All posts tagged Access to Information Act

Yes, we can trust Ottawa again

Sean Bruyea

Holding government accountable has been granted a ray of hope. Democracy Watch may proceed with a private prosecution of Nigel Wright for the secretive payment of $90,000 to Senator Mike Duffy. This initiative has much wider implications for ensuring greater accountability of Ottawa’s oversight agencies which have been rendered largely ineffective by design and/or management. The end result could be a federal government which actually becomes more transparent and accountable.

Duff Connacher of Democracy Watch accuses the RCMP of “covering up” any justification the federal agency may have in failing to prosecute Wright. The RCMP is one of the penultimate agencies of accountability and oversight in Canada. How do we as Canadians safeguard democracy and the rule of law if these watchdogs fail to do their job?

Politicians have exhausted our trust that they seek good governance in Ottawa. Meanwhile MPs have been complicit or apathetic to the increasing ineffectiveness of offices created ostensibly to ensure accountable and transparent government.

Politicians and their parties come and go but the bureaucracy is the eternal rock beneath the immature antics of Parliament. In spite of increasing autocratic tendencies in our current government, MPs appear unwilling or unable to make public servants accountable, let alone make government transparent.… Read the rest

The Failure of the Throne Speech

Ian Bron and Allan Cutler

The following piece ran in the Hill Times on October 21, 2013.

We had hoped that that the Conservatives would commit to protecting Canadians values through the Throne Speech. We had watched and waited for improvements in existing laws already designed to protect these values. But we did not waste time in false hopes. There appeared to be something for everyone offered in the Throne Speech unless you are an advocate of truth, honesty and transparency in government. In fact, we did not witness anything that promotes openness and honesty in government. The following details some of the significant ‘lacks’.

1. A commitment to strengthen the Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActThe PSDPA came into force in early 2006, fulfilling a key Conservative promise. However, the seven years since have shown it to be wanting. The first commissioner, Christiane Ouimet, refused to seriously investigate any cases. Second, the PSDPA, and by extension the tribunal it created, is unlikely to protect any whistleblower, since the burden of proof to demonstrate reprisal is much too high. Whistleblowers also have no right of access to courts.

There are deep flaws including unwarranted secrecy and jurisdictional limits that allow public servants to avoid sanctions simply by resigning or finding a job outside of the public sector.… Read the rest

Turning information technology silk purses into sows’ ears (part 1)

Here in the dead of summer, accountability news is at its low point. There have been a few stories of interest, though. About four weeks ago, the Globe and Mail ran apiece about what the author called Canada’s “accountability deficit.”

In it, she describes the incredible inefficiency of government information management practices – the quirky, idiosyncratic systems set up by each department, the inaccessibility of data to the public and the outrageous cost of it all.

A week later, the federal Access to Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault, urged Canada to take the lead in making its data more accessible to the public. As if responding to her, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, launched a database which allows Canadians better track and understand how government money is spent.

And now, just this week, anti-virus software giant McAfee released a report which revealed massive hacking attacks on targets around the globe – including the Canadian government – which, you might recall, had to practically shut down two departments earlier this year due to just such an attack.

Putting aside the right of citizens to know what their government is doing, these stories show how backward our government is in information security, how entrenched current practices are and what the consequences of this can be.… Read the rest