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Tories pledge to improve release of information

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley

Derek Oliver

Under fire for blocking the release of basic information to the media, the federal Conservatives are vowing to learn from recent mistakes and increase their level of transparency.

The Opposition used Question Period to attack the government's refusal last month to release the price tag for its Olympic-related advertising campaign in February, saying it was symptomatic of a widespread contempt for the free flow of information in Ottawa.

"The media had a simple question, department officials had the answer. The Minister's office intervened and hid the truth. Is the Minister embarrassed by the waste of taxpayers' money, or does she not believe that Canadians deserve the truth?" asked Liberal MP Siobhan Coady.

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Human Resources Minister Diane Finley replied that her department will learn lessons from the incident.

"We do strive always to be open and transparent," Ms. Finley said. "We will be taking a look at this example and taking it into consideration to see how we can improve our processes in the future."

As The Globe and Mail revealed Monday, Ms. Finley's director of communications, Ryan Sparrow, blocked attempts by bureaucrats to reveal the $5-million price tag for a series of TV ads promoting federal budgetary measures before and during the Vancouver Olympics.

While the civil service advocated the release of the information, records released under the Access to Information Act show that Mr. Sparrow managed to temporarily hold back on their release.

"No figures," Mr. Sparrow told civil servants.

As a result, the department told The Globe that the information was unavailable, and only provided the numbers three weeks later.

Meanwhile, the government refused Monday to change its stand on the release of documents related to the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan. It was recently revealed that one version of a document was more redacted than another version of the same document.

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Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the recently released documents were vetted by trustworthy bureaucrats.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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