I had a chance to sit down with NDP MP Bill Siksay today and catch up with him about the new session of Parliament. Being as he's now the party's critic for Ethics, Access to Information and Privacy, he's headed to one of the most fractious committees on the Hill. Here's some of what he had to say:
Q: Ethics is usually a big committee.
A: Often that’s where some of the more controversial stuff ends up.
Q: Mulroney-Schreiber, In-and-Out – what else was really contentious last session?
A: Those were the two big ones.
Q: Ready to tackle those?
A: I think those two are probably off at separate investigations now. There’s the Oliphant Commission for Mulroney-Schreiber, although with a fairly limited mandate, and the Electoral Commissioner is looking at the In-and-Out issues. There may be some side-issues that come from the way testimony was presented at those committees. But there are other things – Access to Information is a huge problem in Canada. We were one of the first countries to come onboard, back in the eighties with Access to Information, and we’ve done nothing to improve the legislation since then, and anybody who’s tried to use it or has an interest in it thinks we need a new piece of legislation, and our recent governments have all dragged their heels on that. So that’s another place to keep the pressure up about getting those amendments.
Q: I know the Information Commissioner in the past week or two has started being a lot more vocal.
A: Yeah, which is a good thing, and the committee’s been very supportive of that in the past, so hopefully it will continue in this Parliament as well. Privacy, the committee’s been looking at doing a study on the Privacy Act, about updating that. The Privacy Commissioner has some very specific quick-fixes, which I think the committee can probably support easily. But again that’s really crucial legislation. The legislation we have is outdated, partly because of the technological change that’s happened in the past thirty years as well.
Q: Anything in particular that you’re looking to champion in that committee?
A: Well it’s new to me, so it’s a bit of a learning curve to get up and running with it. The committee starts tomorrow and we’ll see what happens with it from there.
Siksay also said that his Private Member's Bill on gender identity and expression is nearly ready to go, and he's number 65 on the list this year for Private Member's business, so now that the Harper government has survived, there stands a good chance that the bill will make it through the House at least.