farnworth: I thank the minister for that explanation.
My final question is: would the information — in particular, I guess, images — then be available for use by a political party, for example? Would the images, let's say information — or the photograph is probably the most
[ Page 8269 ]
obvious one — stay entirely within the control of the ministry and the government body or the public body, or would it be allowed to be used by a political party? So could you give that to a political party for use?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I think everyone will agree this is a very exciting piece of legislation and that it does have some complexity to it. It's important, and I'm certainly taking it seriously, but it is complicated.
This particular section deals with the collection of information, not the disclosure. There is a later section that talks about disclosure and may help us somewhat with your question, but this specific section is just about collection.
Now, political parties are covered under the other legislation, the PIPA legislation, and they already have a very similar clause.
B. Ralston: One of the amendments, a subclause here that's proposed, is an amendment of the present 26(c), and that is that the wording has changed from the "information relates directly to and is necessary for an operating program or activity of the public body" to "the information is necessary for the purposes of planning or evaluating a program or activity of a public body."
Who recommended that change? For what purpose is it brought forward?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This particular amendment came forward from government, and this is a new collection authority that will enable public bodies to collect personal information they need to better plan and evaluate programs.
So an example would be a homelessness project — a program that actually involved two or three different ministries and their ability to evaluate across those ministries to see if the program was actually effective, to measure the effectiveness. That's the thinking behind this amendment.
B. Ralston: Just so I'm clear, then. That's not a recommendation of the special committee in its report of May 2010, nor the previous one in 2004, nor is it a recommendation of the commissioner herself. Is that correct?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Yes, that is correct.
B. Ralston: And the choice of the language — "planning." What is the intention of planning? For the purposes of planning, pretty well any activity of government could involve, arguably, some measure of planning a program or activity of a public body. I mean, that's at the very nature of government. So this definition appears to be a very sweeping one.
Can the minister explain why that language of planning was chosen?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The language in this amendment talks about information being necessary for the purposes of planning or evaluating. So the test of information being necessary is actually a very hard test to pass. This is something that the commissioner does look at and definitely holds government to a very high standard.
As we talk about what was intended here…. Collecting information across perhaps two or three ministries to evaluate a program to see how it's working and then do further planning is really the intent here. The commissioner would definitely have a role here.
B. Ralston: There are some recommendations in the report of the special committee about…. The word "evaluating" seems to come close in its meaning to researching the efficacy of a program or activity, and there are some proposed screens that are placed upon that kind of research. Were those considered? Or are those part of what's going to be considered by the commissioner? Is this something that is going to be the subject of subsequent orders-in-council?
I suppose one of the major concerns, just to expand slightly, is that much of the guts of this bill will probably be contained in regulations that will not be debated here publicly in the chamber but will be confined to those who write regulations and an ultimate decision by cabinet.
I think it's fair to say that that process of providing a fairly bare-bones bill and then filling in all the gaps and essential elements of the bill by regulation is one that is decried as antidemocratic and really a deviation from the highest of parliamentary traditions, where the legislation itself ought to be properly debated here.
Is that what the minister is saying then — that this particular section will be the subject of a regulation developed by those in the ministry, those in the Attorney General's ministry and perhaps with some input from the commissioner herself? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: There will not be regulations associated with this area. I want to say to the member opposite that this kind of work is currently done across ministries using anonymized data, so there is work with respect to planning and evaluating that is done now. Where that can be done using anonymized data, that would happen.
But there are some programs, particularly programs that are complex, that are serving complex needs — the homelessness example that I gave before — where it would actually help government to serve people better
[ Page 8270 ]
if they can do this. Again, the test is a high test. The collection of the information…. The information has to be necessary for the purposes of planning or evaluating a program or an activity of a public body.
But there will not be regulations around this particular amendment.
D. Routley: Around the collection "necessary for the purposes of planning or evaluating a program or activity of a public body," it is true that in other areas it's anonymized data. Why is it not specifically anonymized in this case?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: As I mentioned, this kind of work is done using anonymized data, and where possible it would be, but there are some people who are served by government where it is very complex and where there would be a demonstrable need for personal data to be included.
The commissioner would be involved every time. So if there was a program that was developed where the ministries determined that the information was necessary for the purposes of planning or evaluating, the commissioner would be consulted every time such a program was being developed.
If, in the commissioner's view, the collection of personal information was not necessary and anonymized data would suffice, then that would be what would happen.
D. Routley: I wonder what about the information could possibly make it necessary that it not be anonymized. If it is being collected for the purposes of planning or evaluating a program or activity of a public body, certainly it's not necessary that identifying information be used.
I'd ask the minister to offer me an example of where that would be necessary. Certainly, personal information is necessary in many cases to provide an adequate evaluation, but how can it be that somehow not anonymizing the data could possibly affect the evaluation of a program?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: We believe that in the vast majority of cases, anonymized data would work, but the best example that we can think of for this to illustrate it is the homelessness intervention project, where there are a number of different interventions that happen for an individual across several ministries. We know that the whole overall data shows that the project has been successful, but what we really want to know is why.
So if we look across the three or four ministries that were involved for an individual person, and we see what that individual person had in terms of programming in those different areas, then that would help us to see which were the interventions that have made, overall, the program successful.
