New obstacles to Canada's consumer privacy bill

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TORONTO--A big question mark hangs over the fate of Canada's consumer privacy bill after the federal government failed to give the bill a renewed reading before breaking for its summer recess.

If passed, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Bill would correspond closely to Europe's consumer data privacy laws. It would require the consent of the individual for the collection, use or disclosure of any personal information, which would have a huge impact on the way marketers do business in Canada.

"We're disappointed that the bill didn't pass before the House recessed,'' said John Gustavson, president of the Canadian Marketing Association, Toronto. "However, the [bill] is the result of years of negotiation between consumer groups, government and business, and since there's a consensus that the Bill is satisfactory, I can't believe that it would be let go. We're reasonably confident that it will be reintroduced at its current stage when the house begins sitting again.''

If the current government session, however, is ended, a special order would have to be made to bring the bill back at its current stage of reading under a new session. This scenario would be further complicated if a widely anticipated cabinet reshuffle took place, which would lead to the possible removal of the minister who introduced the bill in the first place.

The CMA, Canada's largest marketing organization, is particularly concerned because it lobbied hard to get amendments into the original bill, such as allowing an exemption for business information that simply identifies the individual, business and business address.

The opposition Bloc Qu1becois party is largely being blamed for failing to pass the Bill before the recess. Quebec is the only province that has its own Privacy Act, and the party fears that the proposed Bill (C-54) will interfere with Quebec's existing regulations.

Copyright June 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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