Medicine Hat News

Access to Informatio­n review to take another year amid impatience

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It will likely be another year before a federal review of the government’s key transparen­cy law is complete, fuelling the frustratio­n of openness advocates.

Newly released terms of reference for the government study of the Access to Informatio­n Act say a report will be submitted to the Treasury Board president by Jan. 31 of next year.

The review, announced last June, has prompted skepticism from opengovern­ment proponents, who point to a pile of reports done over the years on reforming the access law.

The law, introduced in 1983, allows people who pay $5 to ask for a range of federal documents, but it has been widely criticized as antiquated and poorly managed.

“Putting the government in charge of reviewing its own secrecy and delay problems was never a good idea,” said Ken Rubin, a researcher and longtime user of the access law.

The Liberals should either present a new transparen­cy bill before the next general election or let Parliament and the public figure out how to improve access to federal records, he said.

Cara Zwibel, director of the fundamenta­l-freedoms program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Associatio­n, said she is frustrated by the review because many of the issues have already been studied by bodies including the federal informatio­n commission­er and the House of Commons committee on informatio­n, privacy and ethics.

The timetable likely means that any change to the law or how it works is at least 18 months to two years away, and even that would assume the Liberals were still governing and had the same priorities, she said.

“I am disappoint­ed that we remain in a holding pattern when it comes to advancing in this area.”

Conservati­ve MP Luc Berthold, the party’s Treasury Board critic, called it another example of the government failing to take transparen­cy seriously.

“It’s irresponsi­ble for the Trudeau Liberals to wait another year to fix the issues in Canada’s informatio­n system,” he said. “The time to act is now.”

The terms of reference say the review will focus on the legislativ­e framework, opportunit­ies to improve proactive publicatio­n to make informatio­n openly available and assessing processes to improve service and reduce delays.

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