Wednesday 19 June 1991

Broadcast and Recording Service

Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner



Chair: Duignan, Noel (Halton North NDP)

Vice-Chair: MacKinnon, Ellen (Lambton NDP)

Cooper, Mike (Kitchener-Wilmot NDP)

Frankford, Robert (Scarborough East NDP)

Jamison, Norm (Norfolk NDP)

Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South PC)

Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex NDP)

McClelland, Carman (Brampton North L)

Morin, Gilles E. (Carleton East L)

O'Neil, Hugh P. (Quinte L)

Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre NDP)

Villeneuve, Noble (S-D-G & East Grenville PC)


Chiarelli, Robert (Ottawa West L) for Mr Morin

Mills, Gordon (Durham East NDP) for Mrs Mathyssen

Clerk: Arnott, Douglas

Staff: Pond, David, Research Officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1539 in room 228.


The Chair: I would like to call the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly to order and ask Bill Somerville if he would step forward, please.

Mr H. O'Neil: There is no question of this. We are going to approve it anyway, are we not?

Mr Mills: Why do we not put the question?

Mr Somerville: I will answer a few questions if the members have any. I can just briefly say that the Legislative Assembly reaches a satellite transponder -- transponder is another word for transmitter -- 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. On occasion we have had applications before this committee to rent or lease the additional space we do not use.

Over the years this committee has developed guidelines and regulations, and I think you have a copy of those before you. The first application to use the transponder is from Wawatay Native Communications Society, which has been a long-time customer, using the transponder. They have been sharing the transponder access for the last three years. We have enjoyed giving them that. I think the committee has approved every application that has come before it for Wawatay.

This new application is for another use, of an audio subcarrier. On the satellite we have one video subcarrier and five audio subcarriers. We use two of the audio, one for English and one for French, and we do not use three. The application from Wawatay is to use one of the unused subcarriers.

The Chair: What is the reason for the application?

Mr Somerville: The process is that any applicant has to go through this routine of writing to me. Then I look at the pros and cons and see if they meet the guidelines and then inform the committee of such, and also inform TVOntario, which does our uplinking, and then we report to the committee. Then the committee considers these applications and approves or disapproves.

Mrs Marland: Bill, what you are saying is that these are channels that are not needed or not used?

Mr Somerville: These are three audio channels that we do not use at the moment.

Mrs Marland: So this will take two of three that we do not use?

Mr Somerville: It will take one of the three we do not use. That is the Wawatay application.

Mrs Marland: What is with the muscular dystrophy one?

Mr Somerville: The muscular dystrophy one is another application that is before us to use the video uplink on occasions when the Parliament does not plan to sit, which would be the Labour Day weekend.

The Chair: Sorry to interrupt here. Maybe just to clarify things, should we deal with one application at a time?

Mrs Marland: Yes, if they are separate. It would be nice to do that.

Mr Somerville: They are two separate applications.

Mrs Marland: Do we get paid for this?

Mr Somerville: No. We have never charged any fees for use of the satellite transponder.

Mrs Marland: Is it for a set time and then it is reviewed in case some other groups want a turn?

Mr Somerville: In each of the previous applications we have always kept a clause saying we can rescind this approval at any time. If the Parliament decides to sit or have committee meetings, then we could take the space back and use it.

Mrs Marland: Right. What if Parliament does not decide it needs to use it, but that it would be fair to give it to another group for a period?

Mr Somerville: It would be this committee's decision to do that.

Mrs Marland: How many channels are available totally?

Mr Somerville: We have one video channel that we use and five audio channels. We use the one video and two audio channels. There are three audio channels not used. We have never used them in all the time we have used the transponder.

Mrs Marland: This will leave two free?

Mr Somerville: Yes.

Mrs Marland: I think it is excellent that somebody is interested in using them. Especially when they are there and they exist, they should be used. But I think in fairness it should not be ad infinitum or for ever. I think it should be written in such a way that it is reviewed periodically in case all three spare channels are being used and there is a lineup of other people. Perhaps it could be written in such a way that if other requests that meet the criteria come along, we have the flexibility to give everyone a turn and then revert to the bottom of the list again; just to have that flexibility. Otherwise I would move approval if you need it.

Mr H. O'Neil: I had quite a bit of experience in the very short while I was Minister of Culture and Communications and on some of the other trips up north. I think it might help Bill if we were to have Lawrence Martin come forward and explain part of why it is so good that the native people can make use of this channel. Maybe Lawrence could give the committee some insight on some of the things the channel is used for.

Mrs Marland: That is fine. Let's do that, but do not misinterpret what I am saying.

Mr H. O'Neil: I am not interpreting.

Mrs Marland: I do not need to be convinced of the good purpose and the good use it will be put to. I am simply saying that at some time in the future we may have some other groups that may want the same opportunity and this group may be waiting. I think, in fairness to everybody, we should be good managers of a facility that is going to be put to good use by whomever.

Mr H. O'Neil: Margaret, I am not disagreeing with you. I am not questioning what you are saying whatsoever. I am just saying that there are many new members on this committee who may not be --

The Speaker: Order, please. I would just like to remind members that we are a very civil committee and if we could direct our comments through the Chair, it would be very helpful.

Mr H. O'Neil: I am sorry, Mr Chair, but I just want to be polite to Margaret too. If we could have Lawrence come forward, others, maybe Margaret and myself or the new members of the committee, might like to hear what it is they are doing with that channel, the great work they are doing in the north.

The Chair: Let's move on and hear Lawrence.

Mr Mills: I think the justice committee is a much more tough and rigid sort of place to be. I am not used to this.

