What a month! A flurry of activities related to access to information has made the past few weeks very busy for the Office of the Information Commissioner.
First of all, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics tabled a report containing 32 recommendations based on its review of the Access to Information Act. I appeared before this Committee twice since last February to discuss the recommendations I submitted to Parliament in my special report last year.
Other stakeholders shared their opinions and expertise during this review, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their input.
I am very pleased that the Committee agreed with several of my proposals, including a legal duty to document, order-making powers for the Information Commissioner, the ability of my office to review Cabinet confidences, and a stricter application of the exemption on advice and recommendations. In conjunction with the Committee’s review, public consultations on reforming the Act were initiated by the Treasury Board Secretariat in May.
Secondly, Treasury Board held public consultations on the government’s third Open Government Plan. This is a requirement of Canada’s participation in the Open Government Partnership. I submitted my comments on various initiatives that will allow for greater transparency and government information sharing.
Thirdly, Treasury Board’s decision to provide additional funding for our inventory reduction strategy is most welcome. This funding will allow us to hire contract investigators to process the backlog of complaints. We will certainly have our work cut out for us, as the funding is available for the current fiscal year only.
Last but not least, I tabled my annual report on June 16. The report covers the period between two governments and it shows a change in attitude with regards to access to information.
As I have already noted, 2016 is the year for transparency and access to information. The activities we’ve seen are positive signs of the government’s desire to improve the access to information regime.
The next test, however, will be following through on those commitments in the fall by passing legislation the government has promised. That legislation will need to boldly address the growing expectations of the Committee, institutions, and access requesters.