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Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
December 1, 2004
Opening Statement by Jennifer Stoddart,
Privacy Commissioner of Canada
(CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY)
Good morning. I appreciate the opportunity to appear again before this Committee, this time to discuss the Office of the Privacy Commissioner's Supplementary Estimates.
With me today are Assistant Commissioner Heather Black and other members of my staff to assist me in addressing any operational and financial questions.
Before addressing our Supplementary Estimates, I would like to thank the Committee for considering and recommending to the House the approval of $4.7M for implementation of the Privacy Act outlined in our Main Estimates under Vote 45.
This funding is important to carrying out investigations and compliance reviews under that Act and to address complaints from citizens and to respond to public inquiries.
As I mentioned at my last appearance before the Committee, I have set a clear goal of rebuilding the trust of Parliament and Canadians in our Office , most notably to lead the Office's institutional renewal in the areas of human resources, planning, budgeting and reporting. This renewal is a critical factor in our effectiveness and efficiency as an ombudsman dedicated to the promotion and protection of the privacy rights.
We have made slow, but steady progress towards that goal and in remedying many of the issues highlighted in past audits of the Office.
As mentioned at my last appearance, the OPC has been funded to protect data protection rights in accordance with two federal statutes.
The 2004-2005 Supplementary Estimates (Vote 45A) reflect a budget of $6.7M ($6M + .7M EBP) for work to be carried out under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). This funding sunsetted last year, was renewed for one year and is tabled with Parliament in Supplementary Estimates A.
The 2004-2005 Supplementary Estimates also reflect an operating budget carry forward of 5% of our Office's 2003-2004 Main Estimates. This amount is explained by the funds received in 2003-2004 to assist the Office is its institutional renewal efforts.
This budget has however not been substantially modified for years. As a result, in the last few years, our Office has spent the funds allocated for PIPEDA to cover off the requirements to manage complaints under the Privacy Act and to do minimal public education on privacy rights.
As well, the Office assumed additional responsibilities under the 2002 Treasury Board policy on Privacy Impact Assessments for which it has never been funded.
Although we are currently not experiencing a shortage of financial resources, due to the staffing challenges addressed during my appearance before this committee a couple of weeks ago, we do however foresee in the long-term that our existing funding will be inadequate to address growing privacy concerns under both privacy statutes.
For this reason, our Office must work in accordance with the Treasury Board Secretariat to determine our permanent level of funding. We will be doing an A-base review of the Office's operations which will also include a business process review of our investigations and inquiries functions which accounts for a significant portion of our resource utilization.
In 2005, we will make a submission for long-term funding. This is necessary to further strengthen our HR practices, and to reposition our core operations and functions to meet the ever increasing complexity of privacy issues in both the public sector and private sector.
At your request, we have provided the Committee with a copy of the Office's organizational chart and salary ranges.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact this chart is a work in progress as we are still finalizing the classification reviews of our positions and will also be undertaking a business process review of our key operations as mentioned earlier.
At the completion of these activities next year, we hope to provide the Committee with a chart that is more reflective of the organization.
Adequate funding is required for the Office to continue demonstrating value in dealing with complaints and audits and educating and informing Canadians about the importance of privacy.
I will be happy to take your questions.
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