March 23, 2009 (40th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Andrew Saxton


Mr. Andrew Saxton (Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak this evening regarding the member's earlier question and Canada's access to information laws.
As said before in this chamber, the member opposite is trying to create the impression that decisions about what information to release are driven at the political level. This is absolutely false. Access to information requests are never handled by ministers or political staff. Professional and trained access to information staff in the public service perform the work across departments and agencies. It is the heads of those departments and agencies who are responsible for the administration of this program within their organizations and we expect everyone to obey the law in every respect.
The Federal Accountability Act, which was introduced by our government, brought into force the new access to information policy. The act and its companion action plan instituted an unprecedented level of rigour and scrutiny across the federal public sector. It contains the most extensive amendments to the Access to Information Act since its introduction in 1983.
This government takes Canadians' right to access to information very seriously. To ensure that the Access to Information Act is complied with, we have created an inventory of best practices to raise employee awareness of their information management responsibilities. In the past year, 628 members of the ATIP community have participated in 51 training sessions to ensure compliance with the act. The latest statistics show that the government has been effective, accessible and transparent with access to information requests and the government continues to strengthen openness and transparency in government operations.
The Treasury Board Secretariat, for example, has developed a framework for the management of information in the Government of Canada to strengthen management across the public service. To suggest that it is the ministers or their staffs who decide what is to be released and what is not to be released is a complete misunderstanding of how the system works. The member opposite knows this.
In his testimony before committee, the Information Commissioner stated, “We have not found through our investigations direct political interference in the processing of access requests”.
This government is committed to openness and transparency with respect to government operations. In fact, 69 new institutions are now accountable to Canadians through the ATIA. For the first time ever, Canadians can see how these institutions spend their tax dollars. In 2007-08, the government processed a record number of requests, an increase of 38% over the last five years. These are tremendous steps toward openness and transparency.
I thank the member opposite for the question. This government does take Canadians' rights to access to information very seriously.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
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