At a high level we know it's been successful. This helps to you to tease down to the level where you know specifically what worked and what didn't work. Again, if using personal data that wasn't anonymized was contemplated for something like this, the commissioner would be involved, and if in the commissioner's view it was not necessary to have other than anonymized data, then that would be followed.
D. Routley: The minister's answers have not given comfort to my concerns.
I would like to move an amendment that would allow us to return, or would add the language that would say: "…only if the information can be provided in anonymized form."
[Section 8, by deleting the text as shown as struck out and adding the text shown as underlined:
Purpose for which personal information may be collected
26 A public body may collect personal information only if
(e) the information is necessary for the purposes of planning or evaluating a program or activity of a public body only if the information can be provided in anonymized form.]
On the amendment.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: With respect to the amendment, I would speak against this amendment. This amendment would make it so that we can't actually accomplish what we want to accomplish. Again, this is for programs that are for very complicated situations where it would actually be necessary…. That is the language — that the collection of the information is necessary for the purposes of planning or evaluating such a program. And the necessary test would have to be passed anytime this was going to be used. So I would speak against the proposed amendment.
D. Routley: In submissions to the review committee of the act in 2010, the acting commissioner indicated that this type of purpose or goal could be achieved within the existing framework with permission from the commissioner. The minister has already pointed out that under her terms, the commissioner would be involved in each and every instance of this type of data collection, but that is not specified here in this act. That, we are taking the minister's word for, might be defined in the regulations of the act, but those regulations aren't open to debate here. They aren't even formed yet.
I think it would be a dangerous departure for us to simply take an assurance that all is well and will end well, that we should simply trust that this is not a threat to the protection of personal privacy. The existing act allows for this type of data collection with the permission of the
[ Page 8271 ]
commissioner. So I would like to know why it would be necessary to give permission to personalize data rather than collect it in an anonymized form.
Amendment negatived on division.
D. Routley: Section 8, section 26(g) — "information…collected by observation at a presentation, ceremony, performance, sports meet or similar event" — has been canvassed by my colleague to some degree. But I would like to ask the minister: would this include events held by a public body that a person might have an interest in other than simply choosing to attend an entertainment event, like an open house, a public meeting, some sort of opportunity to exercise a person's democratic right — for instance, local government holding a public meeting on a development, local government holding a public meeting on water management?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This amendment would cover information collected at any kind of public event where the individual voluntarily appears, an event that is open to the public.
D. Routley: So it would include events such as those that I've described, where people are attending and are perhaps in opposition to a decision that's been made by a local government or a meeting of their local development or regional growth strategy? That sort of a meeting would be included and people could, therefore, have their personal information collected by simply attending a meeting such as that?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: If an event such as the member describes was open to the public and the individual voluntarily appeared at it, then it would be covered by this amendment.
D. Routley: What is the purpose of making this amendment? It seems that it opens the door to a kind of a chill on people's participation if they feel that it's permissible for their government to collect their personal information simply by them attending a public event.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: As I mentioned in discussion with one of the other members opposite, this goes to a person's reasonable expectation of privacy. This also aligns, with very similar language, to legislation that's in the PIPA act.
D. Routley: Well, it seems that people will feel somewhat disincented to participate if they feel that perhaps the government is collecting information about who they are and where they are when they're participating in meetings. It might put them in opposition to their government. Why is it necessary for the government to feel that it must collect people's personal information by observation at this type of an event?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: If we look at the language in the amendment, what it talks about is information collected by observation at a presentation, ceremony, performance, sports meet or similar event and, again, speaks to voluntary appearance and an event that's open to the public.
D. Routley: Does this mean that observation might include the use of facial recognition technology? That sort of observation?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Now, "by observation" refers to photographic images — so captured by a camera or a video camera. That's what is indicated by "observation."
D. Routley: Okay. Nowhere in this amendment does it indicate that this is intended to apply to photographic evidence. I understand that that's what the minister has indicated, but I guess that's another detail that will be left to regulation. It's an important detail, because if we're talking about video and photographic evidence, then we're also potentially talking about the use of facial recognition technology to identify people in any crowd that the government might choose.
Under this amendment, I think it leaves the door wide open to that type of infringement on people's right to privacy and right to conduct themselves in the community without surveillance.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Under the Personal Information Protection Act, what the member's describing is already fully covered. This goes to a person's reasonable expectation of privacy. Under PIPA, the Personal Information Protection Act, a private citizen, a member of the media — really, anybody at all — can collect information by observation at a public event, and a person's reasonable expectation of privacy acknowledges that. Their presence in such a public venue that they've chosen to go to, an event they've chosen to go to, is that such collection might possibly happen.
All this is doing is using very similar language to that which is found in the Personal Information Protection Act and allowing collection at something like a presentation, a ceremony or a performance when two things are happening — one is that the individual is voluntarily present at that, and the other is that the event is open to the public.
D. Routley: How would people know that their voluntary presence at an event like this would imply that their personal information is about to be collected?
[ Page 8272 ]
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I do believe that most members of the public are aware of this. They're aware that when they're out in public, voluntarily at an event, they may end up…. I mean, it does happen all the time, and it is covered under PIPA. Their images, by observation, their information can be collected by, again, a member of the media, another member of the public.
I think most members of the public are aware that that does in fact happen. Again, it does go to a person's reasonable expectation of privacy.
D. Routley: Well, I guess it's my turn to remind the minister that we're here to debate the clauses of this amendment, not PIPA and not whether or not the media can take a picture and use it in a news story.
