EDC

Study urges expansion of information access laws

National Post
July 21, 2001

Crown agencies including the CBC and the Export Development Corporation should be subject to the Access to Information Act despite their concerns about such a move, a study prepared for the federal government recommends.

(Excerpt)

Crown agencies including the CBC and the Export Development Corporation should be subject to the Access to Information Act despite their concerns about such a move, a study prepared for the federal government recommends.

The study found Canada’s freedom-of-information regime is more restrictive than similar laws in many countries, particularly with respect to Crown corporations and other entities created by the government.

Access laws encourage organizations to be “demonstrably worthy of public trust,” concludes the paper’s author, consultant Jerry Bartram. “An active and robust disclosure regime is a key tool in creating such a culture.”

However, the study advises against expanding the Act’s scope to cover the judiciary and Parliament, suggesting instead a more informal system that would see these institutions disclose certain records voluntarily.

Under the access law, anyone who pays $5 can request records ranging from expense reports and audits to briefing notes and correspondence from major federal departments and dozens of smaller agencies, boards and tribunals. Information relating to commercial secrets, legal advice and a host of other sensitive areas may be deleted from releases.

However, several agencies are not subject to the Act.

Many critics argue the law, which has changed little since it came into effect 18 years ago, needs a thorough overhaul. Mr. Bartram’s study was commissioned by a federal task force established last year to review the access provisions.

Mr. Bartram found Canada’s federal law confusing in that “no discernable rationale” guides the inclusion of Crown corporations and other quasi-governmental agencies. For instance, the Bank of Canada, the National Capital Commission and the Royal Canadian Mint are covered by the Act, while Canada Post, the CBC and the Export Development Corporation are excluded — and the reasons are not entirely clear.

 

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