This is page numbers 495 - 544 of the Hansard for the 15th Assembly, 6th Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was going.

Topics

Revert To Item 5: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery
Revert To Item 5: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery

Page 524

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. Recognition of visitors in the gallery. If we missed anyone in the gallery today, welcome to the House. I hope you're enjoying the proceedings. Petitions. Reports of standing and special committees. The honourable Member for Monfwi, Mr. Lafferty.

Committee Report 6-15(6): Report On The Review Of The Information And Privacy Commissioner's 2005-2006 Annual Report
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

August 22nd, 2007

Page 524

Jackson Lafferty North Slave

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Introduction

Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight met on May 16, 2007, to review the 2005-2006 Annual Report of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The committee would like to thank the Commissioner, Ms. Elaine Keenan-Bengts, for her report and for her appearance before the committee.

The NWT Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, or ATIPP, came into force on December 31, 1996. The purpose of the act is to make public bodies more accountable and protect personal privacy by giving the public a right to access, with limited exceptions, to records being held by the GNWT and related public bodies, and by preventing the unauthorized collection, use or disclosure of personal information by the GNWT and related public bodies. The act also gives individuals the right to see and make corrections to information about themselves.

The Information and Privacy Commissioner is an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly. Her primary role is to review and make recommendations on public bodies' decisions under the act. Reviews can be requested by people who have been refused access to information, third parties who have an interest in information someone else is requesting, and people who have concerns about how their personal information has been handled. The Commissioner's mandate also includes research into matters affecting the carrying out of the purposes of the act, receiving representation about the operation of the act, and offering comments on the implications for privacy protection of proposed legislative schemes or government programs.

Motion To Deem Committee Report 6-15(6) Read And Printed In Hansard In Its Entirety, Carried
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 524

Jackson Lafferty North Slave

Mr. Speaker, that concludes the introductory comments on this report. Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Great Slave, that the Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight Report on the Review of the 2005-2006 Annual Report of the Information and Privacy Commissioner be deemed read and printed in Hansard in its entirety. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Motion To Deem Committee Report 6-15(6) Read And Printed In Hansard In Its Entirety, Carried
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 524

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Lafferty. A motion is on the floor. The motion is in order. All those in favour? All those opposed? The motion is carried.

---Carried

Committee Report 6-15(6): Report On The Review Of The Information And Privacy Commissioner's 2005-2006 Annual Report
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 524

The Speaker Paul Delorey

2005-2006 Annual Report

As Ms. Keenan-Bengts stated to committee, "the principals underlining the legislation form the basis of modern democracy."

However, she advised us that she is faced with what she referred to as an "underlying reluctance to openness ... a tendency to interpret the act narrowly so as to limit the access allowed".

The underlying theme throughout the Commissioner's report and presentation to the committee was the need to foster a corporate culture that is committed to open and transparent government, and strives to follow the spirit as well as the letter of the act. She stressed again the need for leadership to initiate a change of culture from top to bottom. Ministers and deputy ministers, in particular, would need to demonstrate commitment to the act and support, through their leadership, a shift to greater openness.

The committee had an engaging discussion with the Commissioner about the powers given to ATIPP Commissioners in different Canadian jurisdictions. The Commissioner strongly believes in the ombudsman system that is in place in the NWT. She feels that the flexibility of this system allows her to work with departments and agencies in order to find creative and innovative resolutions. The Commissioner sees this as a strength, particularly in our small jurisdiction, where this legislative framework is still fairly new.

Ms. Keenan-Bengts emphasized that these strengths, however, can only unfold and develop fully if there is commitment to the process throughout the organization starting from the top. As she stated, "the purposes of the act will only be met if there is a buy-in and commitment on the part of the government as a whole and support from the highest levels of management to the concept of openness."

The committee shares the Commissioner's concerns and strongly supports her plea to strengthen the corporate culture.

Recommendation

The Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight recommends that the Premier, Ministers and deputy ministers take a leadership role in changing the corporate culture as far as the interpretation and application of the ATIPP Act is concerned to create a culture of openness from top to bottom.

Furthermore, the Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight recommends that a new section reporting on ATIPP activities be included in the yearly business plans for each department. This new reporting framework should include information on requests, complaints and how they were resolved, related training and any other initiatives or activities that take place to promote the ATIPP legislation.

