Process ongoing to name three-person committee
Public Engagement Minister Steve Kent says he’s hoping to rework the province’s access to information laws by the end of the year, bringing amendments in the fall session of the House of Assembly.
Steve Kent. — Transcontinental file photo
That’s a fairly ambitious goal, given that Kent hasn’t even appointed the three-person committee that will be responsible for studying the province’s access to information legislation and preparing a report.
Then, government bureaucrats will have to take that report and turn its recommendations into legislation before it can go to the House of Assembly.
Kent said that ideally, he’d like to get the committee’s report by early fall, but speaking to The Telegram, his No. 1 message was that they’ll be completely unrestricted when they do their work.
Kent said they’ll be allowed to take as long as they need, and conduct themselves however they want to.
“We don’t want to place any kind of restrictions on the work of the committee. We want them to do a thorough and complete job of reviewing the legislation in its entirety,” he said.
“I want the people of the province to have full confidence in our ATIPPA legislation.”
Ever since the Progressive Conservative government passed Bill 29 and amended the province’s access to information law, they have been consistently criticized for running a closed, secretive government.
Bill 29 broadly increased the ability of the government to withhold information from the public, and in some situations, made it illegal to release certain kinds of government information.
The Liberals have made criticizing government secrecy a cornerstone of their tactics.
Shortly after former premier Kathy Dunderdale resigned in January, interim-Premier Tom Marshall announced that the government would undertake a comprehensive, independent review of the access to information system.
Such a review was scheduled to come in 2015, but Marshall said public interest in the system moved it up a year.
A month later, the provincial government still hasn’t named anybody to the three-person committee that will be charged with doing the review, but Kent said they’re close.
“Very soon, further information is going to be provided to the public, so that they can make their views known and get engaged with this process,” he said.
“We have a list of potential candidates. We’ve received a great deal of interest from around the province, and even outside the province.”
Kent said to expect an announcement in March, hopefully in the first half of the month.
He said the government wants to bolster confidence in the access system.
“We know there are concerns and we want to address those concerns,” he said.
“We are deeply open to being open and being transparent, and we want the people of the province to know that we are listening.”