Letter to the President of the Treasury Board on the Government's consultation on Action Plan 2.0 for the Open Government Partnership Initiative

September 19, 2014

The Honourable Tony Clement, P.C., M.P.
President of the Treasury Board and
Minister for the Federal Economic
Development Initiative for Northern Ontario
140 O’Connor Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0R5

 

Dear Minister:

I write to you in anticipation of the development of the Government of Canada’s Action Plan 2.0 for the Open Government Partnership initiative (OGP), and on the eve of Right to Know Week.

As Canada’s Information Commissioner, I recommend, as I did in 2012 and 2013, that the Government of Canada commit to modernizing the Access to Information Act (Act). This crucial commitment is the one element that must, in my view, be included in the Action Plan 2.0.

As you know, I fully support open government as a means for greater openness, accountability and transparency of governments. As illustrated in the 2010 Joint Resolution of Information and Privacy Commissioners of Canada on Open Government and the January 2012 letter recommending elements for the 1st action plan, I, along with my provincial and territorial colleagues, were early advocates of open government principles and recognized its value for Canada’s democracy. However, these principles cannot be achieved without a strong access to information law. Undertaking an in-depth reform of the legislation would clearly demonstrate the government’s commitment to the right of access as a central piece of the open government initiative.

To assist the government in this endeavour, I plan to table in Parliament a special report on modernizing the Act, which will take into account previous reviews of the Act, international norms and over 30 years of investigative experience.

As recommended by Dr. Mary Francoli in Canada’s Progress Report 2012-2013 from the Independent Report Mechanism of the OGP, the government should be prioritizing open government as a whole by giving it higher-level political support. During her appearance before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates on May 13, 2014, she stated “that open data is becoming privileged at the expense of other areas of open government and some of the other commitments that we have made in our OGP action plan to the international community and to Canadians.”

Essentially, it is imperative for the government to put the same energy and vision into access to information as it does for open data, otherwise, the open government initiative is fundamentally flawed. Without a strong access law, the government cannot achieve its stated objectives to foster transparency and accountability.

I look forward to reading and commenting on the proposed Action Plan 2.0 with the hope that the Government of Canada will commit to reforming the Access to Information Act.  

Yours sincerely,

 

Suzanne Legault

Information Commissioner of Canada