Skip to main content

NDP members of the Ethics Committee Charlie Angus, middle, Mathieu Ravignat, right, and Charmaine Borg outline NDP priorities for the Ethics Committee during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Nov. 19, 2013.

Sean kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The healthy signs of convergence on access to information between the Conservative government and the Official Opposition are welcome.

Stand Up for Canada, the Conservatives' election platform in 2006, said that, if they were victorious, they would give the federal Information Commissioner – at present, Suzanne Legault – the power to order the release of information. They also promised that, when the government refuses to provide some parts of the information a citizen has requested, on the ground of cabinet confidentiality, the Commissioner would be able to review those exclusions, to make sure they were well-founded.

Neither of these planks in the nearly eight-year-old platform has been enacted.

Story continues below advertisement

Once in power, political parties tend to lose their enthusiasm for the open government for which they hungered and thirsted in opposition.

Genuine cabinet confidences should indeed be protected. Cabinet ministers need to be able to deliberate freely with each other. If their internal discussions and debates were made public, the cabinet would cease to be a government and would be become a nest of factions – a mini-Commons.

But it is all too easy for ministers to vacuum up a mass of information and treat it as a part of their confidential thoughts.

In her annual report in June, Ms. Legault said that the access-to-information system is suffering from "significant deterioration." Most disturbingly, she found that "the disappearance or amalgamation of institutions" has led to uncertainty about "how or where their records" have been "dispersed or preserved."

Charlie Angus, Mathieu Ravignat and other NDP members of the committee on access to information, privacy and ethics, are showing a renewed interest in accountability and transparency – causes once dear to the Conservatives.

The Senate expenses scandal may be already bearing fruit. It is encouraging that, last Tuesday in the Commons, Tony Clement, the President of the Treasury Board, responded in Question Period to Mr. Ravignat and Mr. Angus, saying that the government would be happy to receive suggestions from opposition MPs, as well as from Ms. Legault and other commissioners.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter