Accessing cabinet decisions

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As minister responsible for the Office of Public Engagement, I am responding

to an article that appeared in The Telegram on Feb. 23, as well as to the editorial on Feb. 26. I felt it was necessary to clarify for you and your readers the facts regarding public access to orders in council. Contrary to what was reported, these documents have been and currently are available to the public by request.

Orders in council take effect legally when they are signed by the lieutenant-governor and there is a requirement for public access of these orders. We have met and continue to meet that requirement by providing access when requests are received through Cabinet Secretariat. This process has been ongoing and numerous orders in council have been released through this process. In 2011 and 2012, Cabinet Secretariat received six requests for orders in council. In total, 364 orders in council were released. Of these 364, only seven had information withheld due to the provisions of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA). In fact, the reporter used this same process to request orders in council and was advised on Feb. 22 that his request would be addressed during the week of Feb. 25.

For the majority of cases, orders in council are released in their entirety. In rare cases, information may be withheld for different reasons, including the redaction of private or personal information as specified by provisions outlined under ATIPPA. This requirement is not a result of Bill 29, as suggested in The Telegram. Private and personal information would have been redacted prior to Bill 29 as well. Again, it is important to reiterate that this would be the exception rather than the rule, as noted above with the release of 364 orders in council in 2011 and 2012.

As minister of the Office of Public Engagement, I am committed to enhancing the routine disclosure of information available to the public, including orders in council. In the coming weeks, I will provide an update on how routine access to these documents will be enhanced.

Keith Hutchings

Minister Responsible for Office of

Public Engagement

Organizations: Office of Public Engagement, Cabinet Secretariat

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Recent comments

  • Corporate Psycho
    February 28, 2013 - 18:15

    Banana Republic.

  • Colin Burke
    February 28, 2013 - 16:12

    St. Thomas Aquinas said in the 13th century that a law is not valid until it is proclaimed. I don't think he meant that "making it available on request" was "proclaiming" it, not precisely. But apparently democracy has made since then the usual progress inevitable in modern times, which the ordinary people in the high middle ages, who governed themselves through what St. Thomas called "royal" governent as opposed to what he called "despotic" as even an elected government can be, would never have tolerated. (That's why historian Gwynne Dyer says medieval politics were "bloody," as he suggests we should be grateful ours are not -- as if harm were worse than injustice.)

  • Winston Adams
    February 28, 2013 - 14:01

    My estimate is that citizens rights to Victim Impact Statements were withheld for 3 years from being lawful for failure of the government to sign an Order in Council to bring it into effect. How many victims of crime were denied due process because of that ? And this is likely but one example of the benefit of secrecy laws and lack of democratic process.

  • Cyril Rogers
    February 28, 2013 - 10:45

    Any time the government tries to make a case for secrecy, it comes back to haunt them. Mr. Hutchings, your letter is a shameful reminder of the depths to which you and your colleagues have sunk when it comes to basic democracy. An Order-in--Council should be a public document, as it contains a decision that the public has an inherent right to know.

  • Mark
    February 28, 2013 - 08:57

    Note how the Minister avoids altogether providing any legal justification for the withholding of such orders in the first place, or for their subsequent redactions. As far as I am concerend, an Order in Council with any redaction should have no force at law. If the public cannot access it, then the very requirement which Mr. Hutchings writes if is not being met. He also fails to explain why, unlike EVERY other province, Newfoundland's government refuses to publish or otherwise list them. It is shameful. Why does this government continue to treat Newfoundlanders as ignorant, second class citizens?

  • Winston Adams
    February 28, 2013 - 08:35

    Mr Hutchings, can you advise 1. when Victim Impact Statements became part of the Crininal Code of Canada. 2. When an Order In Council was signed to make it Nfld law. 3. When this Order In council was made public information? Can you have someone phone me(726 6512) with the answer, and also make the answer public.