Williams wanted secrecy appeals speeded up in 2002

Rob Antle
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Process now drags out; Tories haven't moved to stem delays

Then-Opposition Leader Danny Williams pushed for strengthened access-to-information laws during debate in the House of Assembly in 2002, calling for more "teeth" and shorter timelines for disputes to be resolved.

But the Williams government has not followed through on those proposals, which were rejected by the Liberal administration of the day.

Danny Williams

Then-Opposition Leader Danny Williams pushed for strengthened access-to-information laws during debate in the House of Assembly in 2002, calling for more "teeth" and shorter timelines for disputes to be resolved.

But the Williams government has not followed through on those proposals, which were rejected by the Liberal administration of the day.

And many of the issues Williams worried about in Opposition have come to pass under his government.

During debate on new access-to-information laws in the legislature on March 14, 2002, Williams fretted about the 90-day deadline in the law for commissioner's reports to be completed on disputes over secrecy issues.

"This is just another one of the sections where the Opposition feels that the time frames should be shortened," Williams told the House.

Called for other changes

That wasn't the only timeline he wanted changed.

"There are several matters that are of concern to the Opposition in the act, and in situations where we feel that cabinet documents and cabinet confidences and that, the time period should be reduced so that we have access to them as well."

Williams said he was particularly worried the process could drag out for those seeking access to government information.

"I would like to just go quickly through the process that is involved here, if I want to start or anybody else in the province wanted to start, or the media wanted to try and get some information out of the system," Williams said.

"According to my calculations, it could be at least a year or more if you go through all the process in order to get the information that is required."

He also wanted the independent body overseeing investigations to have "teeth" - the ability to order governments to comply with decisions, instead of just making recommendations.

"The citizens' representative makes a recommendation, government does not listen, then you have the option of going to the courts, and you are now well beyond a year. In our opinion, that is not access to information. That is wrong."

The role of citizens' representative was changed to information and privacy commissioner. But while the title changed, the powers of the position did not.

In 2002, Williams decried that lack of authority. "This piece of legislation is nothing but a sham," he told the House.

The Tory government has not moved to shorten the 90-day deadline.

The 90-day deadline remains in place, but is routinely not met.

The Telegram has had one file under review by the information commissioner for more than 10 months. Another appeal was filed more than five months ago.

The government has also not moved to give the commissioner more powers, as Williams advocated in 2002.

As reported in The Weekend Telegram, civil servants in Executive Council - which serves the premier - have been quietly directing other departments and agencies to withhold information from release, ignoring recommendations from the information commissioner.

Information commissioner Ed Ring has downplayed the importance of the 90-day deadline in the past.

"(I'm) not too concerned about the 90 days, and I believe the public bodies really take to heart that what's most important here is that the right thing is done," Ring told The Telegram in July.

"And if it takes 90 days, or 91 days, or 191 days, at the end of the day, when we come out with our recommendations, we expect the public bodies to abide by them."

That, however, has been happening less in recent times. To date in 2008-2009, the commissioner disagreed with the public body in seven out of 11 reports.

But his recommendations were accepted in just three of the 11. They were rejected in four, partially accepted in one, and there were no recommendations given in the other three. The law requires a review of the province's access to information legislation by early 2010.

rantle@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Executive Council, The Telegram

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Recent comments

  • Doug
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Considering that the current process is no different than it was under the previous Liberal government, I don't see how this has anything to do with Dictator Danny . Hypocrite Danny might be appropriate but not Dictator.

    In the meantime, it looks like Danny has more in common with Steve Harper than he might want to admit. When Harper was in opposition to a minority government, an alliance with the Bloc wasn't a bad idea. He had a completely different story last week. Similarly, when Danny was in opposition, he was all for freedom of information. Now that he is running the show, he wants to keep any dirty laundry inhouse.

  • Who
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    Hows about we stop crying about this or that and take back our government. People seem to cry over things like this, but are willing to take no action.

    Block access to the house, have a sit in, protest this properly rather then cray about it here. No one cares what we say in this fourm, but I bet they would if faced with a mob at the door steps.

  • Alexander
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    What the Dictator wants the Dictator usually gets. Danny Castro at his best

  • pierre
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    @ Who Cares From Dannyville: Now you're talking!!

  • Spurrell
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    What I meant with mentioning the 20 Questions piece from several years ago, is that our Hero, Danny is a man who by admitting that his wife single-handedly raised their kids is a typical old-school father ... work before family or other personal committments ... while Dan may be a capable leader, he is not without his flaws ... and his worshipers need to be mindful of this.

  • PierreNeary
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    The dictatorship continues. This is just another election promise not fullfilled by this administration. The Premier's staffers have already exposed themselves for what they are during the Cameron Inquiry by covering up information. This was proven by the absurd testimony given by his Chief of Staff and Communications Director which in my opinion was borderline purgery. These staffers are now covering up and stifling government departments from releasing information to the public. Time for an RNC investigation.

