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Commissioner wants extra cash to handle privacy revamp

Nov 18 2011

B.C.'s privacy commissioner says she needs a budget boost of $490,000 to handle extra responsibilities given to her under the government's rewrite of provincial privacy laws.

Elizabeth Denham told a committee of MLAs Thursday she needs more money next year because the government wants her office to help review and write the rules that allow for new cross-ministry data-sharing. "I think this was the minimum amount required to undertake this new mandate," she said. Her office budget this year is almost $5 million.

The legislature passed sweeping reforms to the Privacy Act last month, which pave the way for Internet-based government services, new high-tech CareCards and widespread sharing of personal citizen data between ministries.

Denham's office has been asked to help craft the details of the plan, while balancing government services with privacy protection. "The reality is that these types of massive data-linking initiatives, if not done with proper regard for protection of privacy or robust independent oversight, is a privacy disaster in the making," Denham told MLAs.

Denham said she'll need to hire a specialized team because B.C. is pushing into territory that no other provinces have covered. "Without new resources, we will not be able to deliver on those new responsibilities," she said.

Denham said she's not requesting any new money for other parts of her budget.

Margaret MacDiarmid, Minister of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government, who is responsible for the new bill that increases Denham's responsibilities, said it's not unusual for all levels of government to be asked to do more work with fewer resources.

"I certainly acknowledge the work of the commissioner is very important, and that there is additional work, and the committee is aware of that," she said.


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