The Access to Information, Ethics and Privacy Committee dropped a major report last week before wrapping up for the summer. Unanimously approved by the multi-partisan committee, the report pushes the Trudeau government to make some serious and long-overdue changes to the law.
We can't say 2014 was a banner year for Access to Information in this country. According to the Centre for Law and Democracy, which publishes a ranking of countries that have right to information laws, Canada continues to drop and is now down to number 57 (out of 100). And there are lots of reasons why Canada has dropped.
Any delay in the Commissioner's office means information requesters will have to wait even longer to get their documents. It also means that if the government digs in its heels, requesters can't even get their day in Federal Court until the Commissioner's office finishes its review of the file.
We are currently embroiled in a controversy over the appointment of a new privacy commissioner. Daniel Therrien, a long time senior government lawyer working on issues like immigration and national defence, was apparently chosen instead of the candidates preferred by the government's own selection committee.
In early 2013 I submitted several ATI requests to Elections Canada regarding their handling of the "robocalls" investigation. The questions were simple enough: who's doing this investigation? How much will it cost? When will it be done? The information they did reveal was shocking.
Suzanne Legault, Canada's Information Commissioner, says federal officials are suppressing freedom of information in Canada. According to her notes, complaints to the Information Officer in the first five months of the 2013-2014 year are up by 35 per cent.
Shhhhh. Don't tell anybody, but the Harper™ government is 'consulting' Canadians on Open Government. Well, sort of. There has been no press release about the consultation program. No ad campaign, either. And the program was quietly started in the middle of summer, while everyone was on vacation. It's almost as if Harper doesn't want anyone to know about it. Crazy talk, right?
The government appears determined to challenge any information, person or organization that could stand in the way of its plans for rapid tar sands expansion and transport and sale of raw resources as quickly as possible to any country with money. The results have been astounding.
Treasury Board President Tony Clement is the federal government's Mr. Open Government, but in many ways, his much-hyped open data schemes testify to the Conservative government's general trend toward secrecy and one-way transparency.
This holiday season, consultation on the deficiencies in the Access to Information Act provides all of us with a chance to do our best Jacob Marley and remind the Info-Scrooge Conservatives that they once campaigned on the position that government works best when open and accountable. Don't miss your chance to participate.