Saturday April 04, 2015

Information Commissioner's prescription for more open government

Suzanne Legault, Information Commissioner of Canada, holds a press conference in the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 31, 2015, after tabling her special report "Striking the Right Balance for Transparency - Recommendations to modernize the Access to Information Act."

Suzanne Legault, Information Commissioner of Canada, holds a press conference in the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 31, 2015, after tabling her special report "Striking the Right Balance for Transparency - Recommendations to modernize the Access to Information Act." (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Listen 10:32

Suzanne Legault wants to make the federal government more open and overhaul the Access to Information Act to bring it into the 21st century.

Canada's Information Commissioner tabled a report this week entitled "Striking the Right Balance for Transparency." The report includes 85 recommendations. Among other things, Legault wants to subject more of Parliament, including the offices of cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister, to access to information requests.​

Her recommendations also include:

  • new sanctions for not disclosing information — from criminal offences to fines and disciplinary hearings.
  • stricter limits on when the government can deny the existence of a record.
  • elimination of all fees for access requests.
  • more timely responses from government, including making it harder to ask for an extension.
  • a "general public interest override" for attempted exemptions.
  • a statutory obligation to declassify information on a routine basis.
  • the disclosure of personal information when there would be no unjustified invasion of privacy, including disclosure to spouses or relatives of deceased individuals on compassionate grounds
  • adjudication of appeals by the information commissioner's office, with orders certified as an order of the Federal Court.
  • requirement for the government to consult with the information commissioner on all proposed legislation that impacts access to information.

Legault says Canadians right to know at risk3:30

Suzanne Legault tells The House's Evan Solomon why Ministers' offices should be subject to the Access to Information Act, what should be done to avoid having politicians and bureaucrats work around the Act, and why she didn't like hearing the President of the Treasury Board, Tony Clement, say that she shouldn't complain to the media.