Appearance before the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance on 2013-2014 Main Estimates

February 25, 2014
Ottawa, Ontario

Opening Statement by Chantal Bernier
Interim Privacy Commissioner of Canada

(Check against delivery)


Introduction

Mr Chair, honourable Committee members, good day.

I would like to begin by thanking you for your interest in the operations of our Office. 

I am pleased to share with you today our main estimates for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.  I will also be addressing a number of key priorities our Office set during this year.

To assist me in this task, I have with me today Daniel Nadeau, our Chief Financial Officer and Director General of Corporate Services, as well as Maureen Munhall, Director of Human Resources.

Planned spending by program area

In 2013-2014, our Office expected to spend $29.1 million to achieve the results set out for our four core program activities.

Of that amount, we earmarked just over $10.2 million for Internal Services. This amount includes one-time costs associated with the relocation of our headquarters to Gatineau, which includes an interest-free loan of $4.1 million to be reimbursed over the next 15 years.

In keeping with the spirit and intent of the Deficit Reduction Action Plan, our Office reduced its expenditures by 5%, or $1.1 million per year, from its total budget between now and 2014-2015.

A dual transition period

This year, our Office is in the midst of two important transitions — my appointment as Interim Commissioner while awaiting the appointment of a new Commissioner, and our relocation to new offices in Gatineau. 

I am honouring the excellent work of my predecessor by ensuring the maintenance of that level of excellence and by providing a seamless transition through both effective collaboration and clear communication. 

You have already seen from our highly publicized investigation of Google in relation to online behavioural advertising, released on January 15, as well as from the Special Report to Parliament we tabled on January 28 on oversight for the Canadian intelligence community, that we are pursuing our work for Canadians with unwavering dedication, even through transition. 

The results of our investigation into the loss of a hard drive at ESDC will also be tabled in Parliament shortly to ensure full transparency. 

And behind these highly-publicized projects are, of course, our replies to over 10,000 queries from Canadians every year, our conduct of nearly 2000 investigations in both the public and private sectors, our PIA reviews of every major federal initiative having impact on Canadians’ personal information as well as our audits, policy guidance for the public and private sectors and research.

All this comes from a group of employees who continue to provide excellent service during this time of transition.

Serving organizations and the public

One of our Office’s key objectives is to raise awareness of privacy issues among all Canadians, as well as public and private organizations.

One of our biggest challenges in serving Canadians is maintaining excellence, even as our workload is growing in both volume and complexity without an increase in resources. To sustain the quality of our services in this context, we have undertaken the following concrete initiatives:

  • modernizing our investigative processes so that we can implement an approach proportional to the issues at hand and, thus, gain efficiency;
  • adopting a calibrated approach to data breaches, where the extent and breadth of the measures we use will depend on the severity of the incident;
  • increasing the use of early resolution of complaints to ensure a timely result that is to everyone’s satisfaction; and
  • prioritizing reviews of privacy impact assessments to ensure the greatest risks to privacy receive the greatest attention.

Conclusion

Mr. Chair, I would like to close by summarizing the key points about the fiscal year that is wrapping up.

First, our expenditures increased over the last year because of the costs related to the move of our office.

Second, as this year of transition continues to unfold, my team and I are committed to ensuring that we maintain our high level of excellence and dedication to serving Canadians.

Third, we are continuing to modernize our processes to ensure the best service to Canadians despite our increasing workload in a time of limited resources.

I am now ready to answer your questions.

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