Federal-Provincial-Territorial Conference of Ministers responsible for the Information Highway


FREDERICTON, June 12, 1998 -- Canada's Information Highway Ministers met in Fredericton, New Brunswick today and agreed on several proposals to ensure Canada remains at the forefront in harnessing the social and economic potential of the knowledge-based economy.

During the course of the day, the Ministers stressed that federal, provincial and territorial governments must work closely with one another to create a coherent approach for Canada. The Ministers agreed that those governments that provide the right policy frameworks and eliminate barriers to the expansion of the Information Highway stand to benefit the most by stimulating the growth of innovative industries and challenging jobs.

The Fredericton meeting followed the first such meeting held in Winnipeg, Manitoba in September, 1996. Discussions focussed on four key areas of importance for continued growth and expansion of the Information Highway. Agreements were reached on the issues of access, delivery of government services, the protection of personal information and electronic commerce.

Access -- Affordable access to the Information Highway, particularly in remote and rural areas of the country, is essential to help Canadians create opportunities for growth and jobs and to bring new services to communities, such as tele-education and tele-health. It provides them with a global outlet for their products and means to improve their awareness of international developments, as well as a powerful medium for seeking opportunities for partnerships, enhancing job skills and exchanging information and ideas.

Delivery of Government Services -- As individuals and businesses increasingly use electronic commerce, they are coming to expect access to government information and services electronically, preferably via the Internet. Canadian governments are working in anticipation of these growing demands and are increasingly meeting them with services that are integrated, user friendly and interactive.

Protection of Personal Information -- Consumers must have confidence that their personal information will be adequately protected and that their transactions are secure and private if they are to embrace electronic commerce. For industry,there needs to be a fair and predictable business environment with a consistent set of rules across jurisdictions.

Electronic Commerce -- Electronic commerce is growing rapidly, providing consumers, business and governments with new ways of buying and selling. It is creating new markets and jobs, and delivering cost savings. Canadian businesses are constantly offering new services and products electronically and there is great capacity for expansion as consumers increasingly turn to the Internet to make purchases.

The next meeting will be hosted by Ontario in September 1999.

Attached are the decisions of Information Highway Ministers.

- 30 -


For information:

Jennifer Sloan
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Industry
Government of Canada
(613) 995-9001

Mary-Anne Kinley
Communications Manager
Ministry of Economic Development, Tourism and Culture
Government of New Brunswick
(506) 453-7927



At the first meeting of Ministers Responsible for the Information Highway, Ministers agreed that Canada's future as an information society depends on its remaining a world leader in providing access to the Information Highway for all its citizens. To achieve this objective Ministers agreed that Canadians should have affordable access to essential Information Highway services - regardless of geographical location, income or special needs - and to a critical mass of products and services in the French language.

While agreeing that market forces are likely to ensure affordable access to Information Highway services for a large majority of Canadians, Ministers also recognized the possible need for selective government action where market mechanisms are not adequate. While fully respecting individual governmental jurisdictions, and recognizing that policies, practices, priorities and timetables may differ from government to government, Ministers agreed to support, within their respective areas of responsibility and consistent with their governments' priorities, a collaborative federal-provincial-territorial approach to programs and initiatives to improve access to the Information Highway.

Ministers also tasked officials to examine and report on a number of issues, which are addressed in the following proposals. Since the last meeting of Ministers, the two orders of government have made considerable progress in developing new and better ways of working together, stressing the theme of partnerships.

In light of these considerations and on the basis of further work by officials, Ministers:

1.a)recognized that access to the Information Highway in rural and remote areas, at affordable prices and service levels reasonably comparable to those in urban areas, is a fundamental goal of economic and social policy;
b)agreed t
    i) encourage telecommunications carriers to intensify their efforts to upgrade and extend rural networks;    

    ii) encourage telecommunications carriers and Internet service providers to extend local calling access to the Internet to rural areas, where this is not already available;

2.agreed on the value of enhancing students' access to the educational benefits of the Information Highway in the future, by extending Internet connections to the classroom;
3.a)recognized that access to the Internet is currently beyond the means of many Canadians, and therefore public access points are required to provide access to on-line information resources and electronically delivered services;
b)agreed to support the negotiation and expeditious conclusion of formal bilateral agreements between the two orders of government, to facilitate and accelerate the establishment of sustainable public access points and community networks;
4.endorsed and supported the various initiatives under way for the production of French-language content at the provincial, national and international levels, particularly those developed by Ministers responsible for Culture.


At the first meeting of Ministers Responsible for the Information Highway, Ministers* agreed that governments must become "model users" of information technology and act as catalysts for the development of the Information Highway. To further this goal, Ministers agreed to promote, within their respective areas of responsibility, continuing cooperation among governments in the use of information technologies to improve the delivery of government services to the public.

Ministers* also agreed to support, in accordance with individual governments' goals and priorities, efforts directed at joint service delivery by governments on a regional, provincial or national basis, such as the Canada Business Service Centres (CBSCs), the Canadian Governments On-Line (CGOL) initiative and the Atlantic Canada On-Line (ACOL) project.

To these ends Ministers* agreed, in consultation with other relevant ministers, to task officials to examine practical means to facilitate: development of pilot projects, through the Community Access Program (CAP), CGOL and like initiatives, that will use new information technologies to improve public access to government services and information; and coordination of governments' information and other public services in areas such as health, labour market information, agriculture, public safety and emergency, environment and small business, for delivery at common public access points.