The Chair: We have managed to survive for about a year.

Mrs Marland: We are good friends here.

The Chair: We have actually become good friends on this committee and we have managed to achieve a number of things in this committee that other committees have not. I would love to keep it that way.

The Chair: You are the executive director of the Wawatay Native Communications Society?

Mr Martin: Yes, that is right.

The Chair: Perhaps you want to explain to the committee a little bit about your application.

Mr Martin: Thank you very much for allowing me this time to come down here. It has been a long trip from Sioux Lookout. As Hugh O'Neil was saying, the uses we have for the technology in the north are very important, especially in the north because we do not have anything much up there. In terms of television programs, the only channel we have is TVOntario in the northern communities, and some places have the CBC, so you are talking about an area that does not have what you have here.

We have been running distance education courses, high school courses, on our present system, our audio system on a radio network. We want to expand that so that we have a dedicated audio subcarrier just for distance education for high school courses for the native communities in northern Ontario. So far this year we have done that with our existing radio system and we have over 400 students in 18 communities. We are just slowly expanding that.

The courses are province-approved high school courses. It also includes native language courses for Cree and Ojibway. This is basically the reason for it, so that we have a distance education system in place that can be utilized by the people in the north.

Mr Mills: I was just reading over your letter and there was what Margaret was saying, that we should build in some mechanism whereby it is not cast in stone, but I see here that you need to know the commitment that we make, because it is going to cost you quite a lot of money to make it all work. Without some sort of mechanism to ensure and guarantee or enshrine your future with this satellite, you would not be prepared to make that expenditure. Would that be correct?

Mr Martin: I do not think we would be able to. We just would not be able to afford something like that. Just to run the system at the community level is very expensive and to have staff able to do it is very expensive. Not to bring up many different issues, last year we were cut severely by the federal government in the funding for communications. We lost a third of our operations, a third of our staff, and now we are trying to do something at the same level we were doing before, so it has been pretty difficult to do things like that.

However, with this kind of system, we are working together with existing resources. This is how I like to look at it. It is a system that says, "Let's work together developing something that does some work for everybody."


Mr Mills: You would be looking for a sort of a guarantee that you would not go to the bottom of the list at some later date. You really would like to see this sort of cast in stone, if I may coin a phrase. Is that what you are after?

Mr Martin: Yes, most certainly, because we are talking about an education system and I would not want to see our students get cut off for any reason. It is nice to be fair, but education is a priority, especially in areas where you do not have much of anything else.

Mr Mills: Do your programs permit someone to gain some sort of certificate of education?

Mr Martin: Yes, these are high school courses.

Mr Mills: You can go right through?

Mr Martin: Yes.

Mr Mills: And without this, they would not be able to because of the distance getting to schools?

Mr Martin: Yes, and also, native education in the province as a whole has been really poor, especially in northern communities where we have a dropout rate of about 80% to 90%. So this is a way of being able to get the education into the communities, as opposed to trying to bring the kids out.

Mrs Marland: I appreciate what you have just said in answer to Gord's questions. If TVO were to expand its service network and its programming down the road which would save you doing the program you do, could you see another use you would have? In other words, if there were an agreement that you could use that channel for five years, and after that something else has been offered that replaces what you have to provide because it is not provided at the moment, would you see an alternative use that you might have, or would you see it being realistic to look at it five years from now and see where TVO is and where you are?

Mr Martin: I think it is important to look at what is there now and what could be there in five years' time. I know for sure that the schools are utilizing TVOntario courses as part of their everyday systems in the schools, in the communities. So they are utilizing TVOntario to the fullest extent they can. What we are providing high schools with, nobody else is providing at this time. If TVO or somebody else were to start looking at that, maybe that is something that can be looked at in the future. But right now, it is not there and education is really poor, as I say. Somebody has to do it and we are in a position to do it and you guys are in a position to provide that service.

Mrs Marland: Which I agree is excellent. I am simply suggesting that perhaps we should look at talking about it and reviewing the situation five years from now.

Mr Martin: Perhaps. It is good to review it anyway because of the changes in technology. You might be able to apply something even better five years from now.

Mrs Marland: Right, that is what I would suggest.

Mr Frankford: Could you elaborate a bit? Is there a school board or are there school boards or are you the only --

Mr Martin: Wawatay Native Communications Society has been around since 1974, providing communications services in the Cree and Ojibway languages. It is just this past year that we formed a partnership with the Northern Native Education Council. They are the ones who have the private school status to be able to offer high school courses, so we work as a partnership to provide this service to the people up north. Wawatay itself does not hold the private school status per se. Our distance education department is called Wahsa. Wahsa means far away, like sending stuff out far away. So they are the ones able to provide certificates and we hold the CRTC broadcasting licences.

Mr Frankford: What is that agency?

Mr Martin: Wahsa?

Mr Frankford: Yes.

Mr Martin: They are the Northern Native Education Council. They are responsible for all the education systems within 23 bands, and in this past year they formed this Wahsa, which is another program of theirs. But Wahsa only works on distance education material.

Mr Mills: I just thought of another question. In my riding there is the First Nations of Scugog, and I have spoken with them on occasion and they talk about education and language, opportunity to teach their own language. My question is, can you pick up the signal in southern Ontario with a normal TV, or do you have to have some elaborate satellite dish?

