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Opportunity missed: first update to Access to Information Act in 34 years falls short of campaign promise of openness

Press Release for Immediate Release

(Ottawa, 19 June 2017) - Today, Treasury Board President Scott Brison introduced significant changes to the Access to Information Act. These changes include making select information such as mandate letters, briefing materials, and travel documentation proactively open for Ministers’ Offices, the Prime Minister’s Office, and institutions which support the government. The proposed legislative changes also give the Information Commissioner new power to compel governments to release requested information, and provide increased resources to the Office of the Information Commissioner.

“A revitalization of the Access to Information Act could go a long way in improving government openness and transparency.” said Katie Gibbs, Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy, “The proposed, regular, five-year review of the Act is a step towards ensuring the legislation will be in line with modern approaches to data, evidence, and freedom of information”

Despite these improvements, there are a number of areas where the proposed legislation falls short. The proposed changes do not include opening up Minister’s offices and the Prime Minister’s Office to requests for information under the Act which was a main campaign promise for the Liberals in 2015. The changes also include provisions for the Information Commissioner to decline Access to Information requests which they deem to be “vexatious,” or made in “bad faith.”  

“By excluding the ability to request information from Minister’s offices and the PMO, this government falls short of meeting their campaign promise to make government ‘open by default’,” said Kathleen Walsh, Policy Director at Evidence for Democracy. “What’s more, the ability to throw out access to information requests based on an unclear procedure puts government transparency and openness at risk.”

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For more information, contact:

Katie Gibbs

Executive Director, Evidence for Democracy

C. 613-866-6921

E. katie@evidencefordemocracy.ca

 

Katie Gibbs

Executive Director

Katie Gibbs is a scientist, organizer and advocate for science and evidence-based policies. While completing her PhD at the University of Ottawa researching threats to endangered species, she was one of the lead organizers of the ‘Death of Evidence’ rally - one of the largest science rallies in Canadian history. Katie cofounded Evidence for Democracy and now serves as its Executive Director. She has a diverse background organizing and managing various social and political campaigns at the local and national level. Katie is frequently asked to comment on science policy issues and has been quoted and published in numerous media outlets, including the CBC, The Hill Times, the Globe and Mail and the National Post.