Bill 29 review needs broader mandate

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I write to ask a couple of questions publicly about the Bill 29 review committee just announced by the government. I do so because I can’t seem to get the answer from our newly open and transparent government directly, so maybe they might respond through the media.

The first concerns the terms of reference.

While the committee, which I think is excellent, can clearly examine anything related to all the clauses of the access to information act itself, I wonder if they are permitted to examine the broader notion of whether or not it is appropriate to have provisions in other pieces of legislation that exempt them from the access to information legislation.

It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to review the rules by which public information can be accessed and/or disclosed while, at the same time, saying the rules will not apply to all public information in all government departments.

A case in point is Nalcor, the energy corporation that we all own as residents of Newfoundland and Labrador. Under the Energy Corporation Act, it basically states that regardless of the rules that apply to information held by and known to the government, none of these rules will apply to Nalcor. Nalcor can act in complete secrecy without any regard to the current rules or new rules suggested by the committee.

Unless the terms of reference allow the committee to at least examine this matter, it seems like a somewhat less than thorough and meaningful exercise.

The other related issue is the propensity of this government generally and Nalcor specifically to use “commercial sensitivity” as the reason why information can’t be released, especially as it relates to tendering issues and cost updates on projects. Is the committee allowed to examine who actually decides that a matter is “commercially sensitive”?

Today it appears to be left to Ed Martin to decide and his judgment is then beyond question.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of the committee’s work, but they can only be effective if their mandate and terms of reference are broad enough to let them do a thorough job.

 

Roger Grimes

St. John’s

Organizations: Energy Corporation

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Jay
    April 04, 2014 - 07:27

    I expect Pam Frampton will now write another scathing article on ex-politicians who won't go away, this weekend. Or does this only apply to certain parties. Anybody who actually wants to know about government transparency should take a loser look at the Liberals when they were in power. Didn't they kick the AG out of the House of Assembly? But that was OK with Wangersky.

  • Corporate Psycho
    April 03, 2014 - 15:01

    The sad thing is we all know when someone checks the books it will stink to the high heavens. But we let it happen. The only one allowed to profit in NL is Danny.

  • Thank Mr. Grimes for pointing out the only way to be transparent.
    April 03, 2014 - 08:56

    Thanks Mr. Grimes you are on the right track to teaching the electorate concerning the instranparencies in government dealings. For instance, as you infer in your article, there is no good in setting up an INQUIRY on any matter that troubles us unless the Terms of Reference are as broad as the Ocean. When the terms are NOT broad nothing will be rectified because the loopholes will save the day for those who want non- transparency and secrecy to reign. Matter of fact there should be no Terms of Reference at all, if something bothers us, the electorate, and if we want something looked into, there should be no obstacles put in our way.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    April 03, 2014 - 07:57

    Excellent points. Also, federally, "access to information" and 'privacy" are separate pieces of legislation. Access to Info is THE issue. These issues should be dealt with separately. A former privacy commissioner ( an expert, so to speak, on privacy), should not have what is in essence an equal and expert role on a review that should be focused on access to information.

  • Roy
    April 03, 2014 - 07:32

    I don't recall anyone ever describing the Grimes government of being "open and transparent".

  • Scott
    April 03, 2014 - 07:04

    Roger in a pack of playing cards, There two joker one His yourself and the other is Dwight Ball, Roger please don't worry Bill 29 won't be repeal by the Liberals, Liberals secrets are safe for now, LOL Roger the BIRTH of Bill 29, was the liberal. Not the PC's

  • Jon Smith
    April 03, 2014 - 07:02

    Is the # 29 cover-up and commercially sensitive wall still required? It appears it is because government is still sending truckloads of cash over to Nalcor. Is it because the loan guarantee implementation is shagged up. One would have thought once the loan is in place the cash delivery trucks would not be needed. Is there problems with the loan because of tampering with the Upper Churchill agreement with Quebec or native rights issues? How will all this impact the final cost of this seeming white elephant which gives to others a lot more than any potential gain for its Owners, we the people.

  • John Smith
    April 03, 2014 - 06:25

    Roger's mad because they didn't ask him...LOL...go away now Roger....