Export Credit

10 more Crown corporations will have to open records

CBC
February 17, 2005

Ten more Crown agencies will come under public scrutiny as Ottawa
reforms the act that grants access to government information, but the
changes won’t prevent the kind of abuses that cropped up in the
sponsorship scandal.

Ottawa: Ten more Crown agencies will come
under public scrutiny as Ottawa reforms the act that grants access to
government information, Treasury Board President Reg Alcock said
Thursday.

Yet he acknowledged that his changes won’t prevent the kind of abuses
that cropped up in the sponsorship scandal, when a handful of Crown
corporations were accused of mishandling government funds.

“No law or rule ultimately is going to solve a problem where people are deliberately trying to circumvent it,” Alcock said.

The government’s failure to include high-profile Crown corporations
like Canada Post and Via Rail under the access legislation disappointed
NDP MP Pat Martin.

“If freedom of information is the oxygen that democracy breathes, we’re
still having another smog day here in Ottawa,” he said.

Already, 28 Crown corporations or agencies are covered by the Access to Information Act.

That means that for a $5 fee, members of the public, journalists and
opposition politicians can ask to see many of the documents, audits,
expense reports and messages produced by and about the agencies and
their employees.

Alcock tabled a report on the governing of Crown corporations in the
House of Commons Thursday morning, after a year-long review.

Other actions the government intends to take:

Make the Auditor General of Canada the auditor or joint auditor of all
Crown corporations, giving her the power to conduct special
examinations. Give Crown corporation employees whistleblower protection
under the Liberals’ Bill C-11.

Make the minister responsible for each Crown corporation spell out the
government’s policy priorities to its board of directors, clearing
setting performance expectations and clarifying the accountability
structure.

Refine how CEOs and board members are appointed. Ensure boards are independent from Crown corporation managers.

The Liberals came under increasing pressure to make Crown corporations
more accountable and transparent after four of them were caught up in
the federal sponsorship scandal last year: Canada Post, Via Rail, the
Business Development Bank of Canada and the Old Port of Montreal
Corporation.

Sponsorship program

A federal committee recommended three years ago that most Crown
corporations should be subject to the access to information law.

Seven Crown corporations – including Canada Post, Via Rail, the Atomic
Energy of Canada Limited and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation –
will remain exempt from the information act “until the government has
developed mechanisms to protect their commercially sensitive
information,” Alcock’s report said.

The CBC is also concerned that whistle-blowers on important stories
would be reluctant to contact the broadcaster if they fear that their
names will be revealed.

Alcock said the CBC won’t be covered by the act until protection of journalistic sources can be guaranteed.

He also said the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board won’t be included because it is a federal-provincial agency.

 

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