Why Canada’s new prime minister’s promise of open and transparent government matters to the media and democracy.

[[{“fid”:”4890″,”view_mode”:”default”,”fields”:{“format”:”default”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:””,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:””},”type”:”media”,”link_text”:null,”attributes”:{“height”:153,”width”:124,”style”:”width: 75px; height: 93px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;”,”class”:”media-element file-default”}}]]By Kathy English for the Toronto Star

“One of the most troublesome aspects of the Conservative government of Stephen Harper has been its iron-clad control over the flow of information, with the Prime Minister’s Office often acting as the gatekeeper for what the public will be told and when.”

“For me, open government is effective government. Our objective is nothing less than making transparency a fundamental principle across the Government of Canada.”

Justin Trudeau, Liberal party platform: “A Fair and Open Government,” June, 2015

The chasm between the past and the promise is vast.

It is a well-documented fact that the Harper government went to great lengths to control government information and limit the media’s access to information. As the late National Newspaper Award-winning columnist James Travers wrote in 2010, “There’s no secret about Stephen Harper’s obsessive secrecy.”

Contrast that with the open government pledge of Prime Minister-designate Trudeau: “As the saying goes, sunlight is the world’s best disinfectant,” he said. “Liberals will shed new light on the government and ensure that it is focused on the people it is meant to serve: Canadians.”

It remains to be seen whether Trudeau can live up to this promise that is so critical to democracy and your right to know. Those given to cynicism must wait — and dare to hope — knowing all too well that many politicians in past have made and fallen short of similar promises.

To read the rest of this column, please go to the Toronto Star’s website, where it was first published. 


H.G. Watson was J-Source's managing editor from 2015 to 2018. She is a journalist based in Toronto. You can learn more about her at hgwatson.com.