June 19, 2017
Proposed law leaves lots of holes in outdated Access to Information Act
VANCOUVER, June 19, 2017 – The bill tabled late this afternoon by the three ministers in Ottawa does not meet the promises made by the Liberal Party of Canada in 2015.
What was announced today will make some useful improvements to Canada’s outdated Access to Information system, but there will still be black holes in the law that will prevent information from being released.
“Today’s announcement doesn’t even meet what the Liberals promised in the last election,” said FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. “There are some significant improvements being proposed, but there are lots of shortcomings.”
Some significant points include:
- The Information Commissioner will be given the power to make orders, but will still be prevented from even looking at documents the government claims are cabinet documents. These will continue to be excluded completely from the ATI process.
- There will be proactive release of a variety of types of information from Ministers’ offices, but Canadians will still not be able to request information from those offices and appeal to the Commissioner if the government refuses to release the documents.
- There is no indication that the government is going to introduce a duty to document as recommended by every Information Commissioner in the country.
- There will be a Legislative review of the Access to Information Act every five years, as promised.
- The government will continue to charge $5 per ATI request, despite the fact the Commons ETHI committee recommended it be abolished, partly because each $5 cheque costs $55 to process.
“If we are called to testify on this legislation, we will have a number of recommendations to improve it,” Gogolek said. “We hope the government will be open to improvements, because this bill certainly needs them.”