A group of prominent journalists recently declared “Canada has an access-to-information system in name only.” Sadly, CUPE largely agrees.
Canada’s access-to-information (ATI) system, which controls how Canadians access government records and information, is broken. The current system, which was created in 1983, is riddled with flaws and weaknesses. Rather than increasing transparency and access, the system too often bars Canadians from accessing government information that should be public.
Access to information is critical to CUPE’s efforts to advance working conditions for our members and strengthen universally accessible public services. It helps us gather information for bargaining, informs our campaigns for better public services, and helps us keep governments accountable by tracking how they spend public money. That’s why CUPE has made a number of proposals to the federal government’s consultation on improving the system.
Highlights of CUPE’s submission include the following recommendations:
- Extending the scope of ATI legislation to include the Prime Minister’s Office and Ministers’ Offices. Despite promising in the 2015 election to make senior government offices open by default, the Trudeau government has repeatedly broken this promise and failed to act. The public deserves better transparency from our top decision-makers.
- Extending the scope of ATI legislation to include private entities that deliver substantial public programs, services, or functions, or receive substantial public funding to carry out public programs, services, or functions. Conservative and Liberal governments alike have increasingly transferred public services to the private sector. A key consequence of privatization is a loss of transparency and accountability over public services, due to the great difficulty of accessing information, because private entities that perform public functions or receive significant public funding are also not subject to the legislation. The public deserves better oversight of our public services.
- Removing the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act from ATI legislation. The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) gets special treatment under Canada’s ATI legislation which allows it to avoid disclosing information related to any of its private sector investor partners. The CIB is entrusted with $35 billion of public money but is shrouded in secrecy in such a way that limits the public’s right to scrutinize decision-making on colossal amounts of infrastructure investment.
You can read CUPE’s full submission here.