CNA urges Government not to retreat from pledges on transparency

The Canadian Newspaper Association is deeply troubled by suggestions that the Conservative government plans to remove a core campaign promise to reform Canada’s “Access to Information Act” from the “Federal Accountability Act”, sending long-awaited transparency reforms to a parliamentary committee for further study instead.

“If this comes to pass, Mr. Harper’s government will join a long line of predecessors that caved in to pressure from vested interest within the federal bureaucracy that see the public’s right to know as an inconvenience and nuisance,” said Anne Kothawala, President and CEO of the Canadian Newspaper Association. “This is déjà -vu all over again”, she said, referring to the un-kept promise of former Liberal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler to reform the “Access to Information Act” in the last session of Parliament.

“This is not what we were expecting,” she said. “After five years of headlines and two elections, it’s pretty clear to Canadians that the weaknesses of our “Access to Information Act” helped produce an environment in which the sponsorship abuses flourished. We believed Mr. Harper was intent on changes that would ensure such abuses would never occur again. We sincerely hope he will make it clear that his government will enact the reform measures proposed by Information Commissioner John Reid in his draft “Open Government Act” as he promised in his election platform, Ms. Kothawala said.

Ms. Kothawala urged the Prime Minister to send his proposals for change to the Access to Information Act to Parliament in the form of a bill that could be referred to Committee after first reading. This would provide an opportunity to perfect the legislation before it is sent back to the House, and would hold a place for the bill in the legislative calendar, which could be truncated at any time with the loss of a vote of non-confidence.