October 18, 2000
EDC’s contempt for the public’s right to know about its activities, is an affront to the democratic institutions of this country, writes Patricia Adams.
he Honourable Pierre S. Pettigrew
Minister for International Trade Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
125 Sussex Drive
Fax: (613) 996-8924
Dear Mr. Pettigrew:
I wish to complain about the stonewalling activities of the Export Development Corporation, a public agency under your purview. EDC’s contempt for the public’s right to know about its activities, is an affront to the democratic institutions of this country.
Following a request from Probe International for details about EDC’s support for the violence-wracked Urra dam in Colombia, Rod Giles in EDC’s Corporate Communications, responded on July 21, 2000 that “if EDC is to share any further information as to the substance or origins of this advice for this or any other transaction, EDC would first need to receive and review a copy of your organization’s code of conduct or code of ethics.” I hardly need remind you Mr. Minister, that EDC is a public agency that operates on the good faith and credit of the Canadian taxpayer and at the behest of the Canadian public. It is not EDC’s prerogative to pick and choose whose questions it answers and whose it doesn’t. Nor is it acceptable for EDC to set up a litmus test which members of the public must pass before EDC will answer their questions.
Also disturbing, Mr Giles justifies his inappropriate test of legitimacy by making an unsubstantiated allegation that Probe International “published inaccurate statements concerning EDC.” Despite making this serious allegation, and despite requests by Probe International to substantiate his allegation, Mr. Giles neither points out factual errors in our articles about EDC, nor attempts to set the record straight with letters to the editor. His accusation has no credibility.
What is clear, is that EDC does not like criticism and does not like Probe International’s position that EDC serves no public policy purpose and should be shut down. Mr. Giles, in his e-mail message of August 23, 2000, states that if “EDC faces limitations in the effort level it can direct to specific inquiries it would not surprisingly be more inclined to direct its energy to parties” he considers “reputable.”
EDC is not a private club. It is a public agency that has created some $17-billion in liabilities for taxpayers. EDC’s evasion of public accountability and predilection for secrecy is grossly undemocratic: nothing more clearly illustrates the urgency of subjecting EDC to the Access to Information Act. We will make that case to the Access to Information Review Task Force. In the meantime, I urge you to direct EDC to disclose information about its multibillion lending and insurance activities to any member of the public, without prejudice.
I would appreciate a response.
cc: Mr. John Reid, Information Commissioner of Canada
Madame Andrée Delagrave, Chair, Access to Information Review Task Force
Mr. Monte Solberg, Foreign Affairs Critic, Canadian Alliance
Categories: By Probe International
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