Today I released the final annual report of my five-year term.
Throughout my tenure as commissioner, I have advocated for increased openness and transparency, encouraging governments to share more, not less, with citizens. My office has backed up this commitment with advice and guidance materials to help institutions embrace a more open approach to government information. We’ve also challenged those who would like to pull the shades down on government activities, issuing key decisions and orders aimed at bringing the details of public spending and decision-making to light.
As in previous years, my report comes with several recommendations. Among them is a call on the government to modernize Ontario’s outdated access and privacy laws and enact a new, made-in-Ontario, private-sector privacy law.
My call for modernization won’t be news to the government. Since my appointment in 2015, I have repeatedly urged the government to move on this issue. With every year that passes, the privacy protections available to Ontarians fall further behind those of other Canadian jurisdictions, while evolving technologies continue to dig deeper into our lives and personal details. We should not wait any longer to ensure our legislative framework provides effective and independent oversight of practices related to the collection, use, and sharing of our personal information.
Modernizing our existing public sector privacy laws is only a first step, however. Smart cities, relatively unheard of even a decade ago, and the public-private partnerships that make them a reality, will test our ability to ensure the protection of personal privacy. While it’s exciting to contemplate the innovation and public benefits that new technologies bring, they must not come at the expense of our privacy. A private-sector privacy law, tailored to Ontario’s regulatory environment, would help to ensure consistency between public and private sector laws and strengthen protections for the public.
As I begin my next chapter, I want to commend all those who work across this province to strengthen the access and privacy rights of Ontarians. I also want to thank my colleagues here at the IPC for their dedication and commitment. Even now, as we are being tested in new and unanticipated ways during this COVID-19 pandemic, IPC staff are working from home to keep the office running and provide as much service as they can to the public. It is this level of commitment that makes me immensely proud to have been a part of the IPC. It has been an honour to work with you.
Before I sign off, I would like to extend my congratulations to Patricia Kosseim, who will take over as Ontario’s next Information and Privacy Commissioner on July 1, 2020. I know her to be a committed professional who will bring a wealth of experience as a regulator and as a lawyer. Ms. Kosseim will begin her term during a time of unprecedented uncertainty and will face significant challenges in a world where COVID-19 has changed the way we work. I am however confident that my colleagues at the IPC will rise to the occasion and continue to give their best, as they have always done.