The Toronto Sun
Wednesday, May 14, 1997
page 2

Harris backs ID scans

by James Wallace

The province may consider issuing a province-wide fingerprint ID card to track welfare cases, OHIP users, and licensed drivers, Premier Harris said yesterday.

Harris embraced a Metro council proposal to issue electronic fingerprint bank cards to municipal welfare clients to fight fraud.

"I think it would give us a strong case, if you like, that maybe this is the best fool-proof method to ... access all government programs", he said.

"I've always believed we have too many numbers and too many cards."

The Tories promised in the Common Sense Revolution to create a "strictly enforced program of photo-identification for all welfare recipients."

Harris suggested yesterday he may like to see a broader-based card.

"It's something certainly we would look at", he said. "All we need to do is make sure what we're doing satisfies the privacy commissioner."

"As we get into these new technologies, it is important that we ensure the privacy of information."

NDP critic Tony Silipo flirted with a province-wide photo or fingerprint ID card in 1994.

Yesterday, Silipo said the idea still has "potential", but only if welfare recipients aren't singled out.

"Fingerprinting is still in the public psyche associated with criminal activity. That's the real problem."

Harris doesn't figure he'd have a problem selling the idea.

"If you are defrauding the system, I think there is strong support from the public to have safeguards", he said. "Perhaps the best way to remove the stigma is we all use the thumb imagery or the same fool-proof technology."

Meanwhile, Health Minister Jim Wilson suggested it may take some time before the public lines up for electronic fingerprinting.

Ontario needs a new health information law before changes can be made to existing government held or other ID cards, he said.

"It's unclear, actually, who owns all the medical records", Wilson said. "The patient's supposed to by I have cases in my office where patients can't get their records from hospitals. We need to clear all that up."

Copyright © 1997 by The Toronto Sun. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.