Government scrutiny is becoming more and more difficult, Watch Dogs says


The Government of Canada has more discussion than action when it comes to transparency and accountability, some observers say.

Duff Konacher of Democracy Watch says he is still waiting for the “open by default” government promised by the Liberal Party of Trudeau before the 2015 elections.

“The Trudeau administration is usually misleading in its first response, and when it is pointed out that it is lying to voters, it comes up with excuses to delay action or solve problems.

“afterwards [they] Do nothing until the media again emphasizes that the problem still exists and has not been resolved. And that’s the pattern since they were elected in 2015, “Konaka said in an interview.

December 22, 2021 The Finance Commission has released the first interim report on federal public consultation on access to information law. Konaka says The government’s own report clearly shows that Canadians want more information available sooner.

“Citizens, civil groups and experts have once again called out loudly and clearly for significant changes to close the loopholes in federal access to information law, as they have been for decades. .. [to] We will strengthen enforcement, “Konaka said. In the statement..

“The federal government’s access to information law is full of loopholes, so it’s just a guide to keeping information secret, and the public has the right to know it.”

The Epoch Times contacted the Finance Commission for comment, but did not receive a response by the issue time.

“Politicians write the law for themselves”

Building C-58Was introduced in 2017 and received royal assets in 2019, so the Prime Minister must “actively disclose” the minister’s power of attorney. You also need to disclose certain information about the Minister, such as briefing materials, travel expenses, and hospitality expenses.

However, the government rejected the election promise to make the prime minister and cabinet offices subject to information requests. To make matters worse, the bill created new barriers to access to information. like that It imposes new obligations on those who make the request and adds new grounds for the institution to refuse to act on the request.

“Bill C-58 fails To deliver. … Rather than facilitating access to information rights, Bill C-58 will instead bring about a retreat of existing rights, “said information commissioner Sae Yamamoto Legart at the time. 2017 report..

Others have complained that the government is reporting its regular reports too late. January 19, Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux Asked for a new law Require government public accounting to be published by September 30 of any year, not December 31.

KONAKA says he is more impressed with Giroud than others who are allegedly accountable to the government.Democracy Watch has launched legal action following the appointment of the federal government in 2017 Ethics Commissioner Said the lobbying commissioner that the Liberal Party government had Misunderstood opposition The general public in the selection process. The Federal Court of Appeals agreed that the Trudeau Cabinet was prejudiced, but said it was “reasonable.”

“Politicians write their own laws, choose their guard dogs … and they judge them, even federal-level judges who judge all state governments, especially liberal judges. All that can be done is to expect embarrassment, opposition, the media, and pressure from the general public to change the law, “Konaka said.

“But it’s a difficult process because the ruling parties don’t have much incentive to increase their accountability. And opposition parties often want to complain, but want to be in power and do the same. So we don’t really drive systematic change. “

For example, after 15 years of Liberal rule in Ontario ended in 2018, some people who helped Dougford and progressive conservatives gain power are now lobbying the government.Ontario Integrity Commissioner Made an allowance 14 such cases that democracy oversight has Legally disagree..

Fees, BC and Ottawa Backlog

Government transparency and accountability vary from state to state. In British Columbia, the Free Government of Christie Clark in 2015 after BC’s Privacy Commissioner reported that political government staff had “deleted three times” emails to prevent them from being stored on servers or backups. Was hit by a scandal. Information request.

Recent fixes Introduced by the NDP government does not satisfy Jason Woywada, Managing Director of the nonprofit BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association.

“They have a duty to document and basically create a scenario that” trust us and we accomplish it. ” There is no independent monitoring or review process. [Nor did they] If someone fails to properly document, we will impose a civil fine, “Woyada told The Epoch Times.

“They slipped in and created some rollbacks in terms of introducing FOI user fees,” he said. Request for freedom of information..

“If I request information from the government and they come back in an estimated time of 40 or 50 hours to find and pay every 10 or more hours, is that a reasonable time? “

The Ministry of Civil Services of BC, in addition to the amendment to the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act in the fall of 2021, “Aggressive Disclosure Directive,” means that people do not have to submit FOI requests. To do.

User fees were intended to match BC with other jurisdictions claiming fees, but do not apply to individuals or indigenous peoples who request personal information.

Woywada says the pandemic is used as an excuse for slow replies. He also says that it is becoming more common for the government to refuse prompt and informal disclosures and instead collect them via formal FOI requests. This will create more backlogs.

“The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy,” he said.

“Some of these requests have reached the point where people have to leave them as inheritance for picking up, as information requests can actually exceed your lifespan.”

In recent weeks, Ottawa researcher Michael Dagg has filed an application notice in federal court after the Library and Archives Canada has stated that it will take 80 years to respond to information requests.

Woywada says it’s a “joke”.

“The trend line is a loss of confidence in public institutions, and the trend line is a lack of information that is published without battle.”

Lee Harding

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Lee Harding is a Saskatchewan-based journalist and think tank researcher and contributor to The Epoch Times.