The committee tasked with reviewing the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA) — including amendments introduced under Bill 29 — hopes to have a better idea next month of how much interest there is in public hearings.
Its members met for the first time this week in St. John’s and announced Friday it is calling on the public to contact the committee if they are interested in making written or in-person submissions. A deadline of May 12 has been set.
“What we have to do, really, is determine the extent to which it’s going to be necessary for us to develop procedures around the province, provide for public hearings and so on,” said committee chair Clyde Wells, a former chief justice who was the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador from 1989 to 1996.
Speaking to reporters in the main lobby of the Scotia Centre, Wells said it is important to have an understanding of how people want to participate in the review.
“I would expect that we will be doing public hearings, but what we didn’t want to do is organize 20 or 30 public hearings around the province only to find that people were going to do it by email or by written submissions,” he said.
“So what we’re doing now is trying to discern the extent of the need for public hearings, and only once we’ve developed information on that will we expend the funds necessary to set them up.”
Wells hopes to see hearings get underway in June at the latest, though he suggested that process may continue into September if summer proves to be an inconvenient season for public participation.
Wells said it is conceivable the committee’s report could be completed by mid-to late fall.
“It’s going to depend on the extent to which people want to make representations and how many (people) in how many places, and so on. Then, of course, we’ve got a good deal of research to do, because one of the requirements of the terms of reference is that we do an assessment of comparable provisions in other jurisdictions to ensure that we develop a good standard for Newfoundland as well. That’s going to require a fair amount of work that we could do during the course of the summer when we might not be involved in public hearings.”
Wells was reticent to share his own views on the pros and cons of ATIPPA as it currently exists. Noting the importance of cabinet confidentiality, Wells said the public’s right to know must also be acknowledged in certain instances.
Retired CBC journalist Doug Letto and former federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart are the committee’s other members.
“I can’t say to you at this moment that I expect all three of us will end up with precisely the same view at the end of the day, but we’ll try and express a unified view if we can. If we can’t, then we simply identify a variation of that view.”
Contact the review committee
Or write to:
ATIPPA Review Committee
83 Thorburn Rd.
St. John’s, NL