CAJ opposes draconian changes to ATI in Newfoundland and Labrador

OTTAWA, June 12, 2012 /CNW/ - The Canadian Association of Journalists is shocked at changes proposed to the Newfoundland and Labrador Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act that could shroud public information in darkness.

The province's House of Assembly has been debating Bill 29, which proposes amendments including a trio of items that would reclassify large amounts of public information so they would not be released when requested through the access-to-information process.

In summary:

  • The definition of "cabinet secrecy" would be broadened to include newly created classes of information and any documents or briefings prepared for cabinet - regardless of whether or not they ever get considered by cabinet. This would also impact the information available to the province's auditor general;
  • Government research reports and audits could be withheld for up to three years if a cabinet minister decides they are not complete. This could allow politically sensitive or damaging documents to be kept in perpetual draft form to prevent their release; and,
  • Access fees could increase - specifically processing fees which would jump by 66 per cent from $15 an hour to $25 an hour. The government could also charge "contemplation" time while officials decide what gets withheld or released.

"Government work - including information - paid for by the public belongs to the public," CAJ president Hugo Rodrigues said. "This bill would erect some very large roadblocks for journalists and any other members of the public who wish to see what their government is doing and hold it accountable for its decisions."

The bill's amendments seem to fly in the face of the comments from Justice Minister Felix Collins, who was quoted Monday saying his government remains committed to openness, transparency and accountability.

The CAJ is Canada's largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing almost 600 members across the country. The CAJ's primary roles are to provide high-quality professional development for its members and public-interest advocacy.

SOURCE Canadian Association of Journalists

For further information:

Hugo Rodrigues, CAJ president - 519-756-2020 ext. 2226, 519-535-8680, hugo@caj.ca

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