August 22, 2019

Winnipeg
20° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Opinion

Sunny ways, blue skies, black marker

ADRIAN WYLD /THE CANADIAN PRESS files</p><p>A reporter holds a redacted copy of a report on a friendly-fire incident. The control of information at both levels of government is a serious issue for democracy. </p>

ADRIAN WYLD /THE CANADIAN PRESS files

A reporter holds a redacted copy of a report on a friendly-fire incident. The control of information at both levels of government is a serious issue for democracy.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/5/2016 (1204 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s sunny ways and blue skies in Manitoba as we settle into a new government at the provincial level and mark the six-month anniversary of Justin Trudeau’s win federally. But there are some storm clouds on the horizon of this political weather report as it relates to freedom of information.

Tuesday marked World Press Freedom Day — a day set aside by UNESCO— that views freedom of information as fundamental to our rights. Access to information, freedom from censorship and safety for journalists are all viewed as cornerstones of democracy.

At the federal level, Canada’s Access to Information Act is almost 33 years old, and with the Liberal election win, the new prime minister promised a “proper review” of the act. Treasury Board president Scott Brison’s mandate letter spoke clearly about the need for government to be honest and to “set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government... Government and its information should be open by default. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians.” The federal government has said the comprehensive review of the access act will begin in 2018, but legislation could be tabled this year that could include some quick fixes.

Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault admitted to the Hill Times there has been a change in tone from this government in terms of accessibility to information but maintains these are early days.

Keep reading free:

Already have an account? Log in here »

Keep reading free:

Already have an account? Log in here »

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/5/2016 (1204 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s sunny ways and blue skies in Manitoba as we settle into a new government at the provincial level and mark the six-month anniversary of Justin Trudeau’s win federally. But there are some storm clouds on the horizon of this political weather report as it relates to freedom of information.

Tuesday marked World Press Freedom Day — a day set aside by UNESCO— that views freedom of information as fundamental to our rights. Access to information, freedom from censorship and safety for journalists are all viewed as cornerstones of democracy.

At the federal level, Canada’s Access to Information Act is almost 33 years old, and with the Liberal election win, the new prime minister promised a "proper review" of the act. Treasury Board president Scott Brison’s mandate letter spoke clearly about the need for government to be honest and to "set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government... Government and its information should be open by default. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians." The federal government has said the comprehensive review of the access act will begin in 2018, but legislation could be tabled this year that could include some quick fixes.

Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault admitted to the Hill Times there has been a change in tone from this government in terms of accessibility to information but maintains these are early days.

She points out the previous Harper government, early in its mandate, also committed to openness and transparency, but that changed over time to the point the Conservatives were heavily criticized for their control over information.

One thing Legault would like to see changed is the inclusion of the offices of cabinet ministers in the act to ensure proper accountability. She (along with her provincial colleagues) is also advocating for the duty to document. As Alasdair Roberts, an expert in information-access legislation, has pointed out, governments now operate in a read-and-delete culture, where emails are wiped out to prevent embarrassing details from being released. This is something Legault would like stopped.

However, the changes to the legislation will be daunting, and the Opposition Conservatives are already critical of the process, suggesting the committee struck to review the act has already predetermined its outcome.

Provincially, the Manitoba government under former premier Greg Selinger was criticized by Newspapers Canada in its annual audit of freedom of information released in October 2015. The audit gave the NDP government 14 requests under the province’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Of those, seven were released in full, five were denied in part, one was denied in full and one generated a response of "no records" (the full report can be found at http://newspaperscanada.ca/sites/default/files/FOI-2015-FINAL.pdf).

For this, the province received a failing grade for its speed of responses and a ‘C’ for completeness of disclosure.

It’s obvious new Premier Brian Pallister has his work cut out for him. In January, Pallister made a number of promises to improve access to information and transparency of government, including making more government information available online and making it easier to find. This includes documents that can only be currently accessed through a freedom-of-information request.

But there are dark skies ahead. So far, the Manitoba government has refused to release details of its new cabinet ministers’ mandate letters and will not provide the biographical information about the new deputy ministers named Wednesday. This, despite the fact Pallister said mere months ago he wants his government to "at the end of our first term, be known as the most open, most honest, most ethical provincial government in the country."

In less than a week, he’s already broken that promise.

Shannon Sampert is the Free Press politics and perspectives editor.

shannon.sampert@freepress.mb.caT

witter: @PaulySigh

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

History

Updated on Friday, May 6, 2016 at 12:04 AM CDT: Adds link to report.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us