Election 2021: The parties on privacy, cybersecurity

How important are data privacy and cybersecurity issues to four of the federal parties hoping to be the next government?

Consider this: Of the four parties emailed by IT World Canada about their stands on these topics, only the Liberals responded. There were no responses from the Conservative or NDP parties to the September 1st deadline for answers. The Green party said it had no comment “at this time.”

The email queries were sent on August 16th to four of the parties with seats in the last Parliament and who are running candidates in more than one province.

A Liberal spokesperson largely referred us to statements in its platform document.

Because it had been the government, we asked specifically if the Liberals would alter or keep its Bill C-11 (also called the Consumer Privacy Protection Act), parts of which were criticized by Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien. The bill was before the House of Commons but died when the election was called.

In reply a Liberal spokesperson made no commitment to re-introduce the legislation as is. The spokesperson noted in an email that in November 2020 it put forward Bill C-11 to implement principles the government set forward in its Digital Charter.

“We will move forward on legislation that will implement the Digital Charter, strengthen privacy protections for consumers, and provide a clear set of rules that ensure fair competition in the online marketplace,” the spokesperson said.

The Conservative platform says the party will “pass strong legislation to protect privacy more effectively than the current government’s weak Bill C-11.”

Each of the four parties was asked the following questions. They were also told they could add anything beyond these questions:

–What would be your party’s plan for C-11/ Consumer Privacy Protection Act? Would it re-introduce the act with no changes, or given comments by Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien would it be altered?
–Would a new government oblige federal political parties to follow federal privacy legislation (either PIPEDA or a new bill)?
-what if anything would a new government to do increase cybersecurity in federal data systems (for example increase the budget of the Canadian Security Establishment/Canadian Centre for Cyber Security/RCMP’s NC3)?
–What would your government do about the government’s National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure strategy? Is it satisfied with the current strategy? In May it issued the latest in a series of action plans for critical infrastructure. Would a new government change that plan (https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/2021-ctn-pln-crtcl-nfrstrctr/index-en.aspx)
–The federal government through Treasury Board has a CIO (chief information officer). Would your government also appoint a CISO (chief information and security officer) to advise on cybersecurity?
–What would your government do to increase cybersecurity in the private sector? (For example, tax reduction for companies to buy cybersecurity-related services and products). How will the government help the private sector fight ransomware?

Given the responses/non-responses we are turning to each party’s platform to find their policies.

Liberal Party

The Liberals referred us to the following statements in its platform. It says a new government would:

–“establish a digital policy task force, comprised of industry experts, academia, and government, to integrate efforts across government and provide additional resources in order to position Canada as a leader in the digital economy and shape global governance of emerging technologies, including with respect to data and privacy rights, taxation, online violent extremism, the ethical use of new technologies, and the future of work. This will build on our work to implement Canada’s first Digital Charter and reform our laws to protect the personal information of individuals.”

–“introduce legislation to safeguard Canada’s critical infrastructure, including our 5G networks, to preserve the integrity and security of our telecommunications systems;”

— “expand collaboration and information sharing with Canadian partners and across all levels of government with respect to addressing security risks in foreign research and investment partnerships;”

–“increase resources available to our national security agencies to counter foreign interference and to the RCMP to protect Canadians from unacceptable surveillance, harassment, and intimidation by foreign actors.”

Conservative Party

The party platform includes these statements promising

–to “pass strong legislation to protect privacy more effectively than the current government’s weak Bill C-11.”

The party “believes that digital data privacy is a fundamental right that urgently requires strengthened protection through legislation and enforcement. Canadians must have the right to understand and control the collection, use, monitoring, retention, and disclosure of their personal data;”

–to “pursue” a four-country agreement with the U.K. Australia and New Zealand to expand existing intelligence co-operation, especially in the areas of cyberwarfare, combating disinformation, and protecting critical infrastructure;

–in co-operation with Canada’s Five Eyes allies (the U.S., the U.K. Australia and New Zealand) the party will “build Canadian capabilities to contribute to foreign intelligence – focused on closing present gaps in understanding international threats of economic coercion, digital threats, and foreign interference;”

– to “mandate a Minister of National Security & Public Safety with securing Canadians from threats by addressing data and cybersecurity, information operations, threats from foreign actors against Canadian residents, extremist financing, space and surveillance, and industry and critical infrastructure.

This will include establishing a permanent task force to address foreign interference that will bring together National Defence, Global Affairs, CSIS (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service), CSE (the Communications Security Establishment), provincial and municipal agencies, civil society, social media platforms and media, the platform ways. A Conservative government will also “engage our allies and other democracies to monitor, detect, and expose foreign disinformation attacks and threats from foreign actors;”

–to “finish standing-up a properly funded, equipped, and staffed Canadian Armed Forces Cyber Command to defend Canada from cyberattacks.” That includes emphasizing reserve participation in CAF Cyber Command, .establishing closer collaboration between the private sector cyber industry and CAF Cyber Command and developing “capabilities for cyber operations.”

–to “ban Huawei from Canada’s 5G infrastructure.”

New Democratic Party

The platform says the party

–”will work to strengthen privacy protections for Canadians by updating privacy legislation to include a digital bill of privacy rights, and boosting the powers of the Privacy Commissioner to make and enforce orders and levy fines and penalties;”

– will “convene a national working group to counter online hate … and protect public safety, and make sure that social media platforms are legally responsible for the removal of hateful and extremist content before it can do harm;”

–”will deal with threats to our national security, including foreign interference and espionage, terrorism and cybercrime, by working with our international allies, enhancing real-time oversight of security services, and fully respecting the privacy and Charter rights of all Canadians. We will also strengthen protection for Canadians who are victims of foreign interference and threats.”

Green Party

The Green platform says the party will

–”enshrine citizens’ digital rights, including ‘the right to not be profiled online.’ Canada can follow the lead of the European Union, and listen to the recommendations of our national Privacy Commissioner. Regulations must distinguish between demographic profiling and more manipulative psychometric profiling techniques;”

–”support research and development to improve artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for detecting misinformation, hate, and violence online, so that this content can be de-emphasized and corrected. Position Canada as a global leader in requiring companies who run large-scale online platforms to detect and prevent proliferation of misinformation. Hold publishers of malicious disinformation to account;”

–”support ease of access to accurate information. Invest in initiatives and partnerships that increase citizens’ opportunities and abilities to differentiate between misinformation, and higher-quality, verifiable, evidence-based content. This includes enhancing education in media and digital literacy for all age groups.

–”protect civil liberties and freedom of expression. Limit government to a regulatory rather than hands-on role in monitoring and moderating online content, and build protections that prevent suppression of lawful and accurate content, no matter how critical of government policy it may be.”

People’s Party

The party’s platform doesn’t mention privacy legislation or cybersecurity policy. It does say the party will

–”repeal any existing legislation or regulation curtailing free speech on the internet and prevent the reinstatement of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer. Former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, Howard has written for several of ITWC's sister publications, including ITBusiness.ca. Before arriving at ITWC he served as a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times.

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