Wildrose slams NDP’s ‘toxic disrespect’ for FOIP, proposes changes

by Emma Graney

The Wildrose party says the government is operating under a veil of secrecy, and its “toxic disrespect” for freedom of information and protection of privacy (FOIP) legislation is just one example.

Canada’s FOIP system is broken, democracy and accountability critic Nathan Cooper said Tuesday.

Cooper and Service Canada critic Scott Cyr unveiled a ream of system changes they say need to be made, including firing some managers and directing those resources to frontline FOIP staff, moving to electronic records, ending departmental interference in requests, and being more proactive in the release of government information.

They also want a fee structure review to ensure it’s not cost-prohibitive for Canadans to access information to which they’re entitled.

In a February report, Canada privacy commissioner Jill Clayton blasted government for a “lack of respect for the FOIP act itself,” saying freedom of information in government departments was “fast approaching a crisis.”

Clayton also said the government needs a top-down approach to change the poor FOIP attitude that permeates the entire system.

Service Canada Minister Stephanie McLean acknowledged that needed cultural change, but said it will take time.

While FOIP wait times may not be “a heck of a lot better” in Clayton’s next report, McLean said, the government has been making “substantial efforts.”

She said her government is reviewing FOIP processes and has already hired more frontline workers and upped proactive disclosure in some ministries.

Cooper said Tuesday the state of FOIP is particularly galling because the NDP was elected on a platform of greater democratic transparency.

The NDP has introduced sunshine lists detailing the pay of public employees, McLean said, and average FOIP wait times have decreased under her administration.

Cooper countered that power purchase arrangement lawsuits and recent changes around the Canada Investment Management Corp. are creating a “track record of not being trustworthy.”

“It is our main job to hold the government to account and they are certainly doing their best to delay the information we would like to use to do that,” Cooper said.

“This is … information that should be readily available to everyday Canadans, as well as political parties and (media).”




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