Mr Martin: You can pick it up with not so much an elaborate satellite dish, but it can be done technically, so people from around the province can be picking it up. As a matter of fact, when we do our TV programming on the only channel now, which is on Saturday at 1 to 2 and then Sunday from 6 to 7, we sometimes have contests on our TV program just to see where people are listening. We have callers from London, Ontario, from Oshawa, from Kingston, from Toronto. So people are watching the programs that we do from up there, and this past February we were visited by Bill here with the select committee and we did a live broadcast from Sioux Lookout, which we helped them to put together. So whatever we do up there, it gets viewed right across the province.

The Chair: Any further questions of the committee? Do we announce consent of the request? Carried.

Mr Martin: Thank you very much. Meegwetch.

Mr Somerville: I wondered if I should raise the technical question. If you wanted to receive this audio, you would not pick it up on TV. It is not the audio that goes with the TV signal. It is separate, like a radio station coming off the satellite. It is a very small dish. It is like they are broadcasting school radio programs in the purest sense.

Mr Mills: I see, thanks.

Mr H. O'Neil: But the TV part of it broadcast on the Saturday can be picked up, Bill?

Mr Somerville: Oh, yes. The committee previous to this approved, over the years, the use by Wawatay of the video portion of our satellite transponder for one hour on a Saturday and one hour on a Sunday. On other occasions we have given them extra time, up to six hours.

Mr Martin: Can I make one last comment? The TENO program -- television extension to northern Ontario -- is still not in the northern communities, so people are very anxious to see what you guys do here every day. But hopefully this summer it will be installed and give a glimpse of what goes on.

Mr Mills: They might become less than anxious.

Mr Martin: But right now they are anxious.

Mrs Marland: I do not think I would waste a channel on that.

The Chair: Thank you, Lawrence, for appearing here this afternoon.

Mr Somerville: The other application you have before you for the transponder is for the video and audio portion. This is the portion that normally beams up the Parliament. The application, as you see, is for the muscular dystrophy and we have a spokesman for the society here.

Ms Mullin: Would you like me to give you a brief run-down on what we are here for? As many of you are aware, the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Canada relies on the Jerry Lewis Labour Day Telethon for a large portion of our revenue every year. We do separate broadcasts in each province, and in the province of Ontario we have relied on the Global TV network for approximately the last 14 years to carry the telethon.

We have been informed this year that Global will not be carrying the telethon for us. We were made aware of this earlier this year and we have made numerous attempts to set up a network across the province to carry the show. Global reaches approximately 80% of the province, so anything smaller we set up, we are already eroding our base.

The telethon accounts for about 25% of the revenue that is raised in Ontario, over $1 million. It takes place from Sunday evening, this year 1 September to 2 September at 6:30 pm, which is Labour Day Monday. Hopefully most of you will not be in here on that day.

What we are looking for is support from the Legislative Assembly in order to allow us to broadcast the signal over the parliamentary channel so that anybody who is a cable subscriber will be able to pick up the telethon. We are still negotiating with a number of community channels to set up a broadcast on their community programming channels. Unfortunately, we are dealing with about six main companies and then each of their local operators, and it is very difficult to set up this system around the province. We are running into snags and we are running short of time.

People are used to finding the telethon on Global. In order to let them know where it is, we have to start promoting it now and let them know they have to change the channel. We would like to be able to give them something to change to and right now we are not able to do that, and that is why I am here today, to ask for your support on Labour Day weekend.


Mrs Marland: You certainly have my support, 100%. Is Global even willing to advertise that you are going to be on another channel for you?

Ms Mullin: They have agreed to help us promote the telethon. We have not, at this point, had anything to promote, so we have not negotiated with them what that will entail. But they have agreed that they would help us promote. My sense of that would be, obviously, some public-service time on their channel.

Mrs Marland: Bill, what is on this channel when we are not on, in August, for example?

Mr Somerville: Normally we have just information saying when the next parliamentary sitting will be and the proceedings. Come that weekend, I believe there will not be much happening. I think we are off the following week, so we would be just saying Parliament resumes on the day after the break, which would be 19 September, I believe.

Mrs Marland: So we could start promoting the telethon with a written blurb ahead of time.

Mr Somerville: That is possible, yes.

Mrs Marland: I think that would be a good idea. Even if we did that once an hour, it would break in from the other. The other is just a set background with the wording on it that we see all the time.

Mr Somerville: Yes, it is the usual.

Mrs Marland: I think that is a great idea. I would like to see us do that, Mr Chairman, to give the approval to muscular dystrophy for that weekend but also for the month of August to give them the promotion leading up to it, because it is true that people will look for it on Global. So I would make that suggestion. It means a little bit of work for you with brackets, I know.

Mr Somerville: It is not that we do not want to do the work, and it is very little work for us. I would have to clear that through TVO with Ross Mayot there. I do not know whether we are advertising, whether we are allowed to do that on our channel. We have a particular licence to broadcast the proceedings of the House and on occasions to do these other jobs, and we apply to the CRTC for a licence on these rare occasions. I think I would have to check that one through, but technically it is all possible.

Mrs Marland: Did we have to apply for permission for the previous application even though it is only on radio?

Mr Somerville: Yes. We always have to apply, and I would just add that extension to the application: can we promote and advise that this is going to happen on that date.

Mrs Marland: I hope we do that. Who owns the satellite?

Mr Somerville: Telesat Canada.

Mrs Marland: So we are just one of many customers.

Mr Somerville: Yes. We are one of 28 customers on that particular satellite.

Mrs Marland: How much does that cost us?

Mr Somerville: It costs $1.2 million per year.

Mrs Marland: And TVO is another one of the 28 customers?

Mr Somerville: Yes. TVO is two customers; it has an English channel and a French channel, so it is considered two customers.

Mrs Marland: Interesting. Thank you.