I think that people are well aware, I would agree with the minister, that when they're in a public place, they are subject to that sort of observation. But what they aren't accustomed to and what they won't know, based on the minister's answer, is that their government is collecting the information that they're attending an event and that their government is potentially storing and using that information.
How will the public know that their attendance at a meeting such as I described — perhaps a meeting around a contentious development or meeting to modernize the Water Act, any of these types of meetings that might have political sensitivity associated with them…? How will the public know that the government may be collecting their names, and how will the government notify them that, in fact, they are about to have their information compromised?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Let's give an example of a health authority. There is a new public hospital wing that is opening, and the health authority is having a celebration. That's the public body that we're talking about. As they're having that celebration, which is open to the public, they may choose to take some photographs. So this is information that's collected by observation. This is not names or any other kind of information. It's simply what you might collect with either a camera or by video.
Again, thinking about a reasonable person attending a public celebration, a public event such as that, their reasonable expectation of privacy that they would understand…. Whether it was some private person or individual or whether it was actually that public body — the health authority — a reasonable person would think: "If I go to this public event, it is possible that a picture of me could be taken while I am there."
D. Routley: Thank you, but that does not deny them their anonymity, and I think that the implications of this are that that anonymity might be compromised. I think it's also well understood, commonly understood by reasonable people that when they attend an event, there may be pictures taken by the media and that when the media do take pictures, for example, that involve children, they must have consent to have those pictures used.
That sort of consent, that sort of control, is not spelled out in this amendment, so I wonder if the minister can give some assurance that people's anonymity won't be compromised because of this amendment.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: When people are in private, it's very reasonable for them to think that it will be private. But when people are out in public at public events, their reasonable expectation is that someone could perhaps take a picture of them.
This is specifically in a situation where information is collected by observation. It's not the collection of things like names, addresses or anything else. It's what you could get by observation — for example, a photograph — and it's at a public event where the individual has voluntarily gone. So it's not a private event; it is a public event.
D. Routley: What types of events does the government have in mind here? And would certain events be targeted more than others?
For example, if someone attended the opening of the wing of a hospital, as the minister suggested, and was observed by the health authority as being there, would that be less targeted than, for example, a protest over a government's decision, a protest over a contentious political issue?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The language here is really quite clear. It does give some examples, but this amendment would apply to any public event — an event that is open to the public at which an individual voluntarily appears.
D. Routley: Would the amendment allow for the use of facial recognition software?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This section very clearly is talking about: "Purpose for which personal information may be collected."
D. Routley: Well, the government and the police collected a great amount of personal information in pursuit of rioters after the Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver, and they did so without this provision. So why is this provision needed? It seems that the police and the government were able to collect the information necessary without the need of this amendment. What other information would this allow the public bodies to collect?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This is really very straightforward. It's information that could be "collected by
[ Page 8273 ]
observation" and, again, at an event at which an individual presents — they're there voluntarily — and an event that is open to members of the public.
D. Routley: The government says that they have consulted on this act, this amendment act, so I assume that this amendment was brought to consultation. I would like to ask the minister — since that consultation was entirely secretive — who was consulted and how they were consulted on this particular amendment.
[D. Horne in the chair.]
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The consultation with the public. There were over 1,600 members of the public. There were focus groups, and there was a survey, and there was an on-line public blog. That was general consultation with the public.
Specifically, with respect to the amendments, the amendments were circulated with ministries, with UBCM, with universities and with other bodies — the entire package. So that was the level of consultation with those.
Also, the Information and Privacy Commissioner was specifically consulted on the entire package of amendments. Specific to this area, she did not have any objections. She did not raise concerns about this particular amendment.
D. Routley: The consultation involved 1,600 British Columbians. Can the minister explain to me how those people were chosen, who chose that group of people, who carried out that consultation and when it occurred?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: With respect to this particular section, there was…. The amendments were circulated to the bodies I mentioned before. For example, UBCM, universities, ministries, as well as to the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The amendments to the act were not circulated to…. That was not part of the public consultation.
D. Routley: The consultation took place, I assume, over the summer, since the report from the special committee that reviewed the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act tabled its report in this House. I wonder, since 1,600 people were consulted in focus groups by B.C. Stats, if the minister is willing to table in the House the results of those consultations so we might more adequately judge how they have impacted the legislation that the minister has brought forward. Because repeatedly, the minister has relied on those consultations as justification for these amendments.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I'm certainly trying to be responsive to the member opposite, but again, my understanding is that we are here to discuss this package of amendments, for us to answer questions and discuss these amendments as we go through, prior to the bill being passed.
I am totally prepared to do that. I'm happy to do that. There have been a number of question about various kinds of consultation. While I have certainly tried to answer and respond to those questions, clearly we are here to discuss these amendments and to focus on the amendments. As I've said before, I'm really very happy to discuss the amendments and to answer questions the member might have specific to the amendments.
D. Routley: On section 8, these questions have related to collection of personal information in public places and what software might be used to identify people based on those observations. The questions I have asked have been met with answers from the minister that have frequently referred to public consultation. The process has been described very generally by the minister, but I think it would be helpful if we were to understand who undertook those consultations.
