The federal government has announced its nominee for the next privacy commissioner of Canada – however, there has been a fair amount of dissension surrounding its choice.
Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the government was nominating Daniel Therrien, who is currently the assistant deputy attorney-general for public safety. His job involves working with government data-monitoring programs, writes Josh Wingrove for the Globe and Mail. However, if Parliament approves Therrien in the role of privacy commissioner, he will have to oversee the programs. He has also never worked as a commissioner or in a commissioner’s office, Wingrove added.
According to the Globe story, Therrien was one of two candidates on a short list for the position, with the final decision coming from Treasury Board President Tony Clement.
However, there were six finalists in total, including interim commissioner Chantal Bernier. She has temporarily taken over from former commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, who retired in December 2013. Another top candidate was Elizabeth Denham, British Columbia’s privacy commissioner. Neither Bernier nor Denham made it to the two-person short list.
Beyond questioning his experience, critics of the prime minister’s choice feel Therrien would be a government spokesperson in the guise of a watchdog. Former privacy commissioner George Radwanski called the proposed appointment “like putting a fox in charge of chicken security at the henhouse,” while a letter from a group of academics, privacy advocates, and groups called Therrien’s appointment “indefensible.”
“We don’t need another government spokesman,” added Ken Rubin, an Ottawa researcher who advocates for access to information. He said he did not approve of the Conservative government’s choice.
Therrien will appear before a government committee on Tuesday.
In her role as the interim privacy commissioner, Bernier’s last day on the job is Monday. If Parliament approves Therrien, he will take over the role for a seven-year term.
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