Executive decisions

Rob Antle
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The premier's branch of the civil service has been quietly involved in vetting responses under the province's freedom of information laws, directing other public bodies to keep information secret

The branch of the civil service that serves the premier's office has been directing other government departments and agencies to keep information secret from the public, ignoring recommendations to the contrary from an independent officer of the House of Assembly.

Executive Council has no actual legislative authority to tell other public bodies what to do.

But documents pieced together by The Telegram over the past six months reveal that Executive Council is using its clout - mainly under instructions contained in a government policy manual - to keep information secret.

The premier's branch of the civil service has been quietly involved in vetting responses under the province's freedom of information laws, directing other public bodies to keep information secret. Illustration by The Telegram

The branch of the civil service that serves the premier's office has been directing other government departments and agencies to keep information secret from the public, ignoring recommendations to the contrary from an independent officer of the House of Assembly.

Executive Council has no actual legislative authority to tell other public bodies what to do.

But documents pieced together by The Telegram over the past six months reveal that Executive Council is using its clout - mainly under instructions contained in a government policy manual - to keep information secret.

A trail of internal government correspondence and e-mail shows Executive Council actively working behind the scenes to manage freedom of information requests to other public bodies.

One department even sent a number of completed responses to Executive Council for final approval - a practice that appears to conflict with testimony given by government officials at the Cameron inquiry.

Records show that Executive Council has declined to co-operate with investigators from the information commissioner's office, declined to provide any rationale for keeping information secret, and declined to follow the watchdog's recommendations.

The commissioner has opted against taking further action in recent cases related to cabinet secrecy and Executive Council.

And one particularly sensitive investigation invol
ving the premier's office has dragged on for more than 10 months - seven months longer than the legislated deadline - with no end in sight.

For more on this story see the print edition of The Telegram, where reporter Rob Antle sheds light on 'The case of the purple files', and what the rules of access to information are supposed to be.

Organizations: Executive Council

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Recent comments

  • tommietoe
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    Would someone be so kind as to translate this story..or just recap it...it is almost the same as listening to that buddy with all the wouderful strange sounding yet tasty big words...too much to get a tongue around !

  • Joe
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Say BAAAAAThe shepherd says so.
    Once again----BAAAAAAA

  • Tim Powers
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    Sheep need to be led.

    The sheep followed the Williams administration's ABC dictate perfectly.

    What do sheep expect?

  • Sandy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    Wonder why SOFTIE Marshall was moved back to the Justice Department?

  • greg
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    Inevitable. The Truth Police. A real example of the Willaims Effect.It will only get worse as paranoia increases amongst the zealots. Enemies everywhere.Put the enemies in the purple file. Protect the Great One at all costs. Not unlike the brown -shirts and armbands. We've seen it all before and we detest it but its ok when we do it.

  • W
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    The best way to ''translate'' the story would be for the Telegram to post all of Antle's reportage on the subject.

  • Dmac
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    During the last Federal election I was astounded by the viciousness on display by Danny Williams. My thoughts ran to the aspect of false indignation as I have seen in numerous business negotiations I participate in through the Asia and SE Asia region: So much posturing and threatening and demeaning just to achieve some placement for the next stage of a discussion. IMO - The ABC campaign instigated by Williams was demeaning to the people of his Province and insulting to all of Canada. Now we see that the Williams office was also running an ABS campaign as well ie: Anything But Sincere or is that All Bull S--t. This caricature of a leader should be thrown out of office, he is an embarrassment to the fine people of Newfoundland Labrador.

  • lucky
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    i agree with a. rose wholeheartedly. &
    i think tim powers might be a mouthpiece for the conservatives- duh?

    He has such contempt for the people of nl who were wise enough to reject harpers' republic of canada. I think he is a mutton of another kind- one led by the wolf (harper) in sheep's clothing.

  • Ham
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    Basically the story says that the premier's office is using the Cabinet Secretariat to control access to information requests.
    Cabinet Secretariat is supposed to prepare documents for cabinet meetings, has no legislative authority to tell departments what to do and may or may not be full of donkeys. The access to information legislation in NL dictates that the departments themselves must apply the access to information legislation in order to release information. The minister is responsable.
    Therefore, the premier's office and cabinet secretariat are going beyond their authority to control information in the hands of your government departments.
    If you read the NL OIPC reports it's pretty clear that the cabinet secretariat feels that it has the authority to tell departments when they cannot release based on cabinet confidence.
    Their interpretation is unreasonable, but the Access and Privacy Commissioner lost his stones...
    My guess, Tom, is that you don't actually care about this story, maybe you're a cabinet minister, but at least now you can't claim a blissful ignorance on the matter.