Mr Owens: I guess Margaret stole my thunder. I wanted to move the motion that we support this request, but it sounds as if Margaret has done that. I fully support your request and certainly hope that whatever we can do as the Legislative Assembly to assist in the promotion of this endeavour, we will do, licence requirements notwithstanding.

The Chair: Before we move the motion I think there is one further question.

Mr Mills: I am sort of a stickler for regulations, and I have to believe that the no-advertising idea on that channel is very pertinent to this, to the way we run it as advertising. I see that, perhaps contrary to what Margaret says, we could set a precedent: Someone else comes in here and says, "How about giving us a plug here and there?" I do not think we should be a party to that.

I think the onus would be on Global, which ceased to carry that, to let everybody know long and hard and well before that in fact it is going to be carried on that channel. Perhaps they could advertise even on Rogers, where they run out the channels and what is going to be on. That could be a part of it.

I think there is a certain amount of dignity to that parliamentary channel and I do not like to see it become any form of advertisement. Maybe I am on my own here, but that is the way I feel and I would like to test that in this committee, that we do not go to TVOntario and seek permission, that we stick by the format and the rules and regulations we have. We would ask the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the cable companies to advertise the fact that they have decided that this channel is where it is going to be on such-and-such a date. I would like to try that eventually.

Mrs Marland: We do not have to go to TVO to ask permission. We get the permission, I gather, from the CRTC. That is the first thing. The second thing is, I do not think to promote a telethon for muscular dystrophy would be taking away the dignity from that channel. We are not selling Tide or Miss Vickie's Potato Chips.

I agree with what you are saying, Gord, if we are dealing with a commercial use in the sense that we know commercials. But I think if we agree with the use for the telethon for muscular dystrophy, then why would we disagree with trying to make that as successful as possible? We are not asking for an audio; we are simply asking for a printout.

The reason it is more valuable to muscular dystrophy, I would assume, on the channel -- and I am quite sure Global will not give air time saying: "It's not with us folks this year. Turn to the parliamentary channel" -- is that a lot of people do not know where the parliamentary channel is or what it is. If they are flipping and they see that, then they know that the telethon is coming.

I think we should just leave it up to the CRTC. If they give us permission to do the lead-in promotion, we are in. That is great for muscular dystrophy. If they say no, then they are dealing with it on the commercial licence basis.

Ms Mullin: I think there is a difference between advertising and public service announcements. Perhaps using the word "advertising" does make it sound like tossing something on the street corner. A public service announcement is just that, to inform the public of what is happening. That would be my sense of the difference between advertising and public service announcements that has been suggested.

Mr Mills: Maybe I used a poor choice of words. I do not want to belittle what you are doing, but I am just frightened of some sort of precedent being set, so that channel then becomes a vehicle. Supposing someone comes in and says, "Okay, we're promoting a heart run." That is like motherhood. We say, "Why don't we get them to say on the parliamentary channel that on such-and-such a date you can go to so-and-so?" That is public, that is good. I am just wondering about setting a precedent. Could it be construed that this channel is available for good news messages?

The Chair: I was wondering, before we proceed with a debate on this particular point, whether Bill could get some clarification on this issue from the CRTC. We should be able to do it by this time next week.

Mr Somerville: I will ask the question. I do not know whether I will get a response.

Just to clarify the record, Mrs Marland mentioned that we do not have to go through TVO. TVO actually does hold the licence for the Ontario parliamentary channel. When I say I would go, I would go via TVO to the CRTC. I would advise TVO of this committee's wishes and then TVO, together with myself and the muscular dystrophy people, will approach the CRTC. So it is a three-way approach to get permission from the CRTC to do what you are suggesting. I will work on it as fast as I can. Ross, would you like to add anything here?


Mr Mayot: Hello. I am Ross Mayot from TVOntario. I would find no objection whatsoever to approaching the CRTC on this to get its judgement on whether it is perceived to be advertising or not. As the licensee, I am aware that they have put a proscription on any kind of promotional advertising materials, but I take the point of it being a public service announcement. I think I would be very pleased to pursue that.

If I may add, the notion of a precedent in terms of other groups wanting to use the channel when it is not in service by the House as a promotional vehicle I think is worth noting. For instance, might we promote Wawatay on the channel on a regular basis, and other groups for similar reasons. I only raise it for the committee's consideration. It is not something that TVO would have any previous position on.

The Chair: Is it possible that you could have some information back to this committee by this time next week?

Mr Mayot: Yes, sir.

The Chair: Maybe at that time we could settle that part of the debate, whether our particular parliamentary channel could or could not do promotional material.

Mrs Marland: I think what we should do is agree as a committee on how we would like to see it proceed and then leave it in their hands, because if TVO can give Bill and MD permission tomorrow, they can get on with their publicity. Another week for them, considering we are at the end of June already, is very critical. So I think if we can have a consensus of the committee that we agree that they do it, that they have it the Labour Day weekend, and if it meets CRTC approval and TVO can support us, that they just proceed. I apologize, I was wrong about TVO.

Mr O'Neil: I am sorry, I had to go out for a few minutes. This may already have been discussed. The cause you work for is a great one and the weekend you put on for raising funds is for a great use. But has the committee discussed while I was out all the other organizations that are going to come to us too, wanting to use part of that channel, not only for other fund-raisers but for things that may go on right across the province, everything?

