Real Access to Information for Canadians

Ted Hsu
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Over the past month, the Liberal Party has introduced a wide range of policies that will change the way Parliament works, and the way it will serve Canadians. The Real Change plan ensures fairness for the middle class through tax breaks, open and fair elections, evidenced-based policy, and concrete action on climate change.

However one policy that you may not have heard about, and one that may look innocuous, seeks to provide Canadians with more accessible government information. Specifically, the Liberal Party will amend the Access to Information Act so that all government data and information is open by default, including the Prime Minister’s and Ministers’ Offices.

Here is an example of why this matters.



Last July, I had the very frustrating experience of having a letter that I requested through an Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Request returned to me almost entirely redacted. I was seeking a copy of a mandate letter that was sent to the incoming President of the National Research Council (NRC) from the Minister of Industry and the Minister of State for Science and Technology in May 2010. I had hoped that this letter would be a good indication of how the Ministers were directing the new head of their department.

I’m not sure why this letter was almost entirely censored when it reached my desk, but this meant that I was unable to do my job as the Liberal Party’s Science and Technology critic. It is important for opposition MPs, and all Canadians for that matter, to know what instructions Ministers are giving their departments in order to understand the government’s rationale and vision, and determine if there is cause for concern.

This is just one example of the Conservative government not being forthcoming with information in the last session of Parliament. Under the Liberal plan, such a letter would not be redacted and I believe that a more open and transparent government is in the best interest of all Canadians.