As part of the general consultation held on the 2016 quinquennial report of the Commission sur l’accès à l’information, CUPE reported the ongoing challenges it has encountered seeking access to data from public agencies such as the provincial government, municipalities, health care institutions and school boards.
“CUPE makes numerous access to information requests,” explained Benoît Bouchard, secretary general of CUPE Quebec. “Unfortunately, they are frequently refused for no reason. This holds back the bargaining process and flies in the face of good labour relations, and from a broader perspective, the lack of transparency among public entities is detrimental for the citizens and taxpayers of Quebec.”
CUPE agrees with many of the recommendations set out in the report, titled Rétablir l’équilibre – rapport quinquennal 2016 (“Restoring Balance – Quinquennial Report 2016”). For example, both CUPE and the Commission have commented on the Données Québec initiative, a website developed by the government to promote the distribution of information held by the government of Quebec and various municipalities.
“CUPE welcomed this initiative but has been extremely disappointed by the quality and quantity of the information available through the website,” stated CUPE economist Pierre-Guy Sylvestre. “The only cities participating in it are Montréal, Gatineau, Québec, Longueuil, Laval and Sherbrooke. In addition, only 12 data sets are available on the entire health care and social services sector, the sector on which the greatest share of public money is spent.”
CUPE is also asking to have the Act amended to include a clause providing for a public interest override.
“In the opinion of CUPE, emphasizing the concept of public interest in the Act would put persons in charge of access in a better position to determine whether information falls within the scope of a restriction or, on the contrary, should be disclosed,” added CUPE legal counsel Danielle Lamy. “This criterion would also help to limit political interference and restore neutrality in the handling of requests.”
With nearly 115,000 members, CUPE Quebec represents approximately 70 per cent of all municipal employees in Quebec, or 32,240 members. CUPE is also active across a broad range of sectors, including health and social services, communications, education, universities, energy, government corporations and public agencies, air and ground transportation, the mixed sector and the maritime sector.