MPs have been given a new blueprint to renovate the country’s antiquated access-to-information law. New Democrat MP Pat Martin has introduced a private member’s bill that includes reform measures Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised more than three years ago, but has yet to act on.
The bill hit the floor on the eve of a scathing report from the federal information watchdog which describes a system in sorry disrepair (See below).
The bill is based on a comprehensive package drafted in 2005 by then-information commissioner John Reid – reforms that would make more files accessible to the public, expand the commissioner’s oversight powers and introduce measures to help ensure federal agencies comply with the act.
The Conservatives took office in early 2006 partly on the strength of promises of new accountability, including reforms to Canada’s outdated Access to Information regime advocated by Reid.
Martin said Wednesday there is more of a need than ever to scrutinize government activities given the billions of dollars in federal stimulus spending on the books.
The Commons committee on Access to Information, privacy and ethics adopted a motion earlier this month recommending the government introduce a bill by May 31 to create a “new, stronger and more modern” law drawing on Reid’s work.
Martin acknowledges private member’s bills rarely succeed but he hopes the committee will adopt his proposed legislation and push the minority government to present it to the House of Commons.
Information Commissioner Flunks Government on FOI Compliance
On February 26, Information Commissioner Robert Marleau tabled his first annual “report cards” on the
performance of 10 federal agencies in complying with the access law.
The report clearly shows a worsening record of federal government compliance with freedom of
information law, the Canadian Newspaper Association (CNA) said today.
Citing, in his introductory message, that some departments take an average of 120 days or four times
the limit stipulated in law to respond to requests for information, the Commissioner characterized this
finding as “unacceptable.”
“What’s especially alarming is that the record has been getting worse despite explicit pledges from the
Prime Minister to reverse this trend,” said David Gollob, CNA’s Senior Vice President of Policy and