OTTAWA – The Green Party is calling on the federal government to overhaul the Access to Information Act and begin proactively releasing government information to the public with an open-data policy.
Five years after Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to strengthen Canada’s access-to-information laws, things remain unchanged. The Obama administration has launched data.gov and the British government has launched data.gov.uk, but government information regarding the economy, spending, access to information requests, and statistics remains secretive in Canada.
“The ability to access information from the government in a timely and efficient manner is fundamental to an informed citizenry. And, an informed citizenry is fundamental to a healthy democracy,” said Elizabeth May, Green Party Leader. “We cannot have accountability in government without transparency in government. There is simply no excuse for a government that hides its spending from its own tax-paying citizens.”
Many of Canada's access to information and privacy laws are outdated and grant little authority to hold the government accountable. In addition, investigators seeking information regarding government actions are often charged exorbitant fees, delayed, provided blacked-out documents, and simply refused information.
“The federal government needs to begin making transparency a top priority,” said Jared Giesbrecht, Green Party Justice Critic. “We are moving into an information economy in which the free-flow of information is essential to the health of our economy and our democracy. A responsible government can do nothing less than open up data resources and proactively release data to the public.”
“The Privacy Act must protect citizens and the Access to Information Act must empower citizens. Anything less is irresponsible and antiquated government,” said Mr. Giesbrecht. “And, if this government was serious about reducing the deficit, it would be asking Canadians to help identify wasteful spending with a pro-active release of all government expenditures over $50,000.”
A Green government will:
- Proactively release government information that is of interest to the public with an open-data policy that includes information on all government expenditures over $50,000;
- Strengthen the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act to ensure the government is required to release information in a timely and efficient manner;
- Implement the recommendations from the two previous Information Commissioners, Robert Marleau and John Reid, to reform the Access to Information Act;
- Give the Information Commissioner the power to cover the release of information;
- Expand the Access to Information Act cover the administration of the Senate, the Commons, and the courts.
Green Party of Canada