The House

What is Ottawa ready to do to protect your privacy in the digital age?

This week on The House, what is the federal government ready to do to protect your privacy in the digital age? And does it all have to start by protecting you... from political parties? The acting Minister of Democratic Institutions, Scott Brison, join us. We also talk about the latest NAFTA developments and Ottawa's attempt to tackle court delays. Finally, the Insiders join us to discuss populism in Canada.
Scott Brison, acting minister of democratic institutions, said tools could be developed to sure up elections against digital threats. (John Minchillo/Associated Press)

The federal government isn't ready to legislate changes that would put political parties under privacy laws, but other tools could be developed to help mitigate the threat to Canadians' personal information.

Scott Brison, the acting minister of democratic institutions, told The House before an action plan can be developed, he wants to consult with all the political parties.

"We are open to moving to strengthen the privacy regime that governs political parties," he said.

Currently, political parties are not covered under privacy laws such as the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

Brison said that doesn't necessarily make it a free-for-all: "All political parties have privacy policies."

The government is open to figuring out a "uniform approach" across parties and potentially codify that, but that wouldn't necessarily result in legislation.

While it might be a step in the right direction, it may not be enough to satisfy privacy experts.

Legislation making parties accountable to privacy laws is sorely needed, according to Daniel Therrien, Canada's privacy commissioner.

Digital interference has moved to a point where information can be used for "nefarious purposes in the political process," Therrien said.

Omitting political parties from privacy legislation means people don't know what information has been collected about them, he explained.

As fallout continues from last week's Facebook privacy breach, it's still unclear how much Canadian data was affected.

The privacy commissioner launched an investigation into the site, 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.

Therrien and Brison both said they had spoken with Facebook officials, and both said they indicated to the social media titan they wanted to know what the plan was to better protect information in the future.

It's not just Canada struggling with these issues, Brison said, adding he wants to work with other foreign governments to discuss the best way to get ahead of digital threats.

However, Brison wants tools considered carefully. 

The issue with developing privacy policies that target parties, according to Brison, is you risk fettering political parties' abilities to interact with constituents.

"There's a difference between foreign cyber bots thwarting our domestic election results, and the legitimate use of digital for political parties to engage citizens in debates about the future of their country."

What is the federal government ready to do to protect YOUR privacy in the digital age? And does it all have to start by protecting you... from political parties? The unfolding story involving Cambridge Analytica and Facebook -- and the allegations of whistleblower Chris Wylie -- have been lifting the veil on how data-mining and politics can create a controversial mix. The acting Minister of Democratic Institutions, Scott Brison, join us to discuss what Ottawa is prepared to do. 10:26

Upcoming elections threaten NAFTA timeline

Elections in Mexico and the U.S. could undo progress made at the negotiating table. (Canadian Press)

Upcoming elections threaten to disrupt progress made on North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations, according to members of Canada's advisory council on the trade talks.

The upcoming presidential election in Mexico and midterms in the U.S. will make the next round of NAFTA talks "highly politicized," Rona Ambrose, a member of Canada's NAFTA advisory council, told The House.

"There's some push behind the scenes to get this agreement finalized before the Mexican election," Ambrose said.

Certain topics, like the original U.S. auto sector demands of having 50 per cent American content in all vehicles sold, have proven to be sticking points during the negotiations.

But the U.S. is reportedly caving on that demand, and floating the idea of waiving the content requirements if Canada and Mexico set standards to boost wages for workers.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, told The House that Donald Trump will be looking for ways to show voters he's been a tough negotiator on NAFTA.

However, as one issue begins to settle, another aspect of the agreement could grow to be an issue.

All three countries were originally aligned when it came to investments in energy, but Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, one of the leading candidates in Mexico's upcoming presidential election, has openly expressed his disapproval of the current energy reforms.

It will be key, Ambrose said, to solidify those energy frameworks before the election.

If he is elected, it could throw that industry's NAFTA future into question.

Though much of the focus will turn to Mexico, the U.S. trade team is still proving to be difficult in the eyes of Canadian negotiators.

A new wrinkle is the potential introduction of steel and aluminum tariffs if a deal isn't signed in principle by May 1.

"We're hoping the Americans are going to be pragmatic," Yussuff said.

He added there are some serious hurdles to a quick deal, but things are moving in "the right direction."

