Mr. Trudeau’s Gambit

I have just read Justin Trudeau’s PMB C-613 on Access to Information transparency.

Only really significant aspect of the Bill is that it gives the Information Commissioner the power to order disclosure of records, as opposed to her current authority to recommend disclosure, subject to litigation.

The power to order compliance has always been a point of contention for ombudsman officials. The argument goes that the ombuds person will become a part of the system if they are the ones who can make decisions.

This rather precious controversy aside, it would definitely help for the IC to be able to dictate disclosure. One wonders, though, in the case of complaints about delay (as opposed to complaints about exemptions from records) whether this would have a practical effect.

In any case, simply saying you MUST disclose, as a kind of rebuttable presumption, does not get around the myriad roadblocks that are provided, permitting (and sometimes mandating) government departments and agencies to hide certain records, or portions thereof.

I believe that these exemptions have to be whittled down before there can be any real improvement in the availability of records.

For example:
– there must be much more severe time limits on how long governments can conceal records
– there should automatically be a “harm test” on disclosure of all records, requiring the government to consider the real damage that would take place of a record were disclosed
– there should be NO mandatory exemptions – i.e. government would always be able to consider the right to information of the public versus the need for government to conceal

The problem with ATIP is that the principle of transparency dies a slow death in the forrest of excuses that government is provided to justify secrecy. The public gets very little after very long.

Still, at least Justin made a public jester ( oops, I meant gesture).

Here’s a copy of the Bill

http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&DocId=6666048

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