Such a reporting requirement will send clear messages to the public service about the importance of open and transparent government, and the need to grant access to information unless there is a clear and compelling reason not to do so.

The 2005-2006 annual report includes several other specific recommendations to enhance access to information and protection of personal privacy in the NWT, and to improve the administration of the act.

Boards And Agencies

A longstanding concern for the Commissioner has been the need for members and staff of boards and agencies to be aware of their obligations under the act and to implement appropriate records retention policies, particularly for documents in the hands of individual board members.

In previous reports, our committee has recommended that mandatory records management training for board members of boards and agencies be implemented.

The last government response was tabled in the House on October 17, 2006. The GNWT committed to a more proactive approach to ATIPP and to report back on the discussions between officials from the departments of Justice, Public Works and Services and Human Resources who are reviewing the matter. This report is still outstanding.

The Commissioner acknowledged that some training is now being offered to members of boards and agencies, but the courses offered are still a long way from being complete. Ms. Keenan-Bengts repeated her concerns that board members do not necessarily have any knowledge about their obligations under the ATIPP legislation. She contends that they are not advised at the beginning of their tenure about what their responsibilities are under the legislation and that no standards or policies exist that would govern these agencies as far as ATIPP legislation is concerned.

The committee was troubled to hear that the Commissioner was not aware of the standards, policies and guidelines developed by the departments of Public Works and Services and Justice.

Recommendation

The Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight recommends that ATIPP activities related to boards and agencies be included in the proposed business plan reporting framework and that the GNWT deliver on its outstanding commitment to report back to the Accountability and Oversight committee on its commitment to a more proactive approach to ATIPP matters.

Private Sector Privacy Legislation

Another of the Commissioner's ongoing recommendations from past reports is that the NWT enact its own "made-in-the-north" privacy legislation to regulate how the private sector collects, uses and discloses personal information.

Although the NWT's private sector is regulated by the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), the Commissioner points out that a small and distant office in Ottawa is unlikely to have the time and capacity to address complaints and issues of a local nature. Alberta and B.C., for example, have enacted provincial legislation to address the gaps left by PIPEDA and found that they received large numbers of complaints. The resolution of these complaints has made corporate citizens more aware of their responsibilities and the public aware of their rights.

The GNWT had previously indicated its intent to review the effectiveness of PIPEDA in 2006 in order to determine

whether territorial legislation is necessary. The committee looks forward to seeing the results of this review now that the federal government has concluded its statutory review of the act.

Contractors

As in past reports, the Commissioner commented on the importance of ensuring contractors who handle government information are aware of, and comply with, the requirements of ATIPP legislation. Her concerns appear to be partially addressed by the terms and conditions incorporated into GNWT contracts, and by the October 2005 amendments to the act. These changes made contractors directly responsible for protecting personal information.

Nevertheless, the Commissioner wishes to create awareness and alertness to this issue, particularly if the government should choose in the future to contract out services that involve extensive personal information.

First Nations Governance

As in previous reports, the Commissioner recommends the GNWT take the initiative to raise information and privacy issues in devolution discussions, and with aboriginal governments in order to encourage them to include some form of regulation within their governance structures. She states that although there are likely to be cultural differences on many information and privacy issues, all peoples have the right to an open government, which requires access to records and the right to expect a certain level of privacy.

The GNWT indicated in its response to the Commissioner's 2004-2005 recommendations that the ATIPP Act and regulations will not apply to self-governments, but that the GNWT is willing to be consulted on the drafting of such legislation by self-governments.

During the public meeting, the Commissioner indicated that she hoped that the GNWT would have shown some more specific ideas and a more positive approach encouraging First Nations to consider this issue.

Municipal Governments

In her previous seven reports, the Commissioner has brought forward the lack of and need for information and privacy legislation for municipal governments.

The Commissioner encourages the government again to either include municipalities under ATIPP or create specific information and privacy legislation for municipalities.

The committee supports the Commissioner's recommendation and further encourages the GNWT to conclude the work started between Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) and Justice in consultation with the Northwest Territories Association of Communities to allow for consideration of a gill by the 16th Assembly.

Conclusion

The Commissioner quoted the following statement by Justice LaForrest of the Supreme Court of Canada to the Committee:

"The overarching purpose of access to information legislation is to facilitate democracy. It does so in two related ways. It helps to ensure first, that citizens have the information required to participate meaningfully in the democratic process and secondly, that politicians and bureaucrats remain accountable to the citizenry.

