As Canadians prepare to vote in the upcoming federal election, we at FIPA are working to determine where political parties stand on key access to information issues. Together with Newspapers Canada and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, we’ll be asking parties to describe what they will do to repair and improve transparency policies and practices, and raising three key concerns:
Bureaucrats are currently able to claim that documents being requested under ATIA are cabinet documents, and therefore cannot be released. Neither the Information Commissioner nor the courts can review these claims, nor can they order these documents to be released.
- In 2011 the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a lower court ruling that the Access to Information Act does not to apply to either Ministers’ offices or the Prime Minister’s Office. This means that not only are these offices’ (and their documents) outside the Access to Information law, but so are their employees.
- If this law remains unchanged, ministers’ offices will continue to be a black hole where information disappears, and people working there will be able to interfere with access rights without having to worry about facing charges under s.67.1 of the Act.
- Unlike her colleagues in a number of provinces, Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault does not have the ability to order the government to release documents. She (and many others) has recommended the law be amended to give her this power.
While these three issues, of course, aren’t the extent of our concerns, questions surrounding them will help voters get an idea of the extent to which each of the parties are prepared to make access to information a priority and tackle the shortcomings of the system.
In our next issue of the Bulletin—as well as on our website—we’ll share with you the final questions and the responses we receive.