Friday, June 5, 2009

Vic Toews Gets Lost in the Paper Shuffle

The Conservatives came to power in 2006 on the promise that they were going to make the government more transparent and accountable. So far they've done neither.

In fact their government is rarely accountable for anything and about as transparent as mud.

The backlog in the Access to information office is astronomical. Items that we could once obtain with the click of the mouse, now require written requests, and according to experts, the entire department lacks leadership, that is supposed to be supplied by Vic Toews.

Leadership lacking, report says
June 5, 2009

The federal government is making almost no progress in improving public access to government records, says Canada's information commissioner.

Robert Marleau yesterday placed the blame squarely on the minister in charge, Treasury Board President Vic Toews.

"Leadership, leadership, leadership," Marleau said after releasing his 2008-09 annual report, which points to continuing problems Canadians face trying to extract information from federal departments.

"There is one minister who is responsible for the administration of Access to Information for the entire government of Canada, one minister who is accountable, one minister who can take leadership," said Marleau.

"Maybe he's not allowed to, maybe he doesn't want to, (but) there's only one minister who can dictate to the entire bureaucracy what the expectation of the government is."

The information commissioner's report shows that almost two-thirds of the complaints his office received last year from citizens trying to obtain government records had merit.

Among the departments in which a majority of complaints were at least partly upheld were National Defence, Canada Revenue Agency, Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada Post and Health Canada.

More than half of the complaints the information commissioner received last year centred on bureaucrats delaying the release of data, extending their own deadlines or charging high fees to prepare information.

The Access to Information Act, meant to help Canadian citizens obtain government records, is founded on the principle that openness helps make federal institutions more accountable.

Christine Csersko, spokesman for Toews, said the Conservative government has "fought for the right of Canadians to know how their government operates."

She pointed out that the government has brought 70 new institutions, including the Wheat Board and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, under the Access to Information Act.

These are tremendous steps forward for openness and transparency -- steps the previous government never took," she said in an e-mail.

But the information commissioner reported several cases where departments obstructed the flow of information.

For example, Industry Canada gave itself a 300-day extension on one request for information, stretching it further by not counting periods such as the Christmas holidays.

No comments:

Post a Comment