Rights to state held information are designed to improve the workings of government; to make it more effective, responsive and accountable."

Despite her occasional frustration, the Commissioner advised us that she continues to strongly believe in the ombudsman approach to the oversight of ATIPP implementation and compliance. She is convinced that working with people to come up with solutions generates better results and buy-in than would order powers. However, the need for a corporate culture supporting that approach is crucial.

Ms. Keenan-Bengts also reported some encouraging evidence. Since her recommendation regarding the introduction of an electronic health record system, she has been consulted by the Department of Health and Social Services, leading to her increased confidence that the privacy issues related to this new technology will be addressed. The Commissioner was also pleased about the enthusiastic and positive reaction from the Department of Transportation to her recommendation regarding a legislative gap in the Motor Vehicles Act.

These are positive developments and the committee wishes to encourage the government to show leadership and to strive for full compliance with both the spirit and letter of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Recommendation

The Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight recommends the GNWT table a comprehensive response to this report no later than during the second session of the 16th Legislative Assembly.

Committee Report 6-15(6): Report On The Review Of The Information And Privacy Commissioner's 2005-2006 Annual Report
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 526

The Speaker Paul Delorey

The honourable Member for Monfwi, Mr. Lafferty.

Motion To Receive Committee Report 6-15(6) And Move Into Committee Of The Whole, Carried
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 526

Jackson Lafferty North Slave

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Great Slave, that Committee Report 6-15(6) be received by the Assembly and moved into Committee of the Whole. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Motion To Receive Committee Report 6-15(6) And Move Into Committee Of The Whole, Carried
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 526

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Lafferty. A motion is on the floor. The motion is in order. All those in favour? All those opposed? The motion is carried.

---Carried

Committee Report 6-15(6) will be moved into Committee of the Whole. The Member for Monfwi, Mr. Lafferty.

Motion To Receive Committee Report 6-15(6) And Move Into Committee Of The Whole, Carried
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 526

Jackson Lafferty North Slave

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent to waive Rule 93(4) and have Committee Report 6-15(6) moved into Committee of the Whole for consideration today. Mahsi.

Motion To Receive Committee Report 6-15(6) And Move Into Committee Of The Whole, Carried
Item 12: Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 527

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Lafferty. The Member is seeing unanimous consent to waive Rule 93(4) and have Committee Report 6-15(6) moved into Committee of the Whole for consideration today. Are there any nays? There are no nays. Committee Report 6-15(6) will be moved into Committee of the Whole for consideration today. Reports of standing and special committees. Reports of committees on the review of bills. Tabling of documents. The honourable Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board, Mr. Krutko.

Tabled Document 59-15(6): Workers' Compensation Board Of The Northwest Territories And Nunavut 2006 Annual Report
Item 14: Tabling Of Documents

Page 527

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I wish to table the following document entitled Workers' Compensation Board of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut 2006 Annual Report. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Tabled Document 59-15(6): Workers' Compensation Board Of The Northwest Territories And Nunavut 2006 Annual Report
Item 14: Tabling Of Documents

Page 527

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Krutko. Tabling of documents. The honourable Minister responsible for Finance, Mr. Roland.

Tabled Document 60-15(6): List Of Interactivity Transfers Exceeding $250,000 For The Period April 1, 2007 To June 30, 2007
Item 14: Tabling Of Documents

Page 527

Floyd Roland Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Pursuant to section 32.1(2) of the Financial Administration Act, I wish to table the following document entitled List of Interactivity Transfers Exceeding $250,000 for the Period April 1, 2007 to June 30, 2007. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Tabled Document 60-15(6): List Of Interactivity Transfers Exceeding $250,000 For The Period April 1, 2007 To June 30, 2007
Item 14: Tabling Of Documents

Page 527

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Roland. Tabling of documents. The honourable Minister responsible for Industry, Tourism and Investment, Mr. Bell.

Tabled Documents 61-15(6): Business Development Fund Annual Report And Recipients Report, April 1, 2006 - March 31, 2007
Item 14: Tabling Of Documents

Page 527

Brendan Bell Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I wish to table the following document entitled Business Development Fund Annual Report and Recipients Report, April 1, 2006 to March 31, 2007.