Posted on 12 May 2008
Ottawa, May 12, 2008 – With each passing day, this Conservative government takes us farther away from the accountability and transparency they promised Canadians and further into the shadows of government secrecy, noted Senator Lorna Milne (Peel Region, ON) today.
“Decisions such as the removal of the Coordination of Access to Information Request System (CAIRS) lift secrecy in government to new heights at the expense of the public’s right to access information. Canadians expected more from this government and I highly doubt that they will be fooled a second time into believing the current Conservative government is committed to putting the public’s right to know ahead of its own self-interest,” stated Senator Milne.
On April 28, 2008, the Treasury Board Secretariat announced Government of Canada departments no longer have to provide monthly updates to the Coordination of Access to Information Request System. This month will mark the first time in almost 20 years where Canadians will be unable to keep track of requests and see what information has been released by the government through Access to Information requests. Senator Milne commented, the decision to eliminate the CAIRS is just another in a string of actions taken by this government to enhance government secrecy at the expense of the public interest.”
“Over two years after being elected this government is no closer to introducing positive changes to the Access to Information Regime than they were when Canadians gave them a limited mandate,” continued Senator Milne. “The changes promised in Stand Up for Canada were nowhere to be found in the Federal Accountability Act, and since then no action has been taken.”
The changes promised in Stand Up for Canada include:
• To implement the Information Commissioner’s recommendations for reform of the Access to Information Act;
• To give the Information Commissioner the power to order the release of information;
• To subject the exclusion of Cabinet confidences to review by the Information Commissioner;
• To provide a general public interest override for all exemptions, so that the public interest is put before the secrecy of the government;
• To ensure that all exemptions from the disclosure of government information are justified only on the basis of the harm or injury that would result from disclosure, not blanket exemption rules; and,
• To ensure that the disclosure requirements of the Access to Information Act cannot be circumvented by secrecy provisions in other federal acts.