Conduct of Canada's Privacy Commissioner Questioned

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Though a Canadian Commons committee issued a report to Parliament on June 13 voicing concerns about Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski's expenses and conduct, he cannot be removed from office until Parliament returns in the fall, according to reports.


Still, at least one Member of Parliament has called for his resignation.


The expenditures in question include almost $100,000 in travel costs last year, $61,000 on international trips, according to the Canadian Press. Also in question was a paragraph of a letter that the committee claimed was deliberately altered but that Radwanski said was partially omitted by mistake.


Radwanski has vowed that he would not resign from his post.


One privacy expert said that despite a decent record on privacy, he doubted that Radwanski would be very useful in his post due to the scandal.


"He is a very polarizing figure but his substantive stances on privacy are recognized by the people in the privacy world as often good, sometimes mixed," said Robert Gellman, a Washington-based privacy and information policy consultant and DM News columnist. "The one thing that's clear is that he lost the confidence of Parliament. And being an officer of Parliament, that would have to undermine any substantive effect he could possibly have."


Should Radwanski be forced out of office or resign, Gellman said he had heard no speculation about who might replace him.


"It's up to the prime minister," he said. "With an appointment you never really know who you are going to get."


According to reports, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said the committee would decide whether to request Radwanski's resignation.


Even if Radwanski leaves office, Gellman said he doesn't see it harming the post.


"The allegations are all sort of personal so I don't think any change will have any long-lasting effects on the office of privacy commissioner," he said.


Radwanski was appointed interim privacy commissioner effective Sept. 1, 2000, and was approved by Parliament Oct. 19. He was appointed for a seven-year term. He reports to the House of Commons and the Senate.


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