  • ExNlder
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    To date, the Privacy Commissioner has had to write two major reports on my behalf in obtaining information from the College of the North Atlantic with another report in progress. Although the Commissioner recommended more documents be turned over to me, the College simply refused.

    A fourth case of mine, this time involving the Public Service Secretariat, is going to court as again the recommendations set out by the Privacy Commissioner were not adhered to.

    The OIPC has their hands tied by Government and has no real power in NL and until legislation is in place to give the Freedom of Information act some teeth, Government alone has the power to decide what information will be released to the public.

  • Graham
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Dmac..I agree with you 100%. The man is a sick joke and his whole life is about power, control and attention. I think most people in our Province are finally starting to see Danny Williams for the manipulative self centred dictator he really is. His yes sir no sir three bags full sir ministers like Ross NO CRISIS Wisman, Trevor Taylor, Cathy Blunderdale, and Minister without mush Education Joan Burke, are all an insult to the intelligence of the great people of this province. They have all been hand picked by Danny Castro himself and will do anything he tells them to. The power and control Williams has over these people resembles that of a Cult Leader. I wonder will they drink the cool-aid too when Danny gets it ready for them?

  • Terry
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Not at all surprised! Not enough room in the House of Assembly to put all the seats of government members.

    Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men. A quotation by Lord John Emerich Acton, first Baron Acton (18341902).

    Danny Williams running a 'dictatorship': Fisheries and Oceans Minister Loyola Hearn, Friday, Sept. 5, 2008.

  • lucky
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    it's scary as an ex pat to hear this kind of banana republic shennanigans going on home,but seriously what do you expect from a dictatorship.i don't doubt MR Williams means well but as the adage proves once more- power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely .

  • A.
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    It strikes me that Harper and Williams have some things in common. But many of us sheep did not have any wool pulled over our eyes when we decided not to vote for Harper. What happened in Parliament last week was a pretty significant sign that more people should have acted to get this blundering, arrogant arse and his pedantic shillfaced finance minister out of the drivers' seat.

  • Elizabeth
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    Better be careful Telegram...if you say bad things about Danny you might end up going the same way as The Independent. You know how he gets when someone pisses him off. Freedom of Speech is a thing of the past in Newfoundland. You speak your mind or go against him in any way and you pay. And now I see he is also deciding what we hear as well. Oh to be as powerful as the great Danny Williams!

  • Valdmanis
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    I am glad that the fine people of Newfoundland and Labrador are getting the courage to finally question the actions of this one-man banana republic. Danny Williams is abusing his power once again and unless he is checked this time there really is no telling where it will lead. Danny Williams is an autocratic control freak who thinks that Newfoundland can be ruled as some 15th century fiefdom and we wll all be content to be his serfs. As Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, we deserve better than this shameful abuse of power and comeplete disdain for the democratic process. If Danny announces that he has a brother Raul, I say panic!

  • tommietoe
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    Would someone be so kind as to translate this story..or just recap it...it is almost the same as listening to that buddy with all the wouderful strange sounding yet tasty big words...too much to get a tongue around !

  • Joe
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    Say BAAAAAThe shepherd says so.
    Once again----BAAAAAAA

  • Tim Powers
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    Sheep need to be led.

    The sheep followed the Williams administration's ABC dictate perfectly.

    What do sheep expect?

  • Sandy
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    Wonder why SOFTIE Marshall was moved back to the Justice Department?

  • greg
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    Inevitable. The Truth Police. A real example of the Willaims Effect.It will only get worse as paranoia increases amongst the zealots. Enemies everywhere.Put the enemies in the purple file. Protect the Great One at all costs. Not unlike the brown -shirts and armbands. We've seen it all before and we detest it but its ok when we do it.

  • W
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    The best way to ''translate'' the story would be for the Telegram to post all of Antle's reportage on the subject.

