Nfld. & Labrador

Bill 29 would drop N.L. ranking in global info laws

An expert on international access-to-information laws calls key changes in Bill 29 "breathtaking."

Expert Toby Mendel says amended act would rank behind Ethiopia, Guatemala and Uganda

An expert on international access-to-information laws calls key changes in Bill 29 "breathtaking," and says Newfoundland and Labrador will rank lower than some Third World countries if the amendments pass.

The CBC show On Point with David Cochrane asked the Centre for Law and Democracy to analyze the changes proposed in the bill, which is currently being filibustered by the opposition in the house of assembly.

"The new cabinet exception is, well, breathtaking in its scope," said Toby Mendel who runs the centre.

On Point

For the full interview, watch the next episode of On Point with David Cochrane on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. NT. On Point Radio airs on Radio 1 on Fridays at 3:30 p.m. NT.

"I think it’s one of the widest exceptions of that sort I’ve seen anywhere."

Bill 29 expands the scope of cabinet secrecy, making whole new classes of documents off limits from public oversight.

Mendel says it is like nothing he's ever seen. 

"The Newfoundland one, or the proposed cabinet exception, really takes it to another level," Mendel said. "I don’t think I’ve ever seen one as broad as that. It really throws in the kitchen sink."

According to Mendel, the amendments will allow cabinet ministers to keep practically anything they want secret.

"What we see in other countries, and in Canada as well, is that governments often abuse those exceptions," he noted. "And the way the thing is worded now, it’s really wide open to that kind of abuse."

While the government brags its laws are among the best in Canada, globally it’s another story. 

Mendel's group says the changes in Bill 29, when implemented, would make the province's open-records laws weaker than those in Mexico, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Bulgaria, Guatemala and Uganda.