In light of these considerations and on the basis of further work by officials, Ministers* agreed t


1.endorse the goal of making on-line delivery both a priority and the preferred mode for those government services that lend themselves to electronic delivery;
2.accelerate joint initiatives and pilot projects at, and across, all levels of government to promote the joint delivery of integrated services;
3.welcome the formation of the Council of Chief Information Officers, or the equivalents for their respective governments, and support the institution of regular meetings to exchange information, define complementary strategic priorities, evolve cooperative approaches and develop bilateral pilot projects for electronic delivery of their respective governments' services and information in cost-effective, easy-to-use forms to citizens, with a special emphasis on:
  1. ensuring the interoperability of their respective governments' electronic "infostructures"; and                


  3. resolving issues related to the joint delivery of services in areas of shared or concurrent responsibilities;
4.work together to encourage the widest possible availability of public access points and community networks, to provide the general public with electronic access to government information and services;
5.move quickly to make information on all major government programs available on-line, and the general deployment of Web answering services for this information.

(*Québec continues not to take a position on these issues)


At the first meeting of the Ministers Responsible for the Information Highway, Ministers recognized that in order to facilitate electronic commerce, consumers must have confidence that their personal information will be adequately protected, and industry must have a fair and predictable business environment. Ministers called for a clear and consistent set of rules to protect the privacy of personal information and asked officials to explore options for their implementation, legislation being one possible approach. Ministers also recognized that public education is important and that cooperation among jurisdictions is needed.

Therefore, as an integral part of ensuring Canadian leadership in electronic commerce, Ministers agreed t

1.a)support the Canadian Standards Association Model Code for the Protection of Personal Information as a minimum standard for privacy protection in all jurisdictions and avoid, wherever possible, the development of inconsistent approaches, recognizing that some jurisdictions may choose to exceed the standard;
b)urge their colleagues and industries within their respective jurisdictions to meet or exceed the CSA Standard in their operations;
2.a)study methods to apply the CSA Standard, and when appropriate, consult one another when considering the need for legislation to protect personal information in the private sector, recognizing the drafting work that is proceeding through the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, Québec's existing legislation, and the goal of a harmonized approach to the protection of personal information;
b)promote adherence to the CSA Standard through contract procedures and other mechanisms wherever legislation does not pertain;
3.work in partnerships among governments, as well as with the private sector, to make better use of our collective information resources in promoting privacy awareness and protection;
4.urge their colleagues to ensure that electronic service delivery employ best practices in the protection of personal information -- for example, through the use of technologies which permit anonymity, improve confidentiality and maintain segregation of data where appropriate.


Electronic commerce constitutes a key foundation for the development of a knowledge-based economy and a central vehicle for realizing the full benefits of the Information Highway. In September 1996, Ministers Responsible for the Information Highway agreed on the need for governments to encourage the adoption and use of electronic commerce throughout the Canadian economy.

To this end, Ministers agreed to promote and support the electronic delivery of government services, the use of open standards for network interconnection and interoperability, and the removal of legal, policy or regulatory obstacles to electronic commerce.

In light of these goals, Ministers instructed officials to identify barriers to electronic commerce and mechanisms for their removal, to seek ways to coordinate security initiatives in this area, and to share information and experiences. In performing these tasks, officials took into consideration the global nature of electronic commerce, and the electronic commerce initiatives of foreign governments and international organizations.

  1. In light of these considerations, Ministers endorsed the following basic principles to guide their respective government policies on the use and growth of electronic commerce in Canada:    


    • Electronic commerce is global in scope and requires cooperation among governments and the private sector;
    • The private sector will lead in introducing and implementing electronic commerce;
    • Governments have a role in setting the legal rules and policy measures to support the growth of electronic commerce;
    • Governments also have a role to play as model users of electronic commerce, notably by making widespread use of electronic commerce in their dealings with businesses and individuals;
    • Implementation of the appropriate measures and policies for electronic commerce is a matter of urgency;
    • Consumers and businesses will be consulted in establishing electronic commerce strategies.        


  3. Ministers agreed to encourage their respective governments to press forward with activities necessary to support the growth of electronic commerce that are consistent with the plans, resources and priorities of their jurisdictions. These activities could include:    


      1. establishing action plans to identify and eliminate statute-based impediments to electronic commerce;            


      3. updating the legal framework to facilitate the use of secure electronic signatures and the treatment of electronic records;            


      5. encouraging the private sector development of certification authorities and standards of practice for cross-certification;            


      7. reviewing government programs and services with a view to determining the need for incentives for individuals and small and medium sized businesses to use electronic commerce in dealing with governments.

  5. In addition, Ministers agreed to closer coordination between their respective governments by tasking their respective Chief Information Officers or their equivalents, in consultation with the private sector, t        


    1. share information on best practices in working towards integration of government policy and implementation guidelines for government service delivery, security policies and their coordination across governments;            


    3. develop a model as well as common practices and policies for the implementation of a public key information security infrastructure which includes coordination of policy, standards and technology to support and accelerate the development of secure electronic service delivery and electronic commerce;            


    5. identify and propose opportunities for cooperation on joint projects for technology development and consumer education with public sector and industry participation;            


    7. demonstrate public sector leadership in forging cross-certification agreements by governments with each other and with the private sector on secure information infrastructures;            


    9. support the use of Web sites which permit governments to share information, documents and experience in the area of electronic commerce and security technologies.

  7. Ministers agreed to encourage their respective governments to develop a public information program aimed at increasing public awareness and understanding of the issues surrounding electronic security, with particular emphasis on cryptography and public key infrastructures.