Mr Owens: I would like to say something, and it may be inappropriate, but I will say it anyway. Whether it is MD or the heart and stroke fund or whatever organization, I think they clearly have a right as taxpayers who have already supported this station and support this building to come and put whatever kind of blurb they feel is appropriate for their particular organization. I think we are setting a terrible precedent here by feeling that we have the right to exclude people from public broadcasting outlets. I think we should take Margaret's suggestion and move with it. We are the committee that has the authority to decide. We should decide what we want to do and move forward. If it complies with CRTC regulations, then we go with it, but I do not think we can --

Mr H. O'Neil: It was not my intention to exclude anyone. That was not the reason I asked.

Mr Owens: Then why are we concerned about precedents, about who is going to come?

The Chair: Order, please. Could we have the discussion through the Chair?

Mr H. O'Neil: What I am saying is that where we have an excellent organization here, we maybe have another 200 or 300 right across the province that might also want to use the channel. As you say, if the channel is not being used, maybe it is a good idea to do it. But in that case, I think we would look to TVOntario to say what we would have to do in the way of scheduling, what sort of rules and regulations we would have to set in place as to what charitable organizations could use it. It is a precedent we would be setting. Again, as I say, if the channel is not being used, maybe it is good to have all these organizations be able to use it and schedule them in. So I am not, maybe as you are inferring, against this, but I think there are other things you have to look into and organize to make sure you do not get into some problems too.

Mrs Marland: I agree totally with Steve's comments. If that channel can be used more for these kinds of purposes, all we do is develop criteria. If the application meets the criteria, then we go ahead, the same way the decision was made with the previous application for Wawatay Native Communications Society. It is as big a priority to find a cure for any of the major diseases in this world as it is to educate any particular group of people. Those are both priorities for all of us: education and health. In using what exists for any of these uses, I think we are doing the right thing, for an investment, as Steve so eloquently said, has already been made. So let's do that: develop criteria, get permission from CRTC, and we will deal with TVO.

Mr Chiarelli: I do not want to get into the details of guidelines and how you would set the guidelines and the qualifications today. But neither do I think we should get into a situation similar to trying to define what a tourism exemption is. We have had governments now for 15 years trying to define it and always subject to criticism for one reason or another. It is difficult to define. There is a whole range of non-profit groups, ranging from the Church of Scientology to ones that are very well known in the community, good reputation, etc. It may be easy to say we will develop guidelines. But when you come down to the details of the guidelines, it may be very difficult to do that definition. I would certainly think that before the matter is dealt with in principle and approval for the concept, etc -- you go down the road so far, and you are stuck with trying to define guidelines. You find out down the road, after a lot of time and effort, that really it is almost impossible to define the guidelines. I think there should be something working in parallel here, in terms of technical feasibility and approval, but also the nature of the qualifications and the guidelines, without defining them with particularity, should be addressed now, because I think it may be a very serious problem. It may be like trying to define a tourism exemption.

Mr Somerville: I would just draw the members to the regulations and procedures. Although it was developed by another Legislative Assembly committee and adopted in January 1989 -- and this committee has slightly different opinions and views than they had, and they laboured long and hard over trying to get these guidelines and regulations together, for many of the points Mr Chiarelli just said, and it is difficult to say no -- in co-operation with myself and TVO and the committee, these guidelines were developed. As a case in point, today I think you are going to approve the muscular dystrophy application. These were exceptions. They do not quite meet the guidelines and it is at the committee's discretion whether they are approved or disapproved. But as I said, the previous committee worked quite a long time to develop these guidelines and you may want to consider them.

Mrs Marland: Mr Chairman, I would like to, if you want a formal motion --

The Chair: I think there are a couple more comments here from the witnesses.

Mrs Marland: Do you want a motion? I would just move that the request of the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Canada to use our parliamentary channel over the weekend of 1 and 2 September 1991 be supported by this committee and, further to that, for the month of August some written announcement appear on that channel in advance of the weekend telethon to notify the public, understanding that the decision will have to be made between Mr Somerville and TVO and the CRTC.


The Chair: There is a motion on the floor.

Mr Mills: Does that mean that if we were to accept this motion we are going to disregard the guidelines?

Mrs Marland: It is only here today because it is an exception to the guidelines, I understand. Is that right?

Mr Mills: This is what I am wondering, because there are all kinds of criteria down here that call for the on-air credit to the assistance by the Legislative Assembly, and some sort of insurance to indemnify us of legal liabilities. Is that part of this? I am just wondering, do we set a precedent and say, "Yes, we can do that, and this we disregard"?

The Chair: Maybe we can ask the witnesses to clarify these points.

Mr Somerville: They have to meet all these criteria. The only reason they do not meet the guidelines is as a user, but they still have to have the insurance, the identity, the CRTC approval. They have to meet all these criteria.

Ms Mullin: We have no problem with the criteria. I wanted to add, as well, that we are coming to you in a desperate move right now for a one-time event.

The Chair: Is there further discussion to the motion?

Mr H. O'Neil: The motion Margaret makes would make us appear like we were against motherhood. We know the wonderful work you do and everything else, and I hope that in raising this you do not take it that, as I say, we would be against the organization or anything else. It is the ramifications that could be down the road, that we could have thousands of groups wanting to come in and to use that channel for fund-raising events, and although most of them are very important and as worthwhile as yours, a lot of them are -- but, as I say, Margaret has made a motion. I do not know. Do you say they fit within the guidelines?

Mr Somerville: All but as a user, but they will meet all the criteria for getting on the channel.

Mr H. O'Neil: Have we ever done this before?

Mr Somerville: Yes, on two occasions: the Whipper Billy Watson telethon on 6 December 1987 and the Rotel telethon on 8 October 1989.

Mr H. O'Neil: Actually, the precedent has been set; it has been used. So I would say your organization is as important as any --

The Chair: Ross, do you want to respond?

