Skip to main content

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 2, 2014.BLAIR GABLE/Reuters

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Treasury Board President Tony Clement are sticking by their pick for Canada's next privacy watchdog, despite ongoing questions about other candidates passed over for the job.

Daniel Therrien is scheduled to make his first appearance Tuesday morning before a parliamentary committee considering his nomination as privacy commissioner, and could be the committee's only witness on the matter. The government has given no signal it will call a member of the selection committee to testify about why Mr. Therrien made the shortlist, as has been done in the past, or that it will agree to an NDP motion for longer consideration of the nomination.

Mr. Therrien is a career government lawyer, with no experience as a commissioner, who has played a role in developing programs criticized as too invasive of privacy. As The Globe and Mail reported Monday, he was selected by Mr. Clement from a shortlist of two candidates. Sources have identified the second finalist as Lisa Campbell, a senior official in the Competition Bureau who had worked at the privacy commissioner's office in the past. Ms. Campbell declined comment.

Other perceived front-runners, including the interim commissioner and B.C.'s commissioner, did not make the shortlist, sources have said. More than 30 privacy advocates, civil liberties groups and academics have signed a letter calling for Mr. Harper to reconsider the "indefensible" appointment, saying Mr. Therrien is too close to government to be an effective watchdog.

One source familiar with the selection process said Ms. Campbell was the preferred candidate of the seven-member selection committee, which included an official from the Privy Council Office, one from Treasury Board, one from the Prime Minister's Office and others. The office of Mr. Clement, however, asked to interview two candidates, according to the source, so Mr. Therrien – who was interviewed late in the process – was added to the final shortlist. The source said Ms. Campbell was ranked first.

Another source familiar with the process declined to respond to that version of events, saying only the committee gave a list of two to Mr. Clement. The minister, meanwhile, said Monday it was "absolutely not true" that Ms. Campbell was the selection committee's preferred candidate.

"I interviewed both of those individuals and made a recommendation to the Prime Minister, which he accepted. So that was the process. It's an excellent process that's been used in the past," Mr. Clement said.

With a report from Campbell Clark in Ottawa