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The Clerk of the Privy Council swears in Christian Paradis as Minister of Natural Resources at Rideau Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010. (Pawel Dwulit)
The Clerk of the Privy Council swears in Christian Paradis as Minister of Natural Resources at Rideau Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010. (Pawel Dwulit)

Don't meddle in ATIP requests, political staff told Add to ...

The Prime Minister's Office is sending out a message to its political staff to stay out of the Access to Information process.

The warning comes on the heels of an embarrassing episode in which a Conservative official forced the department of Public Works to break the Access to Information Act and deny the full release of a report to The Canadian Press.

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"[Access to Information]due diligence is and should be done by public servants and not political staff. The process must be followed and respected by all," said PMO spokesman Dimitri Soudas in an e-mail today.

The Conservatives had tried to spin their way out of the controversy by saying that they were trying to help the news agency avoid a charge of $27.40 for the report by providing only 30 pages out of 137 pages.

However, the department ruled that the full report was to be disclosed and had actually started the process of mailing it out when an aide to the Conservative minister, Christian Paradis, ordered bureaucrats to "unrelease" the document.

The episode is similar to an instance in which officials in the Chrétien government tried to block the release of information on the sponsorship program to The Globe and Mail. That incident was revealed in 2004 at the Gomery inquiry, which helped the Conservatives win power with a promise to "clean up" Ottawa and bring increased transparency to government operations.

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