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I’ve been doing a few stories on government orders in council recently. Here’s a link to the first piece I did, which will give a bit of background on the issue.

Basically, OCs are formal decisions of cabinet. They receive royal assent, which means that the lieutenant-governor must sign off on them, on behalf of the Queen. They’re routinely described as “subordinate legislation” and they have the full force of law.

I also wrote a followup story that ran March 2. (We don’t post all of our stories online. Since it was an exclusive, the only way you can read it is by buying a copy of the paper or signing up for the SmartEdition of The Telegram. As a side note, I highly endorse the SmartEdition. It’s how I read the paper, it’s a great product and it’s reasonably priced. Check it out.)

Anyway, in that March 2 story, I explain that in the spring of 2012, The Telegram filed an access to information request for a large swath of 2011 OICs. (It wasn’t actually my access request; it was made by my formidable colleague, Steve Bartlett.) Of well over 100 requests, eight were either partially or totally blacked out. When I got interested in OCs, I asked for some of the same documents in February 2013. The response I got was a bit confusing. I received several OCs with fewer redactions than Steve got in his 2012 request. When I was making inquiries about this odd situation, I put together a short Imgur album to send to the PR people and politicians I was dealing with.

In the interest of transparency, check it out here: http://imgur.com/a/UAofy

Here’s the real treat, though. The government does not post orders in council online. You can only get them by request from Cabinet Secretariat. I’ve requested through Cabinet Secretariat that I get all OCs from the government as quickly as is reasonably possible, once they’ve received royal assent.

Here’s an album of the OCs I’ve been provided so far, up until mid-February: http://imgur.com/a/KdOFM

I’ll try to update, and post new swaths of OCs online when I get them. (I may not be able to post them online right away. My days tend to be pretty busy, but I’ll do my best. Also, I may sit on one for a day or two if I’m going to use it for a story in the paper, but as soon as that’s published, I’ll post it here too.)

So there you have it. The government doesn’t have a database of orders in council online, but I do.

(Side note: There seems to be a bit of a resolution issue with the PDFs I’m posting online. I’m just doing a straight upload with Imgur, and it was pretty quick and dirty. I hope the 2013 OCs are readable. I’ll try to figure it out, but if anybody has any suggestions how to solve that, let me know. You can email me at jmcleod@thetelegram.com.) 

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  • W McLean
    March 08, 2013 - 10:53

    s. 10 of ATIPPA, dealing with electronic records, also echoes language used in the equivalent provisions in other provincial and territorial open-records legislation. In NL, the Access to Information Commissioner has effectively decided that s. 10 doesn't actually mean what it says in plain black and white, and that there is, in fact, no right of access to electronic records.