Newfoundland and Labrador to review controversial access-to-information law
Tom Marshall, interim premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, has announced that three independent experts will review the province’s controversial access-to-information law, The Canadian Press reported.
By Grant Buckler
Tom Marshall, interim premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, has announced that three independent experts will review the province’s controversial access to information law, The Canadian Press reports.
According to the article, Marshall acknowledged that there is “this general concern that the government is not as open and transparent as it should be.” The review will include public hearings and a final report to the government, he said, which would be non-binding but seriously considered.
The province amended its Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act in June 2012. The changes increased protections for cabinet records, prohibited access to cabinet ministers’ briefing notes for five years, hiked fees and allowed ministers to reject requests as “frivolous” or “vexatious.”
The amendment faced criticism in Newspapers Canada’s annual Freedom of Information Audit for that year, as J-Source reported. “The biggest setback,” said the report written by Fred Vallance-Jones, of University of King’s College School of Journalism in Halifax, “came in Newfoundland and Labrador, with the passage in June of amendments to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.”
Commenting on the law at the time, Toby Mendel, executive director of the Centre for Law and Democracy, told J-Source “I have never seen a cabinet exception as broad as that.” Mendel, who has analyzed and worked on more than 70 different access to information laws worldwide, said “it applies to the documents that even though they were never looked at by cabinet, and even though they never even tangentially impacted on anything that cabinet did, somebody claimed that they were prepared for cabinet, and that’s enough to claim an exemption.”
Related content on J-Source:
- The Unknowable Country: Why aren’t journalists pushing governments for more transparency?
- Opinion: Canada’s access-to-information system is going downhill and fast
- Alberta Bill 45 does not affect journalists, government says
Grant Buckler is a retired freelance journalist and a volunteer with Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and lives in Kingston, Ont.