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James Cowan

The Hon. James  Cowan, Q.C., B.A., LL.B., LL.M., LL.D. Senator James Cowan has greatly influenced the educational and legal communities of Nova Scotia. He was appointed to the Senate on March 24, 2005 by the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin.

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Access to Information Act

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Statement made on 22 April 2009 by Senator Tommy Banks (retired)

Hon. Tommy Banks:

Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. During Question Period on March 25, 2009, in response to a question by Senator Fox, she said:

Recent actions taken include developing a framework to strengthen information management across government because that is part of the problem. Different departments process these requests differently. There is an excess of paper in some departments and there is no cross-government management.

Minister, until recently there was highly efficient cross-government management of information and cross-departmental coordination of access to information requests. It was called the Co-ordination of Access to Information Requests System, or CAIRS, and was created in a brilliant move by the Progressive Conservative government of Mr. Mulroney in 1989. However, the government of the honourable leader did not think that it was a good idea and has axed CAIRS because, as a Treasury Board official explained at the time, extensive consultation showed that the program was not valued by government departments. However, there were uses for CAIRS other than by government departments, for example to enhance openness and accountability. Apparently, Robert Makichuk, the government spokesman, did not think so because he said:

. . . the valuable resources currently being used to maintain CAIRS would be better used in the collection and analysis of improved statistical reporting.

We have all heard a great deal in our respective offices about requests for access to information, but no one is beating down my door to ask for better analysis of statistical reporting. CAIRS was an inconvenience, so it has been made to disappear — people kept asking questions.

Will the minister undertake at the next Conservative government cabinet meeting to urge the Prime Minister to rejuvenate that valuable program with its openness, its accountability and its precious access to information from government?


Please click here to read the full text of the Senator's question

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