Dear Prime Minister Harper,
I am writing today to call on you to cancel the new federal government policies that prevent government scientists from speaking freely to the media and the public about their factual research and findings, and to strengthen the access-to-information law and open government system in the following key ways (most of which you promised to do in the 2006 federal election) to stop excessive secrecy by politicians, staff, and government officials:
the access to information law and system should allow anyone who does factual or policy research for the government to speak to the media and publicly about the topic, findings and conclusions of their research without being required to seek approval first from anyone (including their superior, the Privy Council, the Prime Minister, a Cabinet minister, or any ministerial staff person);
any type of record created by any entity that receives significant funding from or is connected to the government, or was created by the government and fulfills public interest functions, should be automatically covered by access to information laws and systems (as in the United Kingdom);
all exemptions under access to information law should be discretionary, and limited by a proof of harm test and a public interest override (as in B.C. and Alberta);
the access to information law and system should require every entity covered (as in the United Kingdom, U.S., Australia and New Zealand): to create detailed records for all decisions and actions and factual and policy research; to routinely disclose records that are required to be disclosed; to assign responsibility to individuals for the creation and maintenance of each record, and; to maintain each record so that it remains easily accessible;
severe penalties should be created for not creating records, for not maintaining records properly, and for unjustifiable delays in responses to requests;
the Information Commissioner should be given explicit powers under access to information: to order the release of a record (as in the United Kingdom, Ontario, B.C. and Quebec); to penalize violators of the law, and; to require systemic changes in government departments to improve compliance (as in the United Kingdom)
funding to the access to information system and enforcement should be increased to solve backlog problems instead of increasing administrative barriers such as limiting requests in any way, and fees for access should be lower overall and standardized for every entity covered by the access to information law and system; and
Parliament must be required to review the ATI Act every 5 years to ensure that problem areas are corrected.
Please let me know what you will do to ensure that these changes are made as soon as possible. I will be deciding which political party to vote for in the next election based on the responses I receive. I look forward to hearing from you.