Mr Mayot: If I may. The reason for the guidelines, in furtherance to what Bill said, was to ensure that those applicants that did not fill the ongoing and educational criteria could appear and then the committee could decide. TVOntario is completely in agreement with that. The reason for the guidelines was to ensure that the Ontario Legislative Assembly channel did not become the fund-raising channel or the advocacy channel for various groups. So it was to allow this committee to determine on a case-by-case basis whether it was satisfied with the applicant.

Mr Chiarelli: I have serious, serious trouble with this particular issue. It is a matter of equity; it is a matter of fairness. If there is a group that subjectively and objectively has a good cause -- and I question, first of all, how objective we can be without strict guidelines and qualifications. What is to stop the Citizens' Coalition group tomorrow from coming and saying, "Our cause is just as worthy as muscular dystrophy; we are interested in saving the economy of the country"? What about Pollution Probe or Friends of the Earth? They have very good causes, but they talk very frequently on political issues. They are talking social issues. They are talking technical social issues, in many respects, and if tomorrow we received an application from the Citizens' Coalition group or Pollution Probe, what criteria would we apply and how would we deal with it objectively? Is there an answer to that question?

Mr Somerville: If you are asking me the question, no. I would bring it back to the committee and let you decide.

Mr Chiarelli: I will put the question out for general debate and discussion. It is very serious. It seems clear-cut when you are dealing with this particular applicant, I will agree with that. But I am simply asking if tomorrow, because of this approval, we receive an application from either Pollution Probe or the Citizen's Coalition and we have to deal with it objectively, what will we be saying and why?

Mrs Marland: Can I answer, Mr Chairman?

The Chair: Certainly, through the Chair, Margaret.

Mrs Marland: Through the Chair I will answer Mr Chiarelli's question. My motion before the committee at this moment deals only with this application, and we have had it made very clear to us through Mr Somerville that the reason this one is before us is that it is an exception. It is here for our approval as an exception. If there are other exceptions, they are not automatically going to be approved because this one was. They would also have to come to this committee. I would be hopeful, frankly, that Mr Mayot is here today because TVO supports it. Am I right?

Mr Mayot: Mr Chair, we are here to execute the criteria and the wishes of the committee which has determined that any of the applicants are in its mind worthy of the exemption.

Mrs Marland: Good. That answers the question. Thank you.

The Chair: Further discussion on the motion? Hearing none, all those in favour of the motion? All those against? I believe it is carried unanimously.

Motion agreed to.

The Chair: Since a number of questions are raised here in committee today about this whole issue, maybe some time -- obviously we do not have time in this session, but in the fall session -- the whole issue of regulations and procedures and everything else could be revisited by this committee.

Mr H. O'Neil: Mr Chairman, I think that would be an excellent idea, because where do you draw the line? Easter Seals or things like that -- they are not using it now -- maybe should be using it. But I think we have to have some very strong guidelines and we have to look at them. So I would second what you are --

The Chair: Thank you. So the committee will revisit this issue in the fall.

Thank you very much for coming along this afternoon. Thank you.

Mrs Marland: Good luck.

The Chair: Good luck.


The Chair: Could we have the next set of witnesses, please. I understand, from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Mr Wright.

Mrs Marland: Mr Chairman, as our next witnesses are coming, I want to give them my personal apologies for the fact that I have to leave. I had a number of questions I wanted to ask you, but I have to leave for George McCague's retirement and it is all the way up in Alliston. I am sure this will not be the last time we will be together. I know it is the second time. I hope you will understand why I have to leave.

The Chair: I was wondering, if the committee agrees, that as Margaret has to leave she has a couple of minutes to ask some of the questions.

Mr H. O'Neil: No, I do not think so. She has been hard to get along with today.

Mr Chiarelli: You are asking her to do something impossible. Margaret cannot restrict herself to two minutes.

The Chair: A couple of quick questions, Margaret, and maybe we can get a couple of quick answers for you.

Mr H. O'Neil: Let her take as long as she wants.

Mrs Marland: Some time before we get together again, are you going to be in a position to bring forward your suggestions that you may have discussed since the last time we were together about what things we can do to improve the function of the act through your office? We actually have been hearing that there are exemptions that there should not be and we are also hearing that there should be exemptions added. Because you are the people who have firsthand experience, will you be in a position to help us with that?

Mr Wright: We can certainly help you to a degree, and I believe in our initial report, in the first volume of that report, we set out our views on changes that could be made to the legislation.

Mrs Marland: Yes, you did.


Mr Wright: I am not sure just how much more we can do as an office, as opposed to simply presenting that to the committee, making it available in terms of our views of the legislation and allowing the committee to look at that and make its own decision on the merits. I realize the difficulty. We clearly possess expertise in this area. There is no question about it. Something we have been addressing over some period of time and very carefully is just what our role should be. We certainly do not want to --

Mrs Marland: The role should be in the review?

Mr Wright: Exactly. We do not want to presume to be in fact trying to persuade the committee as to a particular direction. Other than that, we are certainly prepared to offer whatever we can by way of things that we feel will work, things we feel will not work, and what we see as needs that will in fact result in improvements to the legislation. That much I can certainly offer to you.

Mrs Marland: That is excellent. I am sure you have had somebody on your staff review the transcripts of our Hansard where the concerns of other parties have been raised.

Mr Wright: Yes.

Mrs Marland: It was on that basis that I wondered if you might have more to add to your initial presentation. I know your initial presentation was excellent. It was very comprehensive.

