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, November 10, 2013

Information is Power

The senate expense investigation and who knew what along with the PMs efforts to rid himself of these now disgraced conservative senators that he appointed has all but eliminated other news from the headlines. There was however some mention a couple of weeks ago of Canada's information watchdog Suzanne Legault's recent report and remarks wherein she points out that the freedom-of-information becoming “a system in crisis, where departments are unable to fulfil even their most basic obligations under the act”.

It is interesting to note that, if I remember correctly, the whole Duffy-Wallen affair came out of a FOI request way back in May. Would this have reached this level of confusion and accusations if such expenditures were publicly available on an ongoing basis WITHOUT having to request (and pay for the request) the information and then wait months for the response? It should not take a FOI request to see where OUR money is being spent, it matters not if its senators expenses, the PMs advertising budget, or how much he spends to have his hair done ALL expenses should be posted on line in a timely manner. This does not mean 3 to 6 months after the end of the fiscal year but at a very minimum quarterly and within 30 to 60 days.

Our secretive government is however going the opposite way - In a closed-door session with dozens of bureaucrats Thursday, Suzanne Legault cited a series of novel measures she says are damaging an already tottering system. "I am seeing signs of a system in crisis, where departments are unable to fulfil even their most basic obligations under the act," Legault told the group.
As an example, she cited a directive in April this year from the Treasury Board warning bureaucrats to steer clear of ministers' offices when looking for documents to respond to an access-to-information request.
In other words the bureaucrats have been told to not even look in certain places so that they can say that they found nothing!! As Legault says access to information is fundamental to Democracy
She said - that both ministers and deputy ministers in the public service must show leadership to create a culture of transparency within their departments, explaining it is fundamental to Canada's system of government, and a key tool that allows Canadians to engage in the democratic process and learn about the government's actions and decisions.
"When the access system falters," she said, "not only is Canadians' participation in government thwarted, but ultimately the health of Canadian democracy is at stake."
I would go furthest and say that with modern data systems available such information should be generally accessible without going through a bunch of bureaucratic hoops to see it and that those who deliberately hide, delete, fail to reveal, or otherwise obscure such information are democratic terrorists!

Of particular concern on this file is the obscuring, withholding or failure to collect scientific facts, be it regarding the state of our population and their well being or the condition of, and action required to upkeep, our natural heritage of parks, rivers, oceans, air and other resources.
This is a government waging a quiet legislative and administrative war on science — especially those fields of science dedicated to gathering and analyzing data on the health of Canada’s natural environment — and it has undone a century of good work with alarming efficiency since the passage of its sweeping omnibus budget bill in June 2012 ............
So what is the nature of this war on science? Above all else, it is a sustained campaign to diminish the government’s role in evidence-based policy-making and environmental stewardship in three simple ways: reducing the capacity of the government to gather basic data about the status and health of the environment and Canadian society; shrinking or eliminating government agencies that monitor and analyze that evidence and respond to emergencies; and seizing control of the communications channels by which all of the above report their findings to the Canadian public.
The ultimate goal is equally clear: to induce in the federal government a sort of wilful blindness, severely limiting its ability to see and respond to the impacts of its policies, especially those related to resource extraction.
Do No Science, Hear No Science, Speak No Science — this is the essence of the Harper agenda. And its list of alterations and diminutions is alarming in its length and breadth.

There is a very small piece of good news, the Federal Liberals have instructed their MPs to post their person expenses on line, something the lone Green party MP did way back in July, it a small step and long overdue but that they have also called for the following is even better:-
  1. Require Members of Parliament and Senators to proactively disclose travel and hospitality expenses made by them and their staff. The Liberal Caucus’ proactive disclosures can be viewed on their individual biography pages at Liberal.ca.
  2. Introduce legislation to make meetings of the Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons open and transparent to the public. The ability of the committee to go in-camera where necessary (for example, on sensitive HR matters) will remain, but not as is currently the case, as a default. The Senate Board of Internal Economy is already public.
  3. Create a common, quarterly and more detailed online expense report for spending by Members of Parliament and the Senate that is also more easily accessed and usable by the public from the home page of the Parliament of Canada website.
  4. The House and Senate Boards of Internal Economy should work with the Auditor General  to develop mandatory performance audits of the House of Commons and Senate administration every three years, and public guidelines under which the Auditor General is called in to perform more detailed audits of parliamentary spending.
It remains to be seen that if and when they are in a position to bring such policy into being implemented it actually happens, we may be sure it will not under the Harpler regime, at least not unless the PM, the PMO and the cabinet members were exempt from such requirements.

Information is power and Mr Harpler wants that all for himself!

Update--- The Conservative government has agreed to stop requiring information about a person's background before processing their requests for documents under the Access to Information Act.
----Must be already on file!
Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

No comments: