Access to agenda matter of accountability, Supreme Court hears

Lawyers argued at the Supreme Court of Canada yesterday that the prime minister’s daily schedule should be open to the public.

Federal information commissioner lawyers have appealed lower-court rulings, which denied access-to-information requests to release prime minister Jean Chretien’s daily agenda in the 1990s.

The CBC reports:

“Access to information is all about accountability and getting information from government,” said Paul Schabas, an intervener on behalf of the Canadian Newspaper Association. “And what the government’s interpretation seems to be doing is decapitating that, saying you can get it from lower levels, but if the documents are in the minister’s office, it doesn’t apply.

“They are the people who ought to be held most accountable,” Schabas said.”

Government lawyer Christopher Rupar argued that when legislators drafted the access law, the prime minister’s agenda wasn’t intended to be included.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, represented by Ryder Gilliland, raised the concern that politicans and bureaucrats might attempt to shield information by putting it in a minister’s office. The CBC reports that “Gilliland said governments can’t argue they’re accountable if they retain the right to keep certain information secret.”