The House

Do Canada's privacy laws need an update... and to apply to political parties?

This week on The House, Chris Hall talks about the fallout from the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal with Canada's privacy commissioner, Daniel Therrien.
A laptop showing the Facebook logo is held alongside a Cambridge Analytica sign at the entrance to the building housing the offices of Cambridge Analytica, in central London on March 21, 2018. Facebook expressed outrage over the misuse of its data as Cambridge Analytica, the British firm at the centre of a major scandal rocking the social media giant, suspended its chief executive. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images) (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)
Listen to the full episode48:29

The privacy breach involving Cambridge Analytic and Facebook that came to light this week is just the latest in a long series of red flags that should signal to the federal government that privacy laws need to be strengthened, says Canada's privacy commissioner.

Daniel Therrien has launched an investigation into the social media giant after millions of users' personal information was obtained by a data mining firm and later used to build voter profiles ahead of the U.S. election and Brexit votes.

"The issue is there is regulation, but the regulation gives so much latitude to companies … that it's clear that laws need to be strengthened," Therrien told The House.

Part of Therrien's investigation included a Friday meeting between his staff and Facebook officials to see if Canadians' data was included in the information scraped by Cambridge Analytica.

But while Facebook's breach is troubling, it isn't the crux of the problem, Therrien said.

"I think that's leading to a growing realization in society that these processes need to be regulated with a bit more rigour."

Currently, political parties are not beholden to privacy laws like the Privacy Act and the the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

This means they don't have to disclose what information they have or are collecting about individuals.

It's those laws the privacy commissioner is referring to, though he's not the only one pointing to gaps in the system.

"It doesn't make sense that political parties and their information is immune to the kind of regulation and oversight that government departments have," Ann Cavoukian, Ontario's former Information and Privacy Commissioner, told The House.

"Clearly that's no longer acceptable in this day and age."

Therrien has repeatedly called for the government to re-examine Canadian privacy laws, but nothing has happened - something that disappoints him.

"They're slow."

While the investigation into Facebook is ongoing and the government mulls over the best course of action, Cavoukian says Canadians shouldn't be passive when it comes to their privacy.

"I reject that notion that whatever you give online is going to be floating around forever in multiple third party's hands. No. Say no to that."  

It might be remembered as a turning point when it comes to privacy in our increasingly digital world. Stories involving Cambridge Analytica and Facebook have generated reactions around the world. Canada's Privacy Commissioner, Daniel Therrien, joins us to discuss his investigation, and what changes to privacy laws the federal government should consider. 12:16

Firearm legislation only beginning of fight against gun crime, minister says

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tabled a bill to amend Canada's firearms legislation this week. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press )

The newly proposed tightening of gun laws in Canada is only one step to solving firearms-related crime, the public safety minister says.

Ralph Goodale tabled Bill C-71 on Tuesday, which included enhancements to existing background checks for those seeking a firearms license.

Those checks will now give authorities the power to examine a person's entire life history for potential red flags, instead of being limited to the previous five years.

The bill is also proposing changes to how vendors document the sale of firearms. If the bill passes, retailers would be required to maintain adequate records of all inventories and sales.

The records will be owned and maintained by the retailers themselves, and will only be accessible to police if they obtain a warrant. Many retailers, including the country's major sporting goods stores, already track sales of firearms. The legislation will require that these records be kept for a 20-year period.

Some gun rights advocates maintain the provision will simply lead to the establishment of a long-gun registry by another name. The Liberal platform vowed not to recreate it.

However, the legislation wouldn't require individuals who sell firearms to keep records of transfers.

It places a "heavy burden" on individuals to keep those records, Goodale told The House.

"We're taking the requirements for records to the extent that we think is reasonable and practical and realistic."

He also said the legislation will not directly address trafficking of illegal firearms.

Traditionally, illegal guns came mostly from the U.S., he explained, but they are increasingly coming from within Canada.

In order to combat that, Goodale said border control needs to be looked at. Additionally, conversations must happen between the federal and provincial governments about how to tackle gun-related crime.

The Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale, talks about the new gun control legislation he tabled this week. 10:11

Marijuana legislation vote shows shift in Senate dynamic

The Senate voted on the second reading of Bill C-45, the government's marijuana legalization legislation, on Thursday. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

Senator Peter Harder, the government's representative in the Senate, says the growing number of Independent senators provides a new dynamic when debating bills like the government's proposed pot legalization bill.

Bill C-45 passed second reading in the Senate on Thursday with senators voting 44 to 29 in favour the bill, after speculation the results would be close.

All 28 Conservative senators present voted against the bill, while most of the Independent senators sided with the government.

The bill will move forward, despite some senators calling for substantial amendments.

It's all part of the new dynamic in the red chamber, Harder told The House, as more senators sit as independents.

"It's a bit like running a minority government in the Senate," he said.

More amendments are being made to bills, which Harder attributed to those Independent senators.

"That's the nature of a more independent, less partisan Senate."

Though it can provide some uncertainty, Harder said it helps strike a balance.

"We are neither a rubber stamp, nor are we a political rival to the House of Commons."

And when it comes to dissenters on the marijuana bill - or any bill - he said the Senate's job is not to kill legislation, but to advance it carefully and make recommendations along the way.

"That is, I would argue, a more responsibly way to approach a Senate role."

The government's representative in the Senate, Peter Harder, discusses what happened this week with the marijuana legalization bill. 9:13

Pipeline battle short-term pain for long-term gain, Alberta premier says

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the Trans Mountain expansion feud with British Columbia is worth fighting through because of the economic benefits. (CBC)

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the economic benefits from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion are worth dealing with the roadblocks from her British Columbia counterpart.

Notley has floated the idea of turning off the oil taps if B.C. continues to employ tactics to attempt to delay construction of the expansion.

For weeks, the two provinces have been feuding over the pipeline, dealing blows to each other's economies to the point where the federal government has vowed to step in.  

"Sometimes you have to engage in a little bit of short-term pain in order to assert long-term gain," Notley told The House.

Her government has hedged the success of parts of their 2018 budget on income from new pipeline projects in the province.

They have "comfortable" fiscal wiggle room even if there are issues with the pipelines, she said, but that doesn't discount the importance of seeing the expansion go through.

Notley added they've made provisions should B.C. continue to stall the project, but she hopes they don't have to employ them. She didn't expand on what that contingency plan might look like.

The election might not be until next year... But this week's budget in Alberta did highlight a crucial reality for Rachel Notley's government: the NDP government's future -- and its plan to return to balance -- depend in large part on the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project. The one STILL at the heart of a heated dispute with British Columbia. The Premier of Alberta, Rachel Notley, joins us. 9:34