Daniel Therrien to be vetted as privacy watchdog Tuesday

Daniel Therrien's nomination as the next federal privacy commissioner is expected to be confirmed as early as next Tuesday, just as interim privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier wraps up her six-month term as interim privacy watchdog.

Chantal Bernier will not appear as an expert witness on Bill C-13, the cyberbullying bill

Daniel Therrien's confirmation as privacy watchdog will come just as the Commons justice committee will finish hearing from expert witnesses on the cyberbullying bill. The committee will not hear from interim privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier, who has been troubled by some elements of the bill. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Daniel Therrien's nomination as the next federal privacy commissioner is expected to be confirmed quickly and as early as next Tuesday, just as interim privacy commissioner ChantalBernier wraps up her six-month term as interim privacy watchdog.

On Tuesday, MPs will question Therrien for an hour when he appears before the Commons committee on access to information, privacy and ethics.

A couple of hours later, it will be up to the Senate to approve Prime Minister Stephen Harper's pick for the next privacy watchdog, according to a notice posted on the Parliament website on Friday.

Therrien's confirmation will come just as the Commons justice committee, which is studying the government's controversial cyberbullying bill, will finish hearing from expert witnesses.

The committee will not hear from Bernier, however, whose six-month term as interim privacy commissioner ends on June 3.

In her preliminary remarks on the bill, Bernier said she had not been consulted on the bill and had questions about "the new investigative powers in the bill, the potentially large number of 'public officers' who would be able to use these significant new powers, and a lack of accountability and reporting mechanisms to shed light on the use of new investigative powers."

She also noted that "many troubling aspects" of a previous version of the legislation, Bill C-30, were not included in this current bill. 

Bernier was also expected to appear before a Senate committee to give her views on Bill S-4, the digital privacy act, but to date two bureaucrats from the privacy commissioner's office are scheduled to appear on June 4.

Bernier declined May 29 date

Jean-François Pagé, the clerk of the justice committee studying Bill C-13, told CBC News on Friday that June 5 is the date set for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to appear as a witness.

Chantal Bernier is wrapping up a six-month term as interim privacy commissioner. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Pagé said Bernier was given the option to appear earlier but declined. He noted it would not be possible for her to present her views on June 3 as the list of witnesses was set. The clerk said it would fall on the new privacy commissioner to testify on the cyberbullying bill.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada did not rule out the possibility that Therrien could be the one testifying on the cyberbullying bill next Thursday.

Valerie Lawton, a senior communications adviser for the privacy commissioner's office, told CBC News on Friday that they were offered two dates: May 29 and June 5.

"We opted for June 5 to give ourselves more time to prepare, given that we were already in the midst of preparing for other parliamentary appearances."

"Moreover, June 5 was a preferable date because we expected that either a new commissioner would be confirmed, or that Chantal Bernier’s interim mandate would be extended."

Lawton said that given the way things are unfolding, "We are reconsidering our options."

'Unfortunate' Bernier won't appear

In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Ontario privacy watchdog Ann Cavoukian said she was concerned with the fact that Bernier would not get to present her views on the cyberbullying bill.

 "It's unfortunate that she can't appear before the committee."

Cavoukian refused to speculate at length about Therrien's credentials, saying it would take anyone new to the job some time to get acquainted with the bill.

"There are many deep questions which have to be addressed. I don't know if Mr. Therrien would have sufficient time to familiarize himself," Cavoukian said.

Opposition critics, reached by CBC News on Friday, said they were surprised to learn that Bernier would not be the one testifying before the justice committee next week.

NDP justice critic Françoise Boivin said she would expect someone else from the privacy commissioner's office, someone other than Therrien, to appear before the MPs on Thursday.

Having Therrien testify on Bill C-13 in the same week as he is confirmed privacy commissioner would be "improper," she said.

Liberal justice critic Sean Casey said it was "unfortunate" that Bernier would not be the one testifying on the cyberbullying bill.

Casey wondered how "the new guy" would get up to speed on the bill.

On Friday, the New Democrats asked the Conservatives during question period if they would withdraw Therrien's nomination.

Conservative MP Dan Albas said "it is truly hypocritical for the New Democrats to claim to be the champions of public servants, and when a public servant who has served this country puts his name forward and his integrity is attacked, that is shameful and hypocritical in the most."

Therrien has served as a Department of Justice lawyer since 1981​ and more recently, since 2005, as assistant deputy attorney general​.


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