Harper government continues to ignore election promises to increase transparency

The Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) is deeply disappointed in the new Conservative government’s failure in its recent Throne Speech to deliver on their promises to increase government transparency by “strengthening Access to Information legislation.”

Harper is misleading Canadians when he claims that he has kept his word about making good on his promises for reform. The vaunted Federal Accountability Act (FAA) failed to include eight firm commitments the Conservatives made to reform the Access to Information Act. Even worse, he rejected proposals by opposition parties to add some of the Conservatives’ own promised measures to the FAA.

“It’s clear that swift and tough reform of the Access to Information Act is needed to change the secretive culture of Ottawa,” said FIPA executive director Darrell Evans. “Further delay will make it clear that the Conservatives have cynically abandoned their commitment to transparency.”

Any hope of rescuing the Conservatives’ program of reform lies now with Parliament’s Ethics Committee, which is scheduled to continue a review of the Access to Information Act in this session.

THE TORY PLEDGES TO STRENGTHEN ACCESS TO INFORMATION LEGISLATION ARE:

<> To implement the Information Commissioner’s recommendations for reform of the Access to Information Act.

<> To give the Information Commissioner the power to order the release of information.

<> To expand the coverage of the act to all Crown corporations, Officers of Parliament, foundations and organizations that spend taxpayers’ money or perform public functions.

<> To subject the exclusion of Cabinet confidences to review by the Information Commissioner.

<> To oblige public officials to create the records necessary to document their actions and decisions.

<> To provide a general public interest override for all exemptions, so that the public interest is put before the secrecy of the government.

<> To ensure that all exemptions from the disclosure of government information are justified only on the basis of the harm or injury that would result from disclosure, not blanket exemption rules.

<> To ensure that the disclosure requirements of the Access to Information Act cannot be circumvented by secrecy provisions in other federal acts.

FIPA URGES PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE TO FULFILL ELECTION PROMISES OF ACCESS-TO-INFORMATION REFORM

FIPA representatives testified on May 30 before the Parliamentary Committee to Consider Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act.

FIPA president Richard Rosenberg and research director Stanley Tromp asked the committee to fulfill all the promises to reform the Access to Information Act made in the Conservative election platform of 2005. They urged the committee to amend the Accountability Act to include these reforms and remove several sections that will actually impair public access to information.

Read FIPA’s submission, “A Chance for Transparency”