Given past consultations, committee reports and private member bills, federal parties can and should agree upon and enact changes before summer break
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch and the Open Government Coalition it coordinates applauded federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault’s report that calls for many changes to strengthen the federal Access to Information Act and open government system.
Given that the public has been consulted for this report, and on changes to the Act and system in 2000, and again in 2009 when a House Committee issued a unanimous report calling for changes, and again in 2011 and in 2013 (twice) through the international Open Government Partnership (OGP) process, and given that the Conservatives promised several key changes in their 2006 election platform and that federal Treasury Board minister Tony Clement has agreed the Act needs to be changed (as did Rob Nicholson in 2009), and given that the NDP and Liberals have both introduced private member bills aimed at changing the Act, Democracy Watch and the Open Government Coalition called on all federal political parties to agree upon and enact changes before the summer break.
“The federal political parties can, and should, implement the important open government changes proposed in the Information Commissioner’s report by June,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Visiting Professor at the University of Ottawa. “Given that the Access to Information Act and system have been reviewed several times in the past 15 years, and that there is a consensus on key changes that must be made, there is no justifiable reason for any further delay in making the changes.”
“The Information Commissioner’s recommendations will, if implemented, finally change the current federal ‘Guide to Keeping Secrets Act’ into a real access to information act,” said Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Visiting Professor at the University of Ottawa.
The Information Commissioner’s report recommends the following key changes that Democracy Watch and the Open Government Coalition have been advocating for 15 years:
- the Access to Information Act should cover all federal public, public-function and publicly funded institutions;
- give the Information Commissioner the power to order the disclosure of any record;
- give the Information Commissioner the power to impose fines for violations, and increase the fines for convictions;
- require proactive disclosure of all records that can clearly be disclosed;
- close excessive secrecy loopholes and enact a public interest override that covers all exemptions, the only exception being that disclosure could be refused under a proof-of-harm test if it would harm international relations, the defence of Canada, law enforcement or someone’s personal safety or disclose sensitive personal information;
- extend the Act to cover: information and options provided to Cabinet; ministers’ offices (with exemption for parliamentary functions), and; Parliament and the Ethics Commissioner and Senate Ethics Officer;
- require everyone in these institutions to create a record of decisions and actions;
- require all information to be disclosed in useable formats for free without unjustifiable delay, and;
- require approval from more than the ruling party for the appointment of the Information Commissioner (report recommends two-thirds of MPs approve the appointment).
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: 613-241-5179 – Cell: 416-546-3443
Democracy Watch’s Open Government Campaign