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Private-sector privacy law debated in Manitoba

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May 21, 2009

The Manitoba Legislature is currently debating Bill 219The Personal Information Protection and Identity Theft Protection Act.

The Bill has been introduced as a private member’s Bill by Mavis Taillieu of the Opposition Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba. It seeks to regulate the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by organizations in the private sector and is intended to be “substantially similar” to the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).  It would also establish a duty for organizations to notify individuals who may be affected when the personal information an organization has collected is lost, stolen or compromised.  Such a requirement would be groundbreaking in Canada (notwithstanding Ontario’s Personal Health Information Protection Act, which has a mandatory breach notification requirement).

Regrettably, the Government of Manitoba indicated in the Legislative Assembly debate last week that it has two primary concerns with the Bill.  The first concern is that the Bill lacks an independent oversight body such as a Privacy Commissioner of Manitoba. Legislative rules prevent private member’s Bills from containing financial penalties and so the Bill could not contain such provisions.  However, the government could add those provisions in amendments.  In fact, I assisted with the drafting of the Bill and would happily provide the government with the relevant provisions. The second concern raised by the government is that the Bill would introduce legislation in Manitoba that (according to the government) would regulate activities in the private sector already governed by PIPEDA. However, PIPEDA does not apply to the activities of private sector organizations in provinces such as Alberta and British Columbia, both of whom have Personal Information Protection Acts, because PIPEDA does not apply where “substantially similar” provincial legislation exists.

The Bill was first introduced in 2005 and since that time the need for such a law has significantly grown.  It’s modelled after Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act, which provides a more business-friendly and clear legislative scheme than PIPEDA.  As I’ve previously argued, it would be good policy for the Government of Manitoba to support the Bill and I once again urge them to do so. 

If you want a more business-friendly privacy law in Manitoba, I’d strongly encourage you to contact the Government of Manitoba and Mavis Taillieu to indicate your support. 

Additional coverage on this topic by the Canadian HR Reporter here.