On the one hand, we are hearing from the minister that 1,600 people were consulted, but then, on the other hand, that they didn't actually see the amendments. They didn't actually see the legislation that was proposed or elements of it. Then we have heard that ministers and officials in ministries have been consulted about the actual legislation and that the Information and Privacy Commissioner of the province has been consulted.
Can the minister table in the House the results of those consultations so that we might better judge whether they support her defence of section 8?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: My understanding of the process here is that we are here to discuss and debate and to answer questions about the various sections and amendments here. Again, I'm fully prepared to do that.
D. Routley: Well, I am trying to discuss section 8 and elements of it, but when the minister's answers refer to consultations as justification, part of her answer to my question, it seems only appropriate that I ask about the results of those consultations. The minister seems unprepared to respond or unwilling to share the results of those consultations.
So is that what the minister is telling me by constantly referring to the purpose of this being to discuss section 8? Is the minister refusing to share with me and the House the results of those consultations?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Again, I'll speak about my understanding of the process here. The process here is that we are in committee stage, discussing a bill, discussing amendments. I have a team of experts from the
[ Page 8274 ]
ministry here with me. I'm fully prepared to answer any questions, to have any discussion specific to the amendments. I await a question such as that from the member opposite.
D. Routley: On section 8 and the permission of public bodies to collect information about people, through observation, who voluntarily attend public events. I have asked repeatedly questions that pertain to concerns that I have heard from people who are experts in privacy protection and the management of information. There are concerns about this amendment. The concerns have been answered by justification from the minister derived from consultations she held with 1,600 people.
She is obviously absolutely unwilling to share the results of those consultations. We only found out that those consultations took place, when the bill was read for the first time. Those consultations having apparently occurred after the long public process of a committee review that the Chair participated in, that I participated in — several members from government side.
We advertised to the public for submissions of concern around freedom of information and privacy protection. We received, I think, 118 submissions from the public and from different organizations in the province, concerned citizens and concerned organizations.
Those appear not to have been sufficient. The ministry has engaged in another consultation that was entirely secret and very limited in scope, it appears.
So given the rushed and non-consultative approach the government has taken, I move to delete the entire subsection 26(g), and I have an amendment here that would achieve this.
[Section 8, by deleting the text as shown as struck out and adding the text shown as underlined:
26 A public body may collect personal information only if
(a) the collection of the information is expressly authorized under an Act,
(b) the information is collected for the purposes of law enforcement,
(c) the information relates directly to and is necessary for a program or activity of the public body,
(d) with respect to personal information collected for a prescribed purpose,
(i) the individual the information is about has consented in the prescribed manner to that collection, and
(ii) a reasonable person would consider that collection appropriate in the circumstances,
(e) the information is necessary for the purposes of planning or evaluating a program or activity of a public body,
(f) the information is necessary for the purpose of reducing the risk that an individual will be a victim of domestic violence, if domestic violence is reasonably likely to occur,
(g) the information is collected by observation at a presentation, ceremony, performance, sports meet or similar event
(i) at which the individual voluntarily appears, and
(ii) that is open to the public, or
(h) (g) the information is personal identity information that is collected by]
On the amendment.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Mr. Chair, with respect to this amendment, I would speak against this amendment. It strikes out the language which we've been discussing and debating here, and it's an amendment that we are presenting. I'm in favour of what we have proposed to do, and so I would speak against the amendment proposed by the member opposite.
D. Routley: I think it is unfortunate that the minister would speak against that amendment. I don't think, from any possible scenario I can imagine, that the amendment that my amendment seeks to amend is necessary
After all, during the Stanley Cup riots, or subsequent to those riots, the police and the government collected information in pursuit of justice without this amendment. Those were public events where people attended. It seems that that was done without necessitating this amendment.
I don't see that the minister's answers have been responsive. We have petitioned her in many ways to somehow understand what type of event and what type of participation would necessitate the government being able to collect information through observation at a public event of who its attendees are. That seems a little difficult to understand.
The minister's answers have referred repeatedly to a consultation process that was secretive, that was closed. We have had a broad public consultation through the committee that reviewed the act. There were several notable experts who submitted to that public process, but that apparently wasn't enough.
So in the spirit of proactive disclosure, does the minister contemplate proactively disclosing the results of her consultations, or will she resort to section 13 of the act and declare that those were, in fact, elements of cabinet advice?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Speaking specifically to the amendment, as I stated, I am opposed. If the member opposite has any questions or other discussion about this section, I'm pleased to entertain them.
D. Routley: Well, the minister has yet to really defend the amendment in any way other than to say that she has goals and that she hopes to achieve them. I had hoped the minister would be able to offer something more substantive to justify reducing the protections of a person's privacy in the province of British Columbia. Unfortunately, the minister appears unwilling to make a reasonable case.
Amendment negatived on division.
D. Routley: Section 8, section 26(h):
"the information is personal identity information that is collected by (i) a provincial identity information services provider
[ Page 8275 ]
and the collection of the information is necessary to enable the provincial identity information services provider to provide services under section 69.2, or (ii) a public body from a provincial identity information services provider and the collection of the information is necessary to enable (A) the public body to identify an individual for the purpose of providing a service to the individual, or (B) the provincial identity information services provider to provide services under section 69.2."
Earlier the minister indicated that a provincial identity information services provider was indeed her own ministry. Am I correct?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Yes. As I mentioned earlier, the intention would be to have one ministry that would be the provincial identity information services provider. The intention is that it would be the ministry that I am minister of.
