Toronto/ Vancouver – The federal Justice Minister has slammed the door on any reform of the crippled Access to Information Act for the foreseeable future, according to three national organizations concerned about openness and accountability in government.
In a strongly worded letter to the Prime Minister, the Canadian Newspaper Association, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Freedom of Information and Privacy Association have expressed their concern over the latest rejection of ATI reform.
“In 2006 the Prime Minister made a number of specific commitments to reform the Access to Information Act,” said FIPA Executive Director Darrell Evans. “It is now apparent that he has no intention of carrying out those promises.”
The Commons Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee managed to overcome party differences to issue a unanimous report recommending an action plan to deal with an increasingly dysfunctional ATI system. The committee had been studying a 12-point plan by former Information Commissioner Robert Marleau to deal with what he described as “a major information management crisis throughout government.”
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson rejected all of the Committee’s recommendations, even though members of his own party had signed on to the report. As for the crisis facing the ATI system, the best Mr. Nicholson could come up with was “enhanced guidance and training”, which he suggested “can be equally effective to realize continued improvements.”
“We had hoped this government would be different, that it would carry through on its promises of major ATI reform,” said Kevin Gaudet of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “Unless there are concrete measures to deal with the crisis, we have to think that they really don’t care about transparency and democracy.”
“This government has now rejected every ATI reform proposal including a Commons Committee report their own members signed,” said John Hinds of the Canadian Newspaper Association. “They seem happy to preside over the breakdown of the ATI system.”
Promised Access to Information reforms were a notable absence from the government’s centrepiece Accountability Act.
Kevin Gaudet, Federal and Ontario Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation: (416) 203-0030
John Hinds, President and CEO, Canadian Newspaper Association: (416) 923-3567
Darrell Evans, Executive Director, FIPA: (604) 739-9788