Two months after a public call for interest for submissions to the ongoing review of the province’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA), only three individuals or groups from outside the metro area have contacted the review committee.
The committee — former federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, past premier Clyde Wells and retired journalist Doug Letto — has been tasked with digging into questions and concerns around privacy and access to information held by the provincial government.
The subject has been hotly debated in recent years, as a result of amendments to ATIPPA introduced under Bill 29 and challenges made to the changes.
Gathering reporters at their new offices on Friday — in Suite C at 83 Thorburn Rd. in St. John’s — the review committee said a total of 35 groups and individuals have said they would like to make a submission to the committee by letter or email, present their feelings and ideas at a public hearing, or both.
Of the 35 interested parties, only three are based outside of St. John’s, Wells said. And there has been no response from Labrador.
Wells said no municipalities have expressed any interest in participating in the review, nor has Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador. “Maybe they have no major issues, and that’s fine if they don’t, but we’re expecting we may hear from some,” he said.
Three responses have come from outside of the province.
The committee has decided upon public hearings in St. John’s to start, given it is where most of the expressed interest has come from. With that said, accommodations are being made for any individual or group from outside of the area interested in offering their two cents.
The first public hearings will be June 24-26 at the Ramada in St. John’s. The hearings will open on the first day with a presentation from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
“Our thinking in doing that is that office and the officials that work out of that office are the best informed as to concerns that the public or the province have and best informed as to how the system operates.
“So hearing from them first will give the committee a good foundation on fundamental information, but as well will provide the general public with clear information on the issues and perhaps stir them to express any concerns they may have,” Wells said.
July 21-25 and dates in August have also been reserved by the committee for additional hearings, to be held as necessary, given the level of interest and scheduling needs.
There has been no deadline set yet for written submissions and they can be made at any time up until the point of an announced cutoff date.
The committee hopes to have a final report to government by late October or early November.
As for the past two months, the committee members have said the time has been spent establishing their office and mechanisms by which submissions might be made with absolutely no access for government and means of assuring privacy, for anyone who feels they cannot make a public submission.
“We’ve spent a great deal of time trying to find ways of ensuring that there is the greatest level of involvement that we can possibly achieve, because that’s important if the work that the committee does is to have real value,” Wells said.
Questions, comments and submissions can be directed to the committee through its office, by phone at 1-844-729-2605 and email: email@example.com.
For full disclosure, the reporter on this story will be making a submission for consideration.