D. Routley: Can the minister more adequate define the term "provincial identity information services provider"?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: A lot more detail about this is under section 69.2. The actual definition: "'provincial identity information services provider' means a provincial identity information services provider designated under section 69.2 (1)." It's a section that we will come to later in the bill.
D. Routley: Would the provincial identity information services provider, being the Ministry of Citizens' Services…? Would the minister have the right to delegate that authority to a contracting agent?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The answer to this question actually lies in section 69.2. We will come to this section, but I can tell the member opposite what it states, which is: "The minister responsible for this Act may designate a public body as a provincial identity information services provider."
D. Routley: A public body has previously been referred to as a local government; a school board; an institution such as a university; a library, perhaps. Could the minister then delegate that authority to provide identity information services or identity information to any public body?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Technically, any public body could be given this authority. However, it is our intention that one ministry, our ministry, would be the identity information services provider. Specifically, this is an area that the Information and Privacy Commissioner would have considerable oversight over, and it's my belief that she would not allow us, for example, to delegate this to a library.
D. Routley: Well, the minister is exercising considerable personal latitude in her imagination around who would be allowed to do what, when in an earlier question about public bodies the minister replied that there were over 2,000 public bodies in this province. The answer to this question was that the Minister of Citizens' Services, the minister who just answered me, has the right to delegate that authority to a public body. It doesn't seem unreasonable to ask the question of just what public body that role might be delegated to.
If the minister could be more specific. Her not anticipating that the Information and Privacy Commissioner would permit something is hardly an assurance.
This debate could inform future litigation. I'm sure that if someone is contesting something that has occurred, using this section of the act to contest what might occur in the future around the sharing of information, and they rely on the minister's estimation of what the commissioner might accept…. That does not seem adequate.
Can the minister define clearly what the limitations are on her ministry and on her power to delegate the authority of a provincial identity information services provider?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I think I have answered this fairly clearly, but I'm certainly happy to answer again. The intention is to have one ministry, which would be the Ministry of Citizens' Services and Open Government. That would be the provincial identity information services provider. The member opposite has raised the possibility that, technically, this could be delegated to another public body, and I've said that yes, it could but that our intent is to have one ministry fulfil this obligation.
I've also mentioned to the member opposite that this would be an area where there would be considerable oversight for the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
D. Routley: The provincial identity information services provider — what would be the scope of the role that that would entail?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The outline of the services that can be provided are found in section 69.2.
Mr. Chair, I hope one day we will get to that section.
D. Routley: What types of information would be collected by a provincial identity services provider?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Again, that information is in section 69.2.
D. Routley: The collection of the information by the provincial identity information services provider. How will information be collected and from which sources?
[ Page 8276 ]
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The way that we would collect information is unchanged. It's the same as how we would collect it now under the act. It's usually directly from the individual. But there is no change.
Section 8 approved.
On section 9.
D. Routley: Section 9 deals with how the government will be collecting personal information, and it is very complex. It appears to be much broader than what was contemplated by the special committee reviewing that. Can the minister explain why there's such a broadening of the recommendation from the committee?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Mr. Chair, I certainly agree with the member opposite that this is a complex section. I am seeking a specific question that he could direct to me. If he wants me to respond to the whole of this section, that would be difficult. So could he give me some specific questions?
D. Routley: In several places in the amendment it appears to allow for the indirect collection of information. If I were to be specific:
"the information is personal identity information that is collected by a provincial identity information services provider and the collection of the information is necessary to enable the provincial identity information services provider to provide services under section 69.2."
It seems that this is allowing an indirect collection of information under subsection (g)(4).
"A public body must notify an employee, other than a service provider, that it will be collecting personal information under subsection (1) (f) unless it is reasonable to expect that the notification would compromise (a) the availability or the accuracy of the information, or (b) an investigation or a proceeding related to the employment of the employee."
It strikes out "or causes personal information to be collected."
Can the minister explain how this answers the recommendation of the committee?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The recommendation from the special committee of 2010 was recommendation 26. What that recommendation says is that we should amend the act to reflect the approach taken in the Personal Information Protection Act with respect to the collection of employee personal information.
Referring to section 9(d), which adds section 27(1)(f), what this is doing is allowing indirect collection of information for a specific purpose. This amendment was recommended by the 2010 committee. It's intended to enable employment investigations and to harmonize the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act with the Personal Information Protection Act to bring more consistency between the public and private sector laws.
So referring back to the direction that we received from the committee, I think that this reflects that direction.
D. Routley: Well, the amendment appears to allow a broadening of that indirect collection of information beyond what the recommendation of the committee was, in that information is "transferred…from another public body in accordance with section 27.1, (e) the collection of the information is necessary for delivering or evaluating a common or integrated program or activity," — and then — "(f) the information is about an employee, other than a service provider, and the collection of the information is necessary for the purposes of managing or terminating an employment relationship between a public body and the employee…."
It just seems to be a more broad facilitation of collection of information or indirect collection of information. I wonder why that broadening was necessary to achieve the goals of the committee recommendation.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The section 27(1)(f) is the one that actually reflects the recommendation of the special committee, recommendation 26.
