We’re No. 1

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Well, this province’s government has been held up as a national leader — but it’s probably not an honour that Kathy Dunderdale and her cohorts will be trumpeting any time soon.

Dunderdale’s government has gotten special billing in Newspapers Canada’s Freedom of Information Audit 2012, for making “the biggest setback” for access to information in the entire nation with the changes the government brought in with Bill 29.

“The biggest setback came in Newfoundland and Labrador, with the passage in June of amendments to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Bill 29 was denounced by access advocates and prompted an opposition filibuster as debate stretched long into the night. The bill was positioned as implementation of the recommendations of a review of the province’s act that was released in early 2011. But the bill went further than the Cummings Report had recommended, creating several new ways for the government to refuse the processing of access requests.”

It is, of course, an echo of what every access to information expert who looked at the proposed law said — and what the provincial government has steadfastly denied was the case. (Holding that every expert is wrong or misguided — unless they agree with the government’s position — seems to be a common theme for this government. See Russell Wangersky’s column today.)

So, what will happen as a result of the audit and its concerns? Well, if past track records are anything, the Dunderdale government will change precisely nothing about the new law. Concerns about the proposed amendments were made soon after the review of the legislation and were made stridently during the debate. Nothing changed. Next?

Justice Minister Felix Collins will write yet another letter to the editor saying the government is just misunderstood, and that the changes were really a good thing and that the law has actually been improved, and all of us — particularly cabinet ministers who want to be able to keep things from the people who elected them — are better off. It’s a shame a minister of justice doesn’t understand the concept of evidence.

Oh, and by the way, it’s Right to Know Week in Canada, which bills itself like this: “The purpose of Right to Know Week is to raise awareness about people’s right to access government information while promoting freedom of information as essential to both democracy and good governance.”

That’s pretty clear: the right to access government information is essential to both democracy and good governance.

Maybe the provincial government would like to improve on that concept, too, by proposing a more accurate Right to Know (Less) Week.

And Minister Collins could send in a fulsome letter saying why that’s a better thing, too.

Organizations: Freedom of Information Audit 2012

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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Recent comments

  • W McLean
    September 25, 2012 - 23:14

    "John Smith", you say "the meat of the bill has been in place for three years now". What, exactly, do you mean by that? There were no amendments to the Act in 2009, and certainly no amendments in 2009, or any other time, which are in any way connected to the amendments contained in Bill 29, the Secrecy Act. So what do you mean by that? Please be specific.

  • Pierre Neary
    September 25, 2012 - 18:18

    Not something to be proud of.

  • Red
    September 25, 2012 - 10:04

    Calvin and John Smith we know you are paid hacks that come on here to trumpet the PC party. Get back to work our tax dollars are paying your salary. The PC's could kick you in the groin and you would convince yourself that is was for the good of the province.

  • Calvin
    September 25, 2012 - 08:27

    So what is the alternative there Cold Future? A liberal government that can't find someone who wants to lead them, or an NDP party that would be in over their head? Politicians are politicians, makes no difference the colour of their pin come election time, period.

  • Scott Free
    September 25, 2012 - 07:56

    That Secret Society known as the Tory Party of NL has demolished democracy here in this provice while lives are lost in the battle to gain it globally. Sad and pathetic that we take on more of the hideous characteristics of Prorougie Steve's Con Party of Canada.

  • John Smith
    September 25, 2012 - 07:55

    Lots of talk about bill 29...yet not one example of access to information denied. Strange? You would think that this bill would have resulted in one denial of access to info by now? But nope, nada...Perhaps it is much ado about nothing, as the meat of the bill has been in place for three years now...

    • George S
      September 25, 2012 - 13:59

      How would you know this?

  • Cold Future
    September 25, 2012 - 06:58

    Remember the Heinz piclke Advertisement. "You can't tell a heinz pickle anything or nothing". The present PC government is a puppet show. Arrogant to the core but the strings appear to be fraying ever so slightly. The taxpayer's prayer " with gods help they will not inflict too much damage before they are escorted out."