CFE calls on Prime Minister Trudeau to withdraw badly flawed bill on access to information

 

The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada 
Office of the Prime Minister 
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

 

Dear Prime Minister, 

We are deeply disappointed with your government’s access to information legislation, Bill C-58, that is before the House of Commons this fall.

At a time when many countries have far superior legislation, and on a day that celebrates internationally the public's right to know, Bill C-58 offers very little to fix our broken transparency law. 

The Bill retains all the exemptions in the Act and, through other legislation like Bill C-22 and the Infrastructure Bank Act, your government has added to excessive government secrecy. Bill C-58 does not reduce or eliminate the unnecessarily broad policy advice exemption or narrow down what is a cabinet record.  It does not lead the way in revising the many confidentiality provisions found in much Canadian legislation. 

Canadians face far too much unnecessary secrecy when it comes to knowing about our government's infrastructure projects, Indigenous reconciliation efforts, and climate change measures. 

Your government is not talking about automatically releasing many government safety, health and environmental records as a bold new start to transparency. 

Your government has not moved to ensure there is a legal duty to document important decisions where they are not currently substantially recorded and made available. 

Your government has disappointed Canadians by reneging on having the prime minister and ministers' offices covered under access to information legislation, nor has your government put forward legislative amendments to ensure that many corporate bodies receiving public funding are covered under access legislation.

Bill C-58 does not provide for quick and easy access to most government documents and compromises the independent review and order making powers an effective Information Commissioner should have. 

As well, a new Commissioner should be chosen in an open parliamentary selection rather than by a small inside group of senior officials and your Office. 

We therefore request the Bill be withdrawn as inadequate and, in parts, counter-productive. We sincerely want a fresh start, a minister responsible who will champion openness, and you, as Prime Minister, willing to take serious transparency action. Canadians deserve no less.

 

Yours sincerely,

James L. Turk, Director, Centre for Free Expression                                                                        

Ken Rubin, Senior Fellow, Centre for Free Expression

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