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



    OTTAWA and VANCOUVER, Jan. 23 /CNW Telbec/ - 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/




For further information:

For further information: Maureen Bader, Canadian Taxpayers Federation,
(604) 608-6770, (604) 999-3319; David Gollob, Canadian Newspaper Association,
(613) 301-6162; Darrell Evans, FIPA, (604) 739-9788

Organization Profile

Canadian Newspaper Association

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Canadian Taxpayers Federation

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