The principles of transparency and accountability dictate that, whether it is convenient for them or not, governments must operate in glass houses. That is the price of democracy. The converse – secrecy – is the terrible footprint of totalitarian regimes. Secrecy is a prescription for unbridled abuse of the resources of a nation by individuals and groups who achieve and maintain power by brute force.
There will be little argument on this point in a democracy like Canada’s. All stakeholders – in government, in the media, in the private sector, and the general public – instinctively endorse the transparency principle. But how far must this be taken? What information must legitimately be withheld from the public, and what would be the criteria that establish the legitimacy of secrecy?
Reporters from 30 newspapers, from nine of the 10 provinces,and from The Canadian Press news service participated in the third annual Freedom of Information Audit.