Minister Gravelle was questioned by PC MPP Laurie Scott over privacy of information

Michael GravelleQUEEN’S PARK – Minister of Natural Resources Michael Gravelle was questioned once again by PC MPP Laurie Scott over the issue of privacy of information. At issue is the information that Ontarians submit for their Outdoors Cards which is processed in the United States.

Here is the exchange from Question Period in the Ontario Legislature:

PROTECTION OF PRIVACY

Ms. Laurie Scott: My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Minister, you have maintained on a number of occasions that the personal information of Ontario residents who have purchased licences through your ministry is safe and secure. You failed to comprehend the scope of security legislation in the United States. As far back as August 2004, an assessment of the US Patriot Act by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada states, “Once personal information about Canadians is transferred outside Canada … the laws of the country to which the information has been transferred will apply. Those laws will determine when government agencies such as the police, security and tax authorities can obtain access to that personal information.”

Minister, do you now admit that what you told this House about the protection of this information was incorrect?

Hon. Michael Gravelle: I appreciate the question very much. Certainly, as I have stated on more than one occasion, we take the privacy issue very, very seriously. We’ve actually had an opportunity, as well, to speak recently with the company that was awarded the contract. They understand and continue to stand by the requirements that, indeed, they protect the privacy of people. They do not disclose indirectly or directly any information or collect any information that could lead to the loss of privacy for the people of the province of Ontario. They’re respecting the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

What I can tell you is that this is an issue we take very seriously, one that we have had an opportunity to speak about with the company. That, of course, was built into the contract with the company at the very beginning of this process, once they were awarded the contract. We continue to feel confident that, indeed, the privacy of Ontarians is safe—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Supplementary?

Ms. Laurie Scott: Well, Minister, I know that you’ve talked to the company, as you’ve said, but, really, have you talked to the government of the United States? That is where the problem lies.

Minister, when MNR awarded this contract to an American company, your ministry officials were either very sloppy in their research on this subject or you and your staff made the conscious decision that you didn’t care about protecting the personal information of Ontario citizens. Which was it: incompetence or indifference?

Hon. Michael Gravelle: Mr. Speaker, again, the contract was awarded after a fair, competitive process. Active Outdoors was awarded the contract based on that fair, competitive process. We were very, very clear at the very beginning of the process, in the building of the contract with the company, how important the issue of privacy was. It was built in to make sure that we protected the privacy of Ontarians. It was built in to make sure that the company recognized that the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in Ontario should prevail. Indeed, the company has acknowledged and more than accepted that. They’ve made it clear to us that they will continue do that.

Again, there will be no opportunity for the company—and they will not be directly or indirectly collecting or gathering data related to Ontarians. They certainly cannot use that information without in any way contacting our ministry, and there has been no—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

Hon. Michael Gravelle: —request made so far. We are confident that, indeed, the protection—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. The member is reminded that when I say thank you, you are finished.

New question.