Mr Wright: In fact, in advance of appearing today we tried to do a second report which looked at various of the recommendations. We selected some, though I think it fair to say the ones we felt perhaps would be worthy of further consideration by the committee, and we tried to give our own views to some extent of those recommendations as well as the impact that some of those recommendations would have on the legislation, either positive or negative. I think the report you have before you this afternoon goes a fair way towards the sort of things you are suggesting.

Mrs Marland: I think we just got this, though, did we not? We just got it now.

Mr H. O'Neil: What is our timing on this? Are we supposed to have this report completed by the end of this year?

The Chair: Yes. I understand 12 December of this year.

Mr H. O'Neil: I suppose this kind of question is going to depend a lot upon ourselves, but let's face it, you and your staff are going to be the ones who are going to be doing most of the work and suggestions along with what we have heard and seen. Is it realistic, the end of the year?

Mr Wright: Again, I think if you look at the legislation itself, it talks about the obligations of the committee and when it has to report. My understanding is that the review has to be done within one year. That is in fact a requirement of the act. I suppose that in a way drives the reality of what can happen here. As far as our participation is concerned, we certainly recognize the importance of this review and want to participate as actively as we can and would certainly make it a priority as far as what we could do to co-operate with the committee.

Mr H. O'Neil: In other words, Mr Chairman, we are going to finish up next week, then are we sitting for a week here in the summer?

The Chair: We actually requested two weeks during the summer.

Mr H. O'Neil: That has not been approved, has it?

The Chair: Unless the clerk has heard back from the leaders, at this point we do not know.

Mr H. O'Neil: In fact, when I looked at the schedule, it does not even appear as if we are having one week.

The Chair: Well, they have to grant one week for the members who are travelling to Orlando. However, we requested an additional week plus a possible extra week as well, and we have not heard back yet on our request. We were hoping to begin to look at doing an interim report to the House on the issues we have found, and then spend the summertime focusing on those various areas in more detail and inviting more public comment on those particular areas over the summer.

Mrs Marland: Since Mr Wright is going to read his comments and I have a copy of them, I will able to -- I have just written a note. I do not do this on everything that comes from a committee, but I have written a note on this that I must read this. So I will read it, and I will look forward to our getting together again in September.

The Chair: We have one more week next week, Margaret.

Mrs Marland: No, I do not mean as a committee. I mean with the commissioner's office.

The Chair: Hopefully so. Commissioner, thank you. Maybe you could introduce both yourself and your other members.

Mr Wright: I will. Thank you, Mr Chair. Yes, my name is Tom Wright. I am Ontario's second Information and Privacy Commissioner and was appointed in April of this year. To my right is Ann Cavoukian. Ann is the assistant commissioner of privacy. To my left is Tom Mitchinson. Tom is the executive director of our office. The three of us form the executive committee of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. As well, in the audience this afternoon is John Eichmanis. John is the senior policy adviser with our office. He may be familiar to some of you around the Legislature. John has worked very hard in terms of preparing the report that we presented to you most recently.

This is my first chance to appear before you as commissioner and to meet with you as members of the Legislative Assembly. I thought I would begin by making a few general comments in terms of the role of the information and privacy commission. I want to indicate that my goal is to continue the good work initiated by the first commissioner and, where I can, to build upon it. As I begin my term as commissioner, I recognize that the IPC will need to continue to evolve and learn over time. However, I am confident that with the assistance of excellent staff we will be able to meet whatever challenges lie ahead.

Members may recall that the last time we appeared before the committee, we presented you with a comprehensive report outlining our views on how the act is working in general, our suggestions for changes to specific provisions of the act and our concerns regarding several significant privacy issues. I would like to repeat that I think the act is working reasonably well. However, this is not to say that amendments should not be made to refine and improve the statute. No piece of legislation is perfect and certainly this act is no exception.

As we have referred to already this afternoon, you have received our report regarding various written submissions that were presented to you as part of your three-year review. I hope you will appreciate that this report was difficult to write. We had to be mindful of the fact that our views are no more significant than any other presenter's. At the same time, as I have indicated already, we understand that the committee wanted us to provide our comments to assist in its deliberations.

Accordingly, we have provided you with our perspective on the submission as well as with additional information on particular points. We have refrained from making final judgements about these submissions, recognizing that the committee will want to draw its own conclusions as to the merits of the recommendations. However, we have attempted to highlight significant or complex recommendations, as well as those that we think the committee should study further.

On the whole, our view is that the submissions received by the committee were thoughtful and represented genuine attempts to improve the act. While I recognize that I was asked here today, at least in part, to respond to your specific questions, there are several points I would like to briefly discuss beforehand.

I understand that you are contemplating writing an interim report that may include observations on your review to date and possibly some recommendations. If that is the case, I would like to draw the committee's attention to a recommendation that we believe should be addressed now. It is not directly related to the act and action would not entail any amendments or revisions. I am referring to the recommendation on computer matching in our report entitled Privacy and Computer Matching.

Permit me to say a few words about why we think this issue is important and why our recommendation should be carefully considered. At this time, computer matching does not occupy a major place on the public agenda, yet despite the fact that it does not have a high profile in Ontario, it does command considerable attention worldwide and is of particular concern to those who are given the responsibility of overseeing privacy issues.

As described to the committee when we last appeared before it, matching involves the computerized linkage of automated record systems or databases to identify similarities or differences in information. What concerns us is the fact that without adequate safeguards computer matching has a serious potential for becoming a mechanism for the invasion of individual privacy.

Mr Cooper: Can I call for a brief recess until we get a quorum in here? I think it is important that we should have more people in here right now.

