Roundup: Demanding ATIP perfection may be the enemy of the good

I find myself torn about the government announcement on new legislation to amend the Access to Information Act because on the whole, they made most of the changes that they promised to, but they failed to uphold one promise, which was to make the Act apply to the PMO and minister’s offices. And yes, We The Media let them know how displeased we were about it.

Part of the problem here is that like so many of their other election promises, it may have been a stupid one – kind of like their promise around electoral reform. Why? Because it was always going to be problematic to promise access to cabinet documents, and there’s a very good reason for that, because much of that information should remain private because it will otherwise damage the ability for there to be unfettered advice to ministers or between cabinet colleagues, and they need to have space to make these kinds of deliberations, otherwise the whole machinery of government starts to fall apart.

Like Philippe Lagassé says, the better discussion would have been to have specific proposals as to what falls under cabinet confidence. Currently the Information Commissioner has some determination around that, and with the changes in this bill, the onus will be reversed – the government will need to convince her (and if that fails, the courts) that information should remain secret, as opposed to her having to take the government to court to get that access. That’s significant.

There is a lot of good in these changes, but I fear that it will be lost amidst the grumbling that it didn’t go far enough. And let’s face it – sometimes We The Media are our own worst enemies when we use Access requests for cheap outrage stories rather than meaningful accountability, and then wonder why the government suddenly clamps down and turns to message control, and worst of all, nobody wants to talk about that problem. That may wind up making things worse for everyone in the end.

Good reads:

  • The attempt to split the Infrastructure Bank provisions out of the budget implementation bill was defeated on a tie vote in the Senate.
  • Finance ministers met to talk marijuana taxation, and that the July 1st 2018 will be a hard date for implementation, with no other delays brokered.
  • New limits are being legislated for solitary confinement in federal prisons, along with new money for mental health services.
  • At the Paris Air Show, government officials met with fighter jet makers except Boeing, which makes the Super Hornets.
  • National Defence won’t comment on Russian threats to shoot down allied aircraft over Syria (where we have a surveillance and refuelling plane).
  • Apparently Canada has turned down five UN requests for peacekeeping operations, including Mali.
  • Dwight Duncan, former provincial Liberal and head of the Geordie Howe Bridge Corporation, is making partisan swipes on social media. Expect this in QP today.
  • Here’s a statistical breakdown of who is doing the “obstructing” in the Senate, and a reminder that proposing amendments aren’t “obstruction” or even “activism.”
  • The government’s political cybersecurity reforms won’t include making parties implement any changes, and they remain outside of any privacy regime.
  • An amended version of the Senate bill to protect journalists’ sources had passed the Commons committee.
  • The government is expected to announce 100 Governor-in-Council appointments this week, to help deal with the backlog of vacancies.
  • Rona Ambrose is now worried her bill won’t pass the Senate before it rises, given the possibility of prorogation in the fall (which wouldn’t mean much at its stage).
  • There seems to have been a rise in the number of badly behaved foreign diplomats in Ottawa, but nobody can really point out why this is the case.
  • The RCMP now allege a civil servant in Public Works leaked shipbuilding information, but they’re still alleging VADM Mark Norman also did.
  • The Conservatives are very concerned that Marc Bosc was not chosen to be the new Commons Clerk, and are demanding answers.
  • The Senate Ethics Officer resigned suddenly yesterday, and no one really knows why.
  • Brad Trost’s campaign manager is now alleging that the party was trying to oust Trost from the party over the alleged leak of the membership list.
  • James Bowden takes on the politics of prorogation after the government’s ill-considered Standing Order changes.
  • Chantal Hébert looks at the resignation of Denis Lebel, and what the coming by-election for his seat will portend.
  • Paul Wells is in Latvia to see the Canadian troops arrive there on a new NATO deterrence mission.

Odds and ends:

Tristin Hopper has created a salary calculator to compare whether you’ve made more or less than others in your profession, or than a house in Vancouver.