Canada will have to be prepared to respond if that May deadline passes, Ambrose added, along with preparing for the potential shifts that will come with elections.

"There is a lot of risk all of a sudden for Canadians… in ways that we might not have thought were there."

The next round of talks are expected to be held in Washington in April.

The twists and turns never end. In the ongoing quest to negotiate a new NAFTA, the U.S. has laid down its latest trade demand: an agreement IN PRINCIPLE must be signed by May 1st or Canada and Mexico could face those hefty tariffs on steel. The only problem? Canada's top negotiator says he has no idea what a deal "in principle" means. Or whether a deal is even achievable in the near future. Former interim leader of the Conservative Party, Rona Ambrose, and the President of the Canadian Labour Congress, Hassan Yussuf, two members of Canada's advisory council on NAFTA, join us 11:03

Jury selection process still needs work, minister says

Though many justice system reforms were included in new legislation tabled Thursday, the justice minister says there is still work to be done concerning jury selection. (Philippe Turgeon/CBC)

More changes to the jury selection process will be needed in the future, despite new legislation tabled this week, according to the justice minister.

Jody Wilson-Raybould tabled a major bill on Thursday to modernize Canada's criminal justice system and speed up court proceedings.

The changes included an end to peremptory challenges in jury selection, something which became a flashpoint during the trial of Gerald Stanley, who was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Indigenous man Colten Boushie.

The bill is "a response to the national discussion that ensued as a result of the Stanley discussion, but not just in response to that. It's in response to many reports that have been put forward," Wilson-Raybould told The House.

But it isn't the end of the effort needed to reform the jury selection process, she added.

"We have to continue to work with the provinces and territories."

Configuring jury pools falls to individual provinces and territories. However, the minister pointed out that there are still people, like Indigenous groups, not properly represented in the justice system.

The legislation also included eliminating preliminary inquiries except in the case of crimes that carry a life sentence; takes steps to address the over-representation of Indigenous persons in the criminal justice system; and addresses domestic, or "intimate partner" violence.

One element of justice system reform not mentioned in the legislation was mandatory minimum penalties.

Wilson-Raybould said she's not sure when that will be addressed, but it is important that when those changes come, they are "thoughtful, considered and will stand the test of time."

Nearly two years later, the Supreme Court's Jordan decision continues to be felt throughout the country's justice system. That's when the country's highest court set time limits. Provincial offences would have to be tried within 18 months of a charge, and in 30 months for a Superior Court charge. The result: hundreds of serious criminal cases including murders and sexual assaults were stayed because of delays. This week, the federal government introduced legislation to try to fix that. Canada's Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, joins us. 8:46

The Insiders: Canada's response to the populist wave

Can Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford translate his populist message into electoral success? (John Rieti/CBC)

Donald Trump may have ridden the populist wave straight to the White House, but how is Canada reacting when it comes to messages like his? 

It remains to be seen how Canadians will respond to party leaders like Ontario's Doug Ford and Quebec's François Legault pushing platforms that promise to return power to the average voter.

As the elections in both provinces near, we asked out expert panel, The Insiders, to weigh in on what populism in Canada looks like. 

Question: What makes Canada's populist wave different than other countries around the world?

David Herle: "I'm not sure that identity politics are at the core of what's driving the populist movements around the world. I think what's at the core of that is 30 to 40 years of an economy that's not working for average people. And over that period of time, I think that people have come to have some serious doubts about if the system is working for them, and are looking for people who are change agents to that system."  

Jaime Watt: "We're less divided along class lines than other places. Immigration, racial diversity are really points of national pride here. I think that universal healthcare and equalization payments are two fundamental parts of the structure of the Canadian system that decrease the kind of class system that you need for that kind of populism."

Kathleen Monk: "I think it's really important though, too, to back up a little bit. Populism is often thrown around in politics as a bit of a catch-all phrase. Sometimes it's almost foolishly broad, because there's a different kind of populism that my party, the NDP, had which was at its root arguing for people and farmers and people of different religious backgrounds, compared to the kind of populism we might see and the rhetoric of divisiveness you might see somebody like Doug Ford articulate.I think the challenge when you look at it on a left-right spectrum is the parties on the left actually need to articulate solutions, not just talk about and further people's alienation."

The Insiders -- Jaime Watt, Kathleen Monk and David Herle -- join us to discuss populism in Canada. 13:42

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