D. Routley: The recommendation from the special committee could have been achieved without allowing for the information transfer to the public body from another public body in accordance with section 27.1. If there are 2,000 public bodies in the province, it seems a very broad net of potential, a very broad scope for information to be passed from one public body to another, and an almost unlimited scope for public bodies to share information about employees.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: In this section the different amendments are not related to each other. They're separate. Certainly, if the member would like to go through them one by one, we're happy to do that if there's a specific question. They're not linked. They are each separate.
D. Routley: Will the minister acknowledge that this section is contrary to the recommendations of the special committee and that it broadens the indirect collection of information?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: There is one section that we've already talked about that specifically refers to that recommendation, and then there are other sections that don't reflect that recommendation. There are many amendments that are proposed here, and they come from different places. They don't all come from recommendations from the special committee. When they do, I've been referencing that.
[ Page 8277 ]
D. Routley: Can the minister please tell the House what consultation the government did in drafting this section?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: It's a long list of bodies that were consulted with on the entire package of amendments, but they include universities, other post-secondary institutions, UBCM, various ministries, Crown corporations and the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
D. Routley: Specifically to 9, section 27, (d)(1): "(d) the information is transferred to the public body from another public body in accordance with section 27.1." That's a very broad scope, with 2,000 public bodies. What public bodies did the minister have in mind, and what are the limitations on what information can be shared and how it can be communicated?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The purpose of this particular section is that public bodies often receive communications from citizens, such as requests for service or other specific items, and they will come from letters or e-mails or other means. Often those communications don't relate to the program or activity of that public body, but they actually relate to another one.
Currently that request has to be returned to the citizen. What this allows is for that service request or whatever else that e-mail or letter might pertain to, to be forwarded to the appropriate public body or government institution. So that's the intent of this. That's what this is meant to allow us to do, which we currently cannot.
D. Routley: How does this section connect to the previous section, in which a person's attendance at a ceremony or other public event can be collected by government?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: There's no connection. There's no connection at all.
D. Routley: How will the information be controlled? If the minister is saying that…. Her example in justifying this particular section of the amendment is that when someone makes an application for service or an application for some kind of information and it's not appropriately directed to the correct ministry or service provider, then that public body would have the right to forward that information to whoever they think would be appropriate.
What possible advantage does that achieve, other than not having to send the information back to the citizen with an explanation of why they had erred in their direction of their request? Doesn't it put at risk their personal information if we are giving the public body the right to forward the information to whomever they think is appropriate?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This amendment will enable public bodies to provide better and more efficient services to citizens. The citizen will benefit from the convenience of not having to resend their communication to the correct public body. It will save them time, and they'll have better delivery of services and benefits by that time savings. That's the intent of it.
D. Routley: Well, we'd certainly like to see improved efficiency in government's delivery of services. I think every British Columbian would like to see that, but not at the expense of something as essential as the right to privacy.
Again, we're back to the argument of expediency trumping principle, and the principle of the bill is that we protect people's privacy. If we are depending upon our goals for expedient service to justify a loosening of those protections, then that seems a fairly high price to pay.
Not in every case, not in the mundane case that the minister indicates, where someone simply made a request for a licence to the wrong ministry and it gets sent to the correct ministry, but when people's essential and very private information is involved, the forwarding of that information could lead to real damage through violating a person's privacy.
This is quite possible. We've seen examples of it in government, where people have been very negatively impacted by the improper handling of sensitive private information — not simple, everyday information that I might send if I'm requesting a boat operator's licence in an on-line program but more sensitive information around a person's health, around their employment, around their housing, around their family.
What limitations are there here that would protect people from the improper communication or forwarding of their information?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: In the example that the member opposite has provided of an application for a fishing licence having gone to the wrong program, we actually currently don't have the ability to forward it to the correct place. We only have the option of returning it. This will allow us to have two options. When the request comes to the wrong place, the program will either be able to return it to the citizen or forward it to the proper place.
In terms of the information being seen by the wrong eyes initially, when the citizen sent it to the wrong place, that's already happened. The forwarding to the appropriate place — that's where the citizen would have intended for it to go in the first place. That's all this is allowing. There are two choices for the public body. It is either to return the request or the letter or the e-mail to the place it came from or to forward it only to the correct public body.
[ Page 8278 ]
D. Routley: Well, the example — fishing licence or boat operator's licence, whatever it might be that is mundane — is not the one that people will become concerned about. It is the type of efficiency that we would hope government is able to achieve, but not at the expense, potential expense, of the protection of a person's right to privacy.
As an example, I would point to the Wainwright scandal, where once it was discovered by the police that 1,400 files of the most vulnerable British Columbians were illegally in the possession of a government employee in his home, the notices to those 1,400 individuals were sent to the wrong addresses.
The confidence that a British Columbian might feel in the ability of the government to manage their personal information and then, once they've discovered an error, to correct that error by forwarding the information has to be at least challenged by that history.
This is the type of risk that we're creating by allowing expediency to trump the principle of privacy protection in this particular instance. In this particular instance I don't think anybody's going to be concerned…. I don't think I'm going to be concerned if my boat operator's licence application went to the wrong ministry and someone forwarded it.
But it's the same mechanism and the same regulation that will allow sensitive information about a person's marital status or a person's living arrangements or a person's employment history, education history, their health, their mental health…. The kind of information that could potentially be very damaging would also be subject to the same treatment. That's an essential right that we are then putting at risk in the name of expediency.
