In the United States, citizens may soon have a bigger say in budget decisions. (Graphic by The Participatory Budgeting Project)

In the United States, citizens may soon have a bigger say in budget decisions. (Graphic by The Participatory Budgeting Project)

• While Canada debates a bill that could give our elected representatives more power to represent us, the United States government is promising to simply give its citizens more power. Last week, the Obama administration released its second U.S. Open Government National Action Plan. The plan commits the government to promoting participatory budgeting for local projects. That’s a process by which “community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget.” Under the action plan, the United States will also be rolling out metrics next year that can be used to measure public participation in government.

• In British Columbia, the government must disclose information that is in the public interest — regardless of any protections those records enjoy under the province’s freedom of information law. But, according to a investigation by information and privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham, that requirement “has never been applied by a public body.” That’s because the information must also be of an “urgent” nature. As a result, Denham is calling for a legal change that would require “public bodies to disclose information of a non-urgent nature where disclosure is clearly in the public interest.”

• “Alberta’s ban on publicizing the names and photos of children who die in provincial care is one of the most restrictive in the country, robbing grieving families of their ability to raise concerns in public about the deaths, and sheltering government officials from scrutiny.” So reports the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald, whose reporters Karen Kleiss and Darcy Henton have been investigating those deaths. Human Services Minister Dave Hancock said that law — which is enforced by a fine of up to $10,000 or up to six months in jail — will be discussed at a roundtable of MLAs and experts scheduled for January. But an Alberta College of Social Workers spokesperson said the group supports the principle of the ban for the benefit of the family and any siblings.

Have a news tip about about the state of democracy, openness and accountability in Canada? You can email me at this address.

One thought on “THE WEEK THAT WAS — DECEMBER 7, 2013

  1. ruthseeley (@ruthseeley)

    What I find so very puzzling about our current prime minister’s agenda is that he seems to be besotted with ideas the US tried 20 years ago that didn’t work – mandatory minimum sentences, building more and bigger prisons (so we can criminalize more of our population, as if recidivism doesn’t exist), and less and less transparency in government. I don’t think he’s stupid. But these ideas have been proven not to work. So why replicate the mistakes of our nearest neighbours?


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