The Chair: Recognizing we do not have a quorum here in committee, I will order a five-minute recess to locate the members.

The committee recessed at 1640.


The Chair: I recognize a quorum.

Mr H. O'Neil: Mr Chairman, I have a bit of a problem. I have to leave for Stratford at 5 o'clock and Carman McClelland, who is a member of the committee, is waiting for Mr Conway to finish so he can speak, and Mr Chiarelli had to fly back to Ottawa for something. As was mentioned by Mr Cooper, it is very important.

I do not know how you propose to handle it. I would like to hear as much as we can of it. I certainly have a copy of the presentation plus the other information. There is some good stuff in there which has been given to us to have a look at for the next couple of weeks, instead of the next month. I do not feel that because some of us have to leave it is a slight, because I for one appreciate the work you are doing and I know you have had some of your staff here through all decisions.

The Chair: Mr Cooper was wondering if maybe we could -- I know you have to leave by 5 -- try to get your presentation this afternoon, and if possible you could come back next week and continue where you left off for any answers to questions. I know you were to go into closed session to discuss the format and content and possible recommendations in the interim report, and there is no way we can do that this afternoon. Is that the kind of direction the committee wishes to proceed in? Okay, you may continue, Mr Wright.

Mr Wright: Just to get back on pace here, I was talking a little bit about a few of the issues that from our point of view we would encourage the committee to consider in terms of its interim report.

I was talking about computer matching and I am on page 4 of the presentation. I was saying that we believe that a determination on how this issue should be dealt with from a policy point of view can only be reached if there is some understanding of how extensively this practice is used in the Ontario public sector, and some identification of the purposes for which computer matching is used. To date, such an understanding is lacking.

This is why the IPC recommended that a task force undertake an inventory of computer matching within the Ontario government and make recommendations on how this practice should be controlled so that it does not lead to large-scale invasions of privacy. Were a recommendation of this kind adopted by this committee and ultimately by the government, it would put Ontario in the forefront with those jurisdictions that recognize the serious consequences for privacy of widespread use of unregulated computer matching.

My second point this afternoon, which I would like to address, is one that came up in several of the submissions relating to access to records by researchers. It was pointed out that for all but two of the exemptions there are no time limits on how long exemptions may be applied. This matter becomes problematic for researchers when they go to the archives of Ontario and find that archival and historical records have to be vetted to determine whether an exemption applies, no matter how long it has been in the archives.

I should point out to you that the Williams commission thought archival material should be recognized as such and treated differently from contemporary records. The commission recommended that once a record is transferred to the archives, the confidentiality period set by the originating institution should be observed.

I will give you an example of that. If a ministry sent its administrative records to the archives and designated a 10-year confidentiality period, the Williams commission envisaged that after 10 years, those records would be publicly available. The act's exemptions, and most importantly, apart from those relating to personal information, would no longer apply after the 10-year period.

It would appear that what the Williams commission conceived is not reflected in the present act. The Information and Privacy Commissioner believes that access under the act to archival or historical records poses unique problems that should be examined and addressed by the committee.

Finally, I would like to take a moment and talk a little bit more about the information and privacy commission itself and where it is going in the future. As you can appreciate, the initial years of the commission have focused on creating the organization, recruiting staff, establishing practices and procedures, ensuring that appeals are processed properly and determining the form and scope of our compliance investigations. In short, we have been somewhat inward-looking and I believe understandably so.

However, as the IPC moves forward, I believe we must look beyond the confines of the agency's day-to-day operation. We will continue to ensure that the operations of the IPC are run effectively and efficiently, and our major challenge will be the integration of the Municipal Act within our present operations.

We want to turn our attention to communicating with the general public. I believe the act speaks to the citizens of Ontario in their dual nature as public and private persons. In their public role, Ontario residents should be aware of and know how to use the act in order to learn more about their government and to participate more actively in the public issues of the day. The freedom-of-information dimension of the act seeks to address and encourage the public role of Ontario citizens. It is our job to carry that message to the public, and I hope I can count on your support in this endeavour.

Turning now to this private capacity, Ontario residents are given assurances by the act that their privacy and particularly their informational privacy will be protected. Here the IPC's challenge will be twofold, to oversee institutions' compliance with the act and to respond with advice on how privacy can be protected in an age of privacy-intrusive technology. On this latter issue, we will be producing policy papers on a wide range of privacy issues that we hope will inform the public, the members of the Legislature and the government and provide some policy direction on how these issues should be addressed.

I would like to close by mentioning the fact that we have had numerous discussions with the Ministry of Health on the need for legislation to protect the personal information collected and used in the medical setting. While the ministry has committed itself to introducing a health care privacy act, it would appear that this project is now only one of many priorities for the ministry. The IPC regrets this and hopes the ministry will proceed with this legislation soon. If there is anything the committee could do to remind the ministry of its commitment, we would certainly appreciate it.

In closing, I thank you for the opportunity to address the committee. I look at the clock and I see that there is very little time if you are moving to a 5 o'clock adjournment. I certainly am more than willing to make myself available if the committee would wish me to reattend next week.

The Chair: Is it the wish of the committee to adjourn at this point and ask the commissioner and the assistant commissioner to appear back in front of the committee next week to answer questions on this report and other issues?

Mr Mills: Margaret said she would read it, and I am sure I would recommend that other people on the committee read it before they come back.

The Chair: We would appreciate your coming back next week.

Mr Wright: Is that on Wednesday again?

The Chair: Wednesday at 3:30. The committee stands adjourned until next Wednesday at 3:30.

The committee adjourned at 1655.