As I said before, I think every British Columbian would like to see a more efficient government, but just allowing government to forward personal information doesn't necessarily equate to more efficient government and, certainly, given that history around Wainwright, doesn't equate to greater protection of privacy.
I would suggest to the minister that this is a valid and serious concern. It's not a concern on the part of a bureaucrat — perhaps not the prime concern — who might be managing thousands upon thousands of files and experiences the difficulty and what might be felt as an unnecessary burden of having to go through the extra step of returning the information to this citizen and explaining to the citizen why their information was directed to the wrong place and where it might be more appropriately directed — rather than taking it upon themselves, without the knowledge of the citizen, to forward their information to whomever and whatever public body they feel is necessary and appropriate.
I feel that that is a valid consideration. Does the minister agree that that is a potential risk in adopting this amendment?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This particular section refers to communications from citizens that a public body receives where the citizen has actually inadvertently sent the communication to the wrong place. That's what this is referring to. In that situation it is permitting the receiving public body to actually redirect that which was sent in error by the citizen to the correct place. That's what this section does.
The member opposite raises some serious concerns, things that have happened in the past. Absolutely, the protection of privacy is extremely important. There is no question that people's personal information needs to be protected. But here we are talking about a situation where the citizen has inadvertently sent it to the wrong place and the person receiving it is able to determine the correct place that it should be sent. In that case they'd be permitted to forward it. This section was reviewed by the Information and Privacy Commissioner, and she did not have concerns about this section.
D. Routley: Those are fine assurances, and I'm not being mischievous. It's just that that does not appear to be spelled out quite so clearly in this amendment as the minister has indicated. In fact, it seems much more general and much more broad and could be interpreted to apply to any type of information. I don't know why the minister is limiting it to the scope of a misdirected request, because in fact it appears — to me, at least — to apply much more broadly to information generally.
The Chair: Shall section 9 pass?
D. Routley: I guess I didn't phrase that in the Jeopardy sense as a question, but it was a question. I think the minister needs to explain to me how she limits the scope of this amendment to simple misdirection of requests.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This is a very technical group of amendments, and when we take it individually, it's sometimes harder to see the broader context. This is related to the amendment that adds section 27.1.
I think this will help the member. It authorizes the transfer of personal information from one body to another and states that the public body has not collected personal information if the only act it takes with the information is to read it and transfer it to another public body or federal government institution.
This is a case where information has gotten to the wrong place and it's being forwarded to the right place. That's what this applies to. I understand that the member opposite has not been reassured by what I've said,
[ Page 8279 ]
but I actually can't think of any other way additionally to explain this.
D. Routley: Well, I appreciate that from the minister, but I do feel less than assured, so I would like to move an amendment. I would like to move the amendment that would restore the wording "cause personal information to be collected." I have an amendment here that would do that.
[Section 9, by deleting the text as shown as struck out and adding the text shown as underlined:
How personal information is to be collected
27 (1) A public body must collect personal information or cause personal information to be collected directly from the individual the information is about unless
(d) the information is transferred to the public body from another public body in accordance with section 27.1,]
On the amendment.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I rise to speak against this amendment. As I have explained, the reason for the amendment in the first place is to enable public bodies to provide better service for citizens. No one will be having access to information that didn't already have it. In other words, the citizen should have sent the information to the correct public body. They did not. But the one they sent it to by mistake corrects the problem by forwarding the information. So I speak against this amendment.
D. Routley: Well, it seems to me that the indirect collection of information and the ability of a public body to transfer information from one to another are more broadly allowed under this amendment act, to my understanding, than what has been reflected in the minister's comments. I think this amendment would further protect privacy or maintain the protections under the current act rather than allow what appears — to me, at least — to be an unnecessary risk to personal privacy protection.
Amendment negatived on division.
D. Routley: I think the issue of how this information is to be handled and what is to happen to it is one thing, but the awareness of the citizen of this forwarding is also very important. How will a citizen be made aware that their information has been forwarded from one public body to another?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: There is not an intent or a duty to notify, so when the information that the citizen sent to the incorrect public body is forwarded to the correct public body, that public body will respond to the citizen. But there won't be notification of that forwarding process.
D. Routley: In the same spirit as the amendment I offered before, I would like to offer another amendment to restore the wording "or causes personal information to be collected," and I have an amendment here that would achieve that.
[Section 9, by adding the text shown as underlined:
How personal information is to be collected
27 (2) A public body must ensure that an individual from whom it collects personal information or causes personal information to be collected is told]
On the amendment.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The words "or causes personal information" were deleted from 27(2). The amendment is there because it is removing words that were made redundant by the addition of section 31.1 in 2004. That's why those words are removed.
I would rise to speak against that amendment, since the reason for doing that amendment is to remove words that have been made redundant.
D. Routley: Well, I would disagree with the minister and assert that in fact, we need to avoid broadening the scope of what information can be collected indirectly and how that information can be processed or handled. I hoped the minister would reconsider.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I'm just going to refer to section 31.1. Hopefully, that will reassure the member opposite. The words were there originally to ensure that notification requirements that applied to public bodies also applied to service providers acting on behalf of public bodies.
However, in 2004 section 31.1 was added to the act to ensure that all the privacy requirements and restrictions that apply to public bodies also apply to their employees and service providers. Because of that, the words "or causes personal information to be collected" in this section are no longer needed. That is why I disagree with the amendment.
