Wells disappointed at public's disinterest in ATIPPA hearings

James McLeod
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As a summer of public hearings into access to information in Newfoundland and Labrador winds down, former premier Clyde Wells mused Monday morning that maybe people are satisfied with the system as it currently exists.
Wells is chairing a three-member panel studying the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA). So far it has had 63 people contact it about weighing in, along with more than 100 civil servants who work on access to information responding to an anonymous questionnaire.

Clyde Wells

But Wells was disappointed Monday that more people haven't logged on to the review committee's website - www.parcnl.ca - to fill out an online questionnaire.

"It may mean on the whole, apart from what some people see as missteps, people are generally satisfied with the way the access to information and protection of privacy legislation is working," Wells said.

"Although we've heard some expression of dissatisfaction - some of them very substantial - but it would appear from the lack of response, despite our shameless efforts at trying to generate interest, that the level of concern may not be as great as we thought."

Of the people who have presented to the committee so far, the message has overwhelmingly been that the current access to information system is too restrictive, and allows far too many avenues for government to keep documents secret from the public.

On Monday, Suzanne Legault, the information commissioner of Canada, added her voice to the chorus, saying the law as it's written is problematic.

"The changes brought forward by Bill 29 have expanded the scope of key exceptions to disclosure under the act - such as the exceptions for cabinet confidences, policy advice and recommendations, and business interests.

Legault also argued that freedom of information should mean the information is, in fact, free.

The fees associated with access to information can create a barrier which prevents people from getting the documents they're looking for; on the other hand, Legault pointed out that last year the government only took in $7,523.95 in fees.

"If you're looking at efficiency of government, I think I would bet at least five dollars that there is more money spent in trying to deal with whether or not fees should be charged," she said.

In the afternoon, representatives from the CBC made a presentation to the committee. The Telegram has also made submissions, along with private citizens, political parties, and information and privacy advocates.

The committee will continue hearings this week, with Public Engagement Minister Sandy Collins making a presentation this morning.

Representatives for Nalcor Energy and Memorial University are on the agenda for later in the week.

The committee, which also includes former federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart and retired journalist Doug Letto, will accept written submissions from the public until the end of August.

It is expected to provide a full report with recommendations to the government this fall.



Organizations: CBC, Nalcor Energy and Memorial University

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • Duggan
    August 19, 2014 - 12:22

    People are simply tired of the hyprocrisy of politicians and apoointees. Mr. Wells is himself an example of this on two fronts. As Premier he brought in regulation to prevent former civil servants from double dipping; recieving a public pension and then recieving a salary from the public treasury for work undertaken for government at the same time. Wells is doing it himself with this review panel. A MHA pension and receiving payment for the panel he chairs. Second, Mr. Wells is a former law firm partner of the current Premier Tom Marshall. The old boys club taking care of each other. And they wonder why the electorate is no longer interested?

  • willy
    August 19, 2014 - 11:05

    Smarten -up Wells people are completely dissatisfied with the whole system of Goverment.. It's summer and hot average people get a little time off you think they want to be following your hearings. You feel rejected because of the disinterest and say "oh maybe people are satisfied with the system" When you know they are not. Listen up this province has been good to you and you know whats wrong with the legislation and what people want so just do your best to give the people what they want and stop being disappointed because you know better!

  • some care but...
    August 19, 2014 - 09:05

    The lack of interest was apparent early, however the fact that he, the chair, was arguing HIS point of view regarding cabinet secrecy with a presenter, taints to some degree the outcome. I expect his view period. My view anyway as it was when premier....his way or no way. . But less input aids that outcone too so we will see.

  • Glenn Stockley
    August 19, 2014 - 08:46

    wow..can clyde ever obfuscate the issue !!!....lack of response means approval ???? it may mean that many are jaded and believe that the last person who should be chairing this panel is a career politician.....

  • Who Cares
    August 19, 2014 - 08:15

    Clyde Wells is disappointed. Who cares?? What did he really expect?BTW, Lots are disappointed in him also. And this made news! Honestly??

  • Observer
    August 19, 2014 - 07:18

    And they threw Kathy Dunderdale under the bus for this? Shameful.