A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
Contact us at democracyunderfire@gmail.com

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Cabinet hides even more secrets.

A stealthy Treasury Board directive in the summer of 2013 required bureaucrats to ask departmental lawyers to decide what constitutes a secret, a decision that used to be made by the Privy Council Office, which oversees cabinet matters resulting in many more documents being exempted from Freedom of Information requests.
There is a growing list of seemingly routine reports, memos and documents caught up in an enhanced dragnet of so-called cabinet confidences. The Canadian Press has found dozens of cases from various departments in which reports, briefing materials and emails have been excluded entirely under Section 69 of the Access to Information Act, which gives officials the power to withhold records because they are meant to be seen only by the federal cabinet.

Suzanne Legault, the country's information commissioner is concerned about how wide-ranging the definition of a cabinet secret has become, especially since once the exclusion is declared, not even she can see the documents in question.
"When you look at the scope of the exclusion, it is extremely broad," Legault said.
"It's very, very broad. It basically catches anything that mentions a record that's a cabinet confidence. In my view, the actual scope of this does not respect fundamental tenets of freedom of information."
Once the exclusion is invoked, the records remain sealed off from public scrutiny for 20 years.

Kevin Page, the former Parliamentary Budget Officer points out that even before this change information was almost impossible to get and said the law needs a major overhaul.

"Under my time as the budget officer we were told on numerous occasions — from crime bills to elements of the government's economic forecast to departmental spending restraint plans (post budget 2012) — that Parliament (and the PBO) could not get access to information because it was a cabinet confidence," Page said.
"The stakes were high. The government was asking Parliament to vote on bills without relevant financial information and were hiding behind the veil of cabinet confidence. This undermined accountability for Parliament and the accountability of the public service."

Even those charged with representing 'we the people' cannot get the information they need to make informed decisions, such secrecy from an already oligarchical regime seems to be the next step towards dictatorship, it most certainly is another hit against democracy.

MPs and senators, who are subject to parliamentary privilege, have found their formal written inquiries — known as order paper questions — are also being run through the filter of cabinet confidence by the Privy Council Office.

Then we have the recent report that the normal process for selecting senators has been unilaterally 'suspended' and the process is 'under review' supposedly due to a few potential names being 'leaked'.

"An article by Sean Fine of the Globe and Mail dated May 23, 2014 purported to provide various details about the selection process, including the names of candidates being considered," he noted.
"As a result of this, the government chose not to constitute a selection panel, nor arrange for an ad hoc parliamentary committee for the appointment of J. Clement Gascon to the Supreme Court of Canada."

So once again the 'normal' parliamentary process has been ignored by the Harper Regime. Liberal MP Irwin Cotler who written question to Justice Minister Peter MacKay last June revealed this information had this to say:-

With another Supreme Court seat set to open up next month, he said, the government appears to have suspended the selection process entirely, at least as far as parliamentary involvement.
"They say it's 'under reconsideration,' and that it 'remains to be determined' what process will be used in future," Cotler noted.
"That means there's no process yet underway for a vacancy coming up in November."

Errol Mendes, a constitutional expert at the University of Ottawa had this to say.

"What I think is starting to happen now is the realization that they can basically shut down any democratic debate to anything that could be embarrassing to the government," "That is the way an authoritarian government behaves."


Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

1 comment:

Owen Gray said...

Mendes hits the nail on the head, Rural.

In a real democracy, the Harperian agenda would be impossible.