Justin Trudeau is tabling his first private member’s bill as Liberal Leader to open up Canada’s access-to-information legislation and put some of the internal dealings of Parliament into public view.
Calling it the Transparency Act, Mr. Trudeau said the underlying principle of the bill would be to ensure that government documents and data are “open by default.” He said that Canada’s Access to Information Act is “stuck in the 1980s” and needs to be overhauled to rebuild the trust between citizens and their government.
He said that Canadians would never have to pay more than $5 to obtain documents (research fees currently can add hundreds or thousands of dollars to the cost of obtaining documents), while giving more power to the Information Commissioner to force the disclosure of government information.
In addition, Mr. Trudeau said he would also ensure that the dealings of the secretive Board of Internal Economy – which administers the House of Commons – would become public.
“I am convinced that by working together, we can achieve all-party consensus to pass this bill that will raise the bar on openness and transparency for all Canadians,” Mr. Trudeau said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said his MP, Pat Martin, had previously proposed changes to Access to Information, and that his party will be willing to support the Liberal proposal if it goes in the same direction.
"We will support any changes that will make it more open," Mr. Mulcair said.
The Conservatives came to power in 2006 with the Accountability Act that aimed to clean up Ottawa after a wave of scandals, but the government has not followed up on its campaign promise at the time to reform access-to-information.
Journalists and other users of the Act have complained in recent years about growing delays in obtaining government data, as well as increased blocking out of data in the documents that are released.
There is growing interest in reforming the federal apparatus and increasing transparency in Ottawa. Conservative MP Michael Chong has proposed the Reform Act, a private member’s bill that would substantially claw back the power of party leaders and hand more grassroots power to individual Members of Parliament.