One month ago, a coalition of 22 NGOs from across Canada signed a Joint Letter calling on the leaders of Canada’s political parties to make concrete commitments to reform Canada’s outdated access to information system. Today, we are pleased to have received promises from the NDP and Liberal parties to substantively improve the system if elected. The Conservative party has not promised to improve the system as part of their platform, a position which is unfortunately consistent with their overall record on this vital democratic indicator. Canada’s Access to Information Act has not been substantially improved since it was passed over 30 years ago, and a global study ranks Canada 59th in the world as a result of this stagnation.
“After decades of neglect, we are pleased to see that Canadians are finally being offered candidates who believe in a strong right to information,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy. “Whoever forms Canada’s next government, we hope they will work to bring the Access to Information Act up to code.”
The Joint Letter called for parties to commit to a comprehensive review of the Access to Information Act, and to specifically express support for four important reforms: expanding the power of Canada’s Information Commissioner to grant her order-making power, expand the scope of the Act to cover all public bodies, limit exceptions to the law and make them subject to a public interest override and create a duty to document decisions. The NDP platform includes commitments that engage all four of these promises, while the Liberals have promised to fulfil two, and have also promised to institute regular reviews of the Access to Information Act. Both the NDP and Liberals have also committed to eliminating all access fees, beyond the initial $5 requesting fee.
The deficit of trust between Canada’s voters and its elected officials has never been higher. However, it is good to see that the right to information has become an issue in this campaign, and that Liberal and NDP candidates for Prime Minister have pledged to take action to repair the critical flaws in the system.
For further information, please contact:
Centre for Law and Democracy
+1 902 431-3688