Banking information stays private for now

Statistics Canada is putting its controversial plan to harvest individuals' banking information on hold until the privacy commissioner completes an investigation into widespread concerns about the project.  

The federal statistical agency recently caught nine financial institutions off guard by informing them they were required to provide banking information from Canadians in 500-thousand households across the country.   

By law, Statistics Canada can compel public and private institutions, including commercial banks, to turn over data they hold.  

Public outrage over the plan sparked heated political exchanges in the House of Commons, where opposition M-Ps have accused the government of state surveillance and authoritarianism.  

At a senate committee meeting yesterday, Conservative Senator Carolyn Stewart described the data-gathering plan as ``almost totalitarian in its scope'' and suggested many Canadians will begin to think we're living in an ``Orwellian nightmare.''  

The investigation, which is expected to last months, will conclude whether Statistics Canada's plan is lawful.