  • Lloyd
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Who Cares from Dannyville, Danny's Land writes:
    Block access to the house, have a sit in, protest this properly rather then cray about it here. ...'
    Good lord, man, you'd be playing right into their hands. This bunch just don't want to be in the house in the first place, they think it's a waste of time!
    A few people are noticing alright, there is a lot in common with the PM and the Premier. If you want to figure Him out, just check out what he criticizes other for, and you will have it.

  • Spurrell
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Ha Ha Dan spend more time with his family?? Fat chance! I remember him publically admitting in that 20 Questions column several years ago before getting into politics that his wife pretty much single handedly raised their kids ... allowing him to focus on his business successes

  • Frank
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Danny Williams: do as I say, not as I do.

    But what is the alternative in this province?

    Learn from the federal Liberal party experience - Dump Yvonne Jones.

  • Graham
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    TO Who Cares:::Let us know when you want to take action and I will be at the front of the line. Its time we got rid of Danny Castro once and for all. He can have more time to spend with his family.

  • Graham
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    Sorry Spurrell you right its always been about whats best for him. Sad thing is thats the way he is in his public life as well.. We as the people of this province need to take a stand this Government is sickening. Then again Ross NO CRISIS Wiseman is minister of Health. No wonder they are all so sick. I watched him in action today on Question Period from the House of Assembly. He wa asked very simple straight forward questions but yet came back with insults to anyone and everyone who dare to question him. In usual Wiseman fashion he talked on and said nothing. I will soon be refering to him as Ross NO CRISIS Williams. They are both equally as good at talking and saying nothing.

  • Doug
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Considering that the current process is no different than it was under the previous Liberal government, I don't see how this has anything to do with Dictator Danny . Hypocrite Danny might be appropriate but not Dictator.

    In the meantime, it looks like Danny has more in common with Steve Harper than he might want to admit. When Harper was in opposition to a minority government, an alliance with the Bloc wasn't a bad idea. He had a completely different story last week. Similarly, when Danny was in opposition, he was all for freedom of information. Now that he is running the show, he wants to keep any dirty laundry inhouse.

  • Who
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    Hows about we stop crying about this or that and take back our government. People seem to cry over things like this, but are willing to take no action.

    Block access to the house, have a sit in, protest this properly rather then cray about it here. No one cares what we say in this fourm, but I bet they would if faced with a mob at the door steps.

  • Alexander
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    What the Dictator wants the Dictator usually gets. Danny Castro at his best

  • pierre
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    @ Who Cares From Dannyville: Now you're talking!!

  • Spurrell
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    What I meant with mentioning the 20 Questions piece from several years ago, is that our Hero, Danny is a man who by admitting that his wife single-handedly raised their kids is a typical old-school father ... work before family or other personal committments ... while Dan may be a capable leader, he is not without his flaws ... and his worshipers need to be mindful of this.

  • PierreNeary
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    The dictatorship continues. This is just another election promise not fullfilled by this administration. The Premier's staffers have already exposed themselves for what they are during the Cameron Inquiry by covering up information. This was proven by the absurd testimony given by his Chief of Staff and Communications Director which in my opinion was borderline purgery. These staffers are now covering up and stifling government departments from releasing information to the public. Time for an RNC investigation.

  • Lloyd
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    Who Cares from Dannyville, Danny's Land writes:
    Block access to the house, have a sit in, protest this properly rather then cray about it here. ...'
    Good lord, man, you'd be playing right into their hands. This bunch just don't want to be in the house in the first place, they think it's a waste of time!
    A few people are noticing alright, there is a lot in common with the PM and the Premier. If you want to figure Him out, just check out what he criticizes other for, and you will have it.

  • Spurrell
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    Ha Ha Dan spend more time with his family?? Fat chance! I remember him publically admitting in that 20 Questions column several years ago before getting into politics that his wife pretty much single handedly raised their kids ... allowing him to focus on his business successes

  • Frank
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    Danny Williams: do as I say, not as I do.

    But what is the alternative in this province?

    Learn from the federal Liberal party experience - Dump Yvonne Jones.

  • Graham
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    TO Who Cares:::Let us know when you want to take action and I will be at the front of the line. Its time we got rid of Danny Castro once and for all. He can have more time to spend with his family.

  • Graham
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    Sorry Spurrell you right its always been about whats best for him. Sad thing is thats the way he is in his public life as well.. We as the people of this province need to take a stand this Government is sickening. Then again Ross NO CRISIS Wiseman is minister of Health. No wonder they are all so sick. I watched him in action today on Question Period from the House of Assembly. He wa asked very simple straight forward questions but yet came back with insults to anyone and everyone who dare to question him. In usual Wiseman fashion he talked on and said nothing. I will soon be refering to him as Ross NO CRISIS Williams. They are both equally as good at talking and saying nothing.