Posted January 26, 2009
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2009 Budget Transparency

National Groups Urge Harper: Follow Obama's Example - Without Transparency, Billions in Stimulus could be Wasted

OTTAWA and VANCOUVER - The Canadian Newspaper Association, Canadian Taxpayers Federation and BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) are urging Prime Minister Harper to follow President Barack Obama's lead and act immediately to remove the shackles on access to information on his government's decisions.

On his first day in office, President Obama issued new orders designed to improve openness and transparency. The first directive instructs all agencies and departments to "adopt a presumption in favor" of Freedom of Information Act requests, while the second orders the director of the Office of Management and Budget to issue recommendations on making the federal government more transparent.

The contrast with the situation in Canada is remarkable. "There's less information being released by government than ever before," federal Information Commissioner Robert Marleau told the Canadian Press Thursday, describing the situation as "alarming." In an interview in La Presse, Marleau said information management in the federal government is bordering on a crisis.

"The contrast between the leadership shown by President Obama and the Harper government's hostility to the Access to Information Act is startling," said FIPA Executive Director Darrell Evans. "However, the Throne Speech and the budget offer a perfect opportunity for him to fulfil his original pledges of openness and transparency."

"With billions of taxpayer dollars about to be spent on fiscal stimulus, transparency on how those dollars are spent is absolutely vital," said David Gollob of the Canadian Newspaper Association. "Without a viable access to information regime, taxpayers are left in the dark. Opportunities for waste and mismanagement abound when media and the public can't see what the government is doing."

"It's time to reform the Access to Information Act to create an environment of transparency and accountability," said Maureen Bader, BC Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. "The government's veil of secrecy must be replaced by a duty to inform."

Access to Information reforms were originally promised as part of the government's centrepiece Accountability Act, but were deferred and then abandoned - a casualty of politics-as-usual in Ottawa. The Conservatives' eight commitments related to Access to Information may be viewed at: http://fipa.bc.ca/library/News_Releases/NR-Ltr_to_PM-Sept_29_08.doc.

President Obama's orders may be viewed at http://fipa.bc.ca/library/Law_Reform_Activities/FEDERAL_TRANSPARENCY_REFORMS/

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