Canadians will soon face new challenges in the way information is handed out from federal ministries.
Canadians at present have the legal right to request information that is held in government hands.
Under the new proposed accountability act, bureacrats and ministers will have increased rights to refuse access, and in the case of corruption and scandal, Stephen Harper has asked that all of those types of informations be held permanently sealed.
“No previous government, since the Access to Information Act came into force in 1983, has put forward a more retrograde and dangerous set of proposals,” Information Commissioner John Reid wrote yesterday in an emergency report to Parliament.
“The provisions would weaken the role of the commissioner and make it easier for the government to cover up wrongdoing, shield itself from embarrassment and control the flow of information to Canadians,” he added.
Mr Reids chastising of the government for its’ plans has created a rift between him and the new government, and will likely result in his early dismissal.
Although it would expand access provisions to cover several foundations, agents of Parliament and seven crown corporations — including VIA Rail, Canada Post and the CBC — it also suggests 10 new exemptions to block the release of information.
Eight of them contain no requirement for bureaucrats to demonstrate why records shouldn’t be disclosed and contain no public interest overrides.
The other two have exemptions that permit bureacrats to refuse access to almost everything based on public interest overrides. Draft internal reports and audits would also be shielded from scrutiny for 15 years and records relating to investigations of wrongdoing in government would be sealed forever.
Recommendations Mr. Reid put forth in a draft bill last year to boost transparency weren’t included in the accountability act. He had called for more oversight powers, better record-keeping by bureaucrats and a clampdown on departments that don’t fulfil their obligations, among other suggestions.
The Conservatives promised during the last election campaign to implement them all. Instead, the suggestions were shuffled off to a committee for more discussion. The government also released a “discussion paper,” which raises numerous concerns about Mr. Reid’s proposals.
“Information commissioners have come to expect that governments will find it hard to push forward with real access reform,” Mr. Reid wrote yesterday. “Yet the disappointment is particularly poignant this time, because the promises for reform had been made with such detail and conviction.”
And so here we go, into the realm of lies once more.


  1. Anonymous
    Posted January 10, 2007 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    no information is better than bad information

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