Amendment negatived on division.
Section 9 approved.
On section 10.
D. Routley: Section 10 is again implying that a person's attendance at an event or a ceremony can be reason or…. Their attendance can allow the collection of personal information simply by observation. Again, I'd ask the minister to explain why this is necessary.
[ Page 8280 ]
[L. Reid in the chair.]
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I believe we're now on section 10, and I think the member opposite is referring to something in section 9, which was passed. Perhaps he could clarify that for me.
D. Routley: The minister is correct. I think I let the section pass without the question that I wanted to ask, so I guess that's an opportunity missed.
Section 10. The section appears to lift restrictions on information that was previously not permitted to be held outside of Canada, and it would create a new definition of personal information that is received but not deemed to be collected. Is that a correct reading of the section?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: In fact, this section doesn't have any bearing on, doesn't have anything to do with lifting of restrictions on storage of information outside of Canada.
"Personal information…received by a public body is not collected by the public body for the purposes of this Act if (a) the information does not relate to a program or activity of the public body, and (b) the public body takes no action with respect to the information other than to (i) read all or a part of it and then delete, destroy or return it, or (ii) read all or a part of it and then transfer it in accordance with subsection (2)."
Can the minister explain to me, please, the distinction that it is received and not collected if the following two subsections apply?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This refers to the section, which we previously canvassed for some time, where information has been sent by a citizen to the wrong public body and is transferred.
What this is saying is that the receiving body is not deemed to have collected that information. If that information just passes through and is either deleted or destroyed or actually forwarded, then that body is not considered to have collected that information.
D. Routley: Is there a duty under these amended sections to notify the citizen of their information either being destroyed or directed to a different public body — that it is deemed received rather than collected?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The citizen would not be notified if a body had been deemed not to have collected their information.
D. Routley: Can the minister describe this new definition of "received" but "not collected"?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This new provision clarifies that when a body has received personal information that does not relate to one of its programs or activities and the public body does nothing other than read, delete, destroy, return or transfer the information, the public body has not collected the information for the purposes of the act.
D. Routley: Under subsection (2): "For the purpose of subsection (1) (b) (ii), a public body may transfer personal information to (a) another public body…."
Can the minister define what is meant by "public body" in that subsection?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This is, again, substantially about the same issue that we spoke about extensively previously. The example the member opposite gave was a fishing licence. So the request is sent to the wrong place, the wrong public body, and that public body forwards it to the correct public body. That's what this is talking about.
D. Routley: This subsection also adds: "(b) a government institution subject to the Privacy Act (Canada) if the public body determines the information relates to a program or activity of the other public body or government institution referred to in paragraph (a) or (b)."
Could the minister describe the scope of the term "government institution"?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This would refer to federal government bodies that are subject to the Canada Privacy Act.
D. Routley: Therefore, a federal government agency subject to the Canada Privacy Act is not restricting its information from transfer to the United States — for example, the Homeland Security agency. Is that correct?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Again, what this is allowing is…. In the case where a citizen has sent a request or a letter or an e-mail to the wrong place, it's allowing it to be forwarded to the correct place. So the intent of the citizen was to contact, to obtain service, and just by mistake, they in some way directed it to the wrong place. This is allowing it to then be redirected to where that service can be provided or where that issue can be dealt with.
D. Routley: So is the minister confirming that information forwarded to the federal government, then, would not be subject to the same restrictions as that information would be subject to here in B.C. in terms of how it might be stored outside of Canada?
[ Page 8281 ]
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Again, what this is doing is allowing the receiving public body to redirect it to the proper public body. The mistake that's been made is where the citizen has sent the request or the letter in the first place, and this is allowing that to be corrected and for the letter or request to go where it should have gone in the first place.
D. Routley: If the information is forwarded to the federal government, is it subject to restrictions as to whether it can be stored outside of Canada, or not?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: We refer here to a government institution which is subject to the Privacy Act of Canada. So if the body was a federal government body, it would be subject to that law.
D. Routley: Have other provinces taken similar steps?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I recognize that the member opposite has a general interest in the answer to this question. It does not have anything to do with these amendments. Certainly, ministry staff will try to find the answer to that question, but it doesn't pertain to the section that we are on. I am happy to answer questions about that, and we will attempt to find the information, out of general interest, that the member opposite has asked.
D. Routley: Does the minister have any concerns about this change? Are there any concerns on the part of the minister about the implications of these changes?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The purpose of this amendment is to allow us, public bodies, to provide better and more efficient service to citizens. That's why we've brought it forward.
D. Routley: Why did the government choose to differentiate between receiving a person's personal information and collecting it? When is collection not collection?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: That's exactly what this is…. That's what we've really outlined in these amendments. In the case of information or a request having been sent to the wrong place and that information is either forwarded, returned or destroyed, it's deemed not to have been collected. That is specifically what this area pertains to. That's specifically what is outlined in these amendments.
D. Routley: And in the case of receiving versus collecting, there will be no notification to the citizen that their information was destroyed or forwarded?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Notification is required if information is actually collected, and that's specifically what these amendments are talking about — that the information is not collected. It has not been collected, is not being retained, so the duty to notify is not there.
Noting the hour, I move that the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.
The committee rose at 5:52 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The Committee of the Whole, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. I. Chong moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until Monday at 10 a.m.
The House adjourned at 5:53 p.m.
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