The federal Conservatives appear to be back-pedaling on their promise to open up the inner workings of government to scrutiny by reforming the Access to Information Act.
The Federal Accountability Act, which is expected to be presented on Tuesday as Harper administration’s first legislation, was to include a major overhaul and update of the Access to Information Act (ATI Act). Now it appears that many of the access reforms the Conservatives promised in their election platform will be carved out of the accountability act and sent instead to a parliamentary committee for review in the form of a “draft bill”.
The move is widely considered a watering down of the Tories’ campaign promise to implement reforms of the “Open Government Act” proposed by information commissioner John Reid, a strong set of reforms needed to open up the inner workings of government to scrutiny, including cabinet secrets.
Harper was swayed by bureaucrats and Crown agency officials who protested that the plan for more openness went too far, one government official said.
Yesterday, Treasury Board President John Baird insisted the government would live up to its promise to reform the 23-year-old ATI Act as a key piece of its drive to clean up government.
But he said Mr. Reid told MPs when he first tabled his proposals in September 2005 that they needed review and more “consultation” and that’s what the
government will do.
FIPA is urging Parliamentarians of all parties to hold fast to their promises to increase government openness, including comprehensive reform of the ATI Act.