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.