Sent to The Hon. Ross Romano, M.P.P., Ontario’s Minister of Government and Consumer Services, in response to the province’s consumer privacy consultation.
The Business Council of Canada welcomes this opportunity to take part in Ontario’s consumer privacy consultation.
Founded in 1976, the Business Council is a non-partisan association composed of the chief executives and entrepreneurs of more than 150 leading Canadian companies from every region and industry. Our member companies support more than six million jobs, contribute the largest share of corporate taxes, and are responsible for most of Canada’s exports and private-sector investments in research and development.
Without exception, Canada’s business leaders view the data-driven economy as a tremendous opportunity to improve Canadians’ quality of life and to strengthen our country’s ability to compete globally.
At the same time, they recognize that a healthy and innovative data-driven economy requires a solid foundation of consumer trust.
In our view, it would be a mistake for Ontario to move forward with new provincial consumer privacy legislation at a time when Parliament is close to updating Canada’s consumer privacy rules.
The introduction of provincial legislation alongside federal rules would create unnecessary duplication and confusion. Federal works and undertakings – such as banks, television stations, and internet service providers – would continue to be regulated nationally. All other organizations would be regulated provincially or nationally depending upon their business activities.
This patchwork of privacy rules would be a regulatory nightmare for consumers. To assert their rights, consumers would be required to familiarize themselves with two distinct privacy regimes. Consumers would also be required to bring privacy complaints to two separate regulators with distinct procedures, responsibilities, and powers: one located in Toronto, the other in Ottawa.
From the standpoint of innovators and entrepreneurs, the enactment of provincial legislation would mean the creation of a new set of interprovincial trade barriers. These trade barriers would further fragment Canada’s patchwork of privacy regimes, reducing the economic opportunities created by a national digital market, such as greater competition and consumer choice.
Business leaders also worry that the introduction of provincial privacy rules would increase red tape and regulatory uncertainty. This could slow Ontario’s economic recovery from the pandemic and undermine the future growth and prosperity of the province’s innovation ecosystem.
To avoid these consequences, we recommend that Ontario refocus its efforts on advancing meaningful federal privacy reform. Further, if the province deems it necessary to regulate matters outside of federal jurisdiction, we encourage that Ontario do so through stand-alone privacy legislation that excludes federally regulated activities.
In closing, I want to assure you that Canada’s business leaders share your goal of creating a healthy and innovative data-driven economy. The best way to achieve this is to support the adoption of modern and comprehensive federal privacy rules that apply to all Canadians, regardless of the province in which they live or do business.