CNA Urges Harper to Adopt Measures to Improve Transparency

The Canadian Newspaper Association welcomed the Gomery Commission’s recommendations to curb government secrecy and encourage a culture of openness, and urged the government of Prime Minister-Designate Stephen Harper to act swiftly and resolutely to implement them.

In a statement today, CNA President and CEO Anne Kothawala emphasized the importance of Mr. Justice John Gomery’s detailed recommendations for reform to the Access to Information Act, with broader powers for the Information Commissioner and tough sanctions on officials for failing to create a “paper trail” to document government decisions.

“You cannot have accountability in government without records of who did and said what,” Ms. Kothawala said. “Officials involved in the sponsorship scandal appear to have driven a truck through that loophole.”

The CNA also welcomed the Gomery Commission’s recommendations for amendments to the whistleblower protection legislation passed in the dying days of the Liberal government. “The legislation was an improvement in that it rolled back a 20-year curtain of secrecy on investigations of alleged wrongdoing to only five years,” Ms. Kothawala said. “But secrecy has no justification when laws have been breached.”

Ms. Kothawala warned however that Ottawa’s culture of secrecy is so deeply entrenched that efforts to legislate change may encounter resistance.

“Old habits die hard. The devil will be in the details of any proposed legislation,” Ms. Kothawala said. “But Canadians have passed the tipping point in terms of our expectations for meaningful change. Mr. Harper has made a strong commitment. We will be encouraging him to stay on course.”