6 August 2021. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is today releasing open letters sent last week to the leaders of the three main Nova Scotian political parties, the Liberal Party, Progressive Conservative Association and New Democratic Party, along with the responses of each party (Liberal/PC/NDP). Sent in the middle of an election campaign, the open letters request party leaders to make election promises to conduct a comprehensive review of the local right to information (RTI) act, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPOP) and to make three more specific commitments. All three parties responded in a timely manner to our letters, but all failed to make the promises we asked for, instead repeating vague promises to improve the act that have proven ineffective in the past.
“It is regrettable that while all of the party leaders have made statements about the importance of transparency and accountability, none are prepared to make strong and specific commitments to reform the woefully out-of-date Nova Scotian RTI law,” said Toby Mendel, CLD’s Executive Director. “We got the same general commitments two elections ago, when we conducted a similar exercise, and have yet to see any concrete reform of the act; Nova Scotians deserve more.”
Although Nova Scotia was the first jurisdiction in Canada to adopt an RTI law, in 1977, the act has not been significantly reformed since then. According to the RTI Rating, CLD’s internationally recognised methodology for assessing the strength of RTI Laws, the Nova Scotian law scores 85 out of 150 possible points, placing it in 65th place out of the 129 countries currently on the RTI Rating, far behind leaders such as Mexico, Sri Lanka and Slovenia. In 2013, CLD published an Analysis of the FOIPOP Act that includes a comprehensive list of 18 recommendations for reform. Of those 18 recommendations, the open letter calls on leaders to make specific commitments to three, chosen by CLD for their overriding importance to transparency and accountability, as follows:
- Grant the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Nova Scotia binding order-making power.
- Ensure that all exceptions are subject to a robust and comprehensive public interest override which requires public bodies to release information whenever the overall public interest is served by this, notwithstanding the exceptions.
- Ensure that exceptions which protect public interests are subject to a sunset clause of 20 years or less, after which they no longer apply.
CLD is disappointed by the weak responses from party leaders and calls on them now to make more specific and genuine commitments to reform the legislation so as to prove that their statements in favour of accountability are genuine.
For further information, please contact:
Centre for Law and Democracy
+1 416 833 2918