Please support democracy

Without your support, Democracy Watch can't win key changes to stop governments and big businesses from abusing their power and hurting you and your family. Please click here to support democracy now

Federal Access to Information Act review by Commissioner is great news

Set out below is a letter-to-the-editor by Democracy Watch Coordinator Tyler Sommers which was published in the National Post July 9, 2012

Federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault is taking the great step of being an active good government watchdog by undertaking a review of the federal Access to Information Act. This is not only proper as she is required to report to Parliament about how the law is working, it is also needed.

Under the Act (ss. 75(1)), a House or Senate Committee is supposed to consistently review the Act, but nothing has been done for the past three years, and no past reviews have resulted in any changes to strengthen the law and enforcement.

The federal Conservatives did not include any proposals for changes in their so-called action plan for next three years for the international Open Government Partnership, and broke almost all (archive website) of their 2006 election promises to strengthen the law and enforcement.

Similar past broken promises and ineffective actions by politicians from all parties have resulted in repeated failures to strengthen the law over the past 30 years to help end the excessive, and often illegal, secrecy that is rampant in the federal government.

P.S. Michel Drapeau, quoted in the CP article last Friday-Saturday about the review, is completely incorrect when he claims that the review is outside the legal mandate of the Information Commissioner — please see subsection 39(1) of the Act set out below which gives the Commissioner the clear power to do special reports, in addition to her annual report to Parliament, that contain recommendations to solve problems with the Act and its enforcement.

Access to Information Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. A-1)

Special reports
39. (1) The Information Commissioner may, at any time, make a special report to Parliament referring to and commenting on any matter within the scope of the powers, duties and functions of the Commissioner where, in the opinion of the Commissioner, the matter is of such urgency or importance that a report thereon should not be deferred until the time provided for transmission of the next annual report of the Commissioner under section 38.

For more details, go to Democracy Watch’s Open Government Campaign