  • Dmac
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    During the last Federal election I was astounded by the viciousness on display by Danny Williams. My thoughts ran to the aspect of false indignation as I have seen in numerous business negotiations I participate in through the Asia and SE Asia region: So much posturing and threatening and demeaning just to achieve some placement for the next stage of a discussion. IMO - The ABC campaign instigated by Williams was demeaning to the people of his Province and insulting to all of Canada. Now we see that the Williams office was also running an ABS campaign as well ie: Anything But Sincere or is that All Bull S--t. This caricature of a leader should be thrown out of office, he is an embarrassment to the fine people of Newfoundland Labrador.

  • lucky
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    i agree with a. rose wholeheartedly. &
    i think tim powers might be a mouthpiece for the conservatives- duh?

    He has such contempt for the people of nl who were wise enough to reject harpers' republic of canada. I think he is a mutton of another kind- one led by the wolf (harper) in sheep's clothing.

  • Ham
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    Basically the story says that the premier's office is using the Cabinet Secretariat to control access to information requests.
    Cabinet Secretariat is supposed to prepare documents for cabinet meetings, has no legislative authority to tell departments what to do and may or may not be full of donkeys. The access to information legislation in NL dictates that the departments themselves must apply the access to information legislation in order to release information. The minister is responsable.
    Therefore, the premier's office and cabinet secretariat are going beyond their authority to control information in the hands of your government departments.
    If you read the NL OIPC reports it's pretty clear that the cabinet secretariat feels that it has the authority to tell departments when they cannot release based on cabinet confidence.
    Their interpretation is unreasonable, but the Access and Privacy Commissioner lost his stones...
    My guess, Tom, is that you don't actually care about this story, maybe you're a cabinet minister, but at least now you can't claim a blissful ignorance on the matter.

  • ExNlder
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    To date, the Privacy Commissioner has had to write two major reports on my behalf in obtaining information from the College of the North Atlantic with another report in progress. Although the Commissioner recommended more documents be turned over to me, the College simply refused.

    A fourth case of mine, this time involving the Public Service Secretariat, is going to court as again the recommendations set out by the Privacy Commissioner were not adhered to.

    The OIPC has their hands tied by Government and has no real power in NL and until legislation is in place to give the Freedom of Information act some teeth, Government alone has the power to decide what information will be released to the public.

  • Graham
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Dmac..I agree with you 100%. The man is a sick joke and his whole life is about power, control and attention. I think most people in our Province are finally starting to see Danny Williams for the manipulative self centred dictator he really is. His yes sir no sir three bags full sir ministers like Ross NO CRISIS Wisman, Trevor Taylor, Cathy Blunderdale, and Minister without mush Education Joan Burke, are all an insult to the intelligence of the great people of this province. They have all been hand picked by Danny Castro himself and will do anything he tells them to. The power and control Williams has over these people resembles that of a Cult Leader. I wonder will they drink the cool-aid too when Danny gets it ready for them?

  • Terry
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    Not at all surprised! Not enough room in the House of Assembly to put all the seats of government members.

    Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men. A quotation by Lord John Emerich Acton, first Baron Acton (18341902).

    Danny Williams running a 'dictatorship': Fisheries and Oceans Minister Loyola Hearn, Friday, Sept. 5, 2008.

  • lucky
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    it's scary as an ex pat to hear this kind of banana republic shennanigans going on home,but seriously what do you expect from a dictatorship.i don't doubt MR Williams means well but as the adage proves once more- power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely .

  • A.
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    It strikes me that Harper and Williams have some things in common. But many of us sheep did not have any wool pulled over our eyes when we decided not to vote for Harper. What happened in Parliament last week was a pretty significant sign that more people should have acted to get this blundering, arrogant arse and his pedantic shillfaced finance minister out of the drivers' seat.

  • Elizabeth
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    Better be careful Telegram...if you say bad things about Danny you might end up going the same way as The Independent. You know how he gets when someone pisses him off. Freedom of Speech is a thing of the past in Newfoundland. You speak your mind or go against him in any way and you pay. And now I see he is also deciding what we hear as well. Oh to be as powerful as the great Danny Williams!

  • Valdmanis
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    I am glad that the fine people of Newfoundland and Labrador are getting the courage to finally question the actions of this one-man banana republic. Danny Williams is abusing his power once again and unless he is checked this time there really is no telling where it will lead. Danny Williams is an autocratic control freak who thinks that Newfoundland can be ruled as some 15th century fiefdom and we wll all be content to be his serfs. As Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, we deserve better than this shameful abuse of power and comeplete disdain for the democratic process. If Danny announces that he has a brother Raul, I say panic!