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Access to Information

March 22, 2022

My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate.

Government Representative, as you know, section 2 of the Access to Information Act states that the purpose of the act is to, and I quote:

 . . . enhance the accountability and transparency of federal institutions in order to promote an open and democratic society and to enable public debate on the conduct of those institutions.

My office submitted an access to information request to Public Safety Canada on February 11. This week, we received a reply informing us that the department would get back to us within 195 days, by September 22, 2022, but I don’t even know if I will get a detailed answer.

Government Representative, do you think that it is right to have to wait 195 days to get an answer in a society that calls itself free and that seeks to be transparent and give access to information?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

Thank you for the question and for highlighting the importance of transparency within our government institutions.

Openness, transparency and accountability are our government’s guiding principles. I have been told that the government is currently reviewing its access to information process. This is an opportunity to see how access to information is working for Canadians, to explore the possibility of improving proactive disclosure, to improve services and to reduce the wait times you’re talking about.

I have also been told that the government is eager to release an interim report, which it should be in a position to do very soon. It will use the $12.8 million invested in Budget 2021 to improve access to information.

Government Representative, the mandate letter that the Prime Minister gave to his Minister of Public Safety states, and I quote:

Canadians continue to rely on journalists and journalism for accurate and timely news.

Of course, I myself, not a journalist, submitted the access to information request, but I expect a journalist would have to wait just as long. Do you think it is reasonable to wait seven months to get timely information? Is that reasonable and timely?

Senator Gold [ + ]

As I said, the government is doing its best to improve the process and wait times, which we know have been issues for some time.

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