Letter to Harper cites failure to honour earlier access-to-information pledges

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the Canadian Newspaper Association and the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association issued a joint “Letter to Prime Minister Harper: Honour your access to information election promises.”

The letter says,  in part:

“We are writing to you as three organizations who share the Conservative Party’s stated belief in the ideals of transparent government, an informed electorate, and enhanced government accountability through access to information.

“We are concerned that your government’s actions since it assumed power in 2006 have not matched the commitments you made as leader of the Conservative Party during the 2006 election campaign – specifically, your commitment to open up the inner workings of government to scrutiny by reforming Canada’s Access to Information Act.”

It includes the “eight specific pledges made by the Conservative Party” and suggests, “There could be no better time than the current election campaign to ask why these pledges were not fulfilled during your first term of office, and whether or not your party intends to fulfill them if re-elected.”

The pledges quoted in the letter include:

  • To implement the Information Commissioner’s recommendations for reform of the Access to Information Act.
  • To give the Information Commissioner the power to order the release of information. 
  • To expand the coverage of the act to all Crown corporations, Officers of Parliament, foundations and organizations that spend taxpayers’ money or perform public functions.
  • To subject the exclusion of Cabinet confidences to review by the Information Commissioner.
  • To oblige public officials to create the records necessary to document their actions and decisions.
  • To provide a general public interest override for all exemptions, so that the public interest is put before the secrecy of the government.
  • To ensure that all exemptions from the disclosure of government information are justified only on the basis of the harm or injury that would result from disclosure, not blanket exemption rules.
  • To ensure that the disclosure requirements of the Access to Information Act cannot be circumvented by secrecy provisions in other federal acts.