• In Canada, our country’s information commissioner is still fighting for the power to educate citizens about their right to know. Meanwhile, across the pond, the United Kingdom’s information commissioner Christopher Graham already has that power and has been exercising it.
Specifically, according to a proposal released last week, Graham’s office intends to continue its work to “embed information rights within the school curriculum” — having recently participated in the government’s review of England’s national curriculum. As part of that participation, the office stated teaching students about those rights will have several benefits, including allowing young people to “participate in society” and “hold public authorities to account.”
• A 23-word statement by Treasury Board President Tony Clement has given the Globe and Mail cause to believe the Conservatives “sound receptive on access to information” reforms. Earlier this month, NDP MP Charlie Angus accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of “lording over the most opaque and secretive government in memory,” demanding to know when Canada’s governing party will “finally agree to reform the Access to Information Act.”
In response, Clement defended the government’s transparency record. But he also said it is “waiting for the [information] commissioner’s report on other changes [to the Access to Information Act] that she would suggest. If the opposition has other positive changes, we would consider those as well” — prompting this editorial from the Globe.
• Saskatchewan’s government just introduced it’s first lobbying transparency law. But, as reported by the Leader-Post’s Murray Mandryk, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff Guy Giorno believes there are “large gaps in the legislation.” In a bulletin posted on Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP’s Website, Giorno states the bill won’t require non-profit entities or those who spend less than 100 hours lobbying to disclose their government relations activities. But it also features “among the toughest” lobbying conflict-of-interest rules in Canada.
• “It’s time to turn the page. Day after day, we are inundated with ‘news’ about the Senate scandal. Nobody cares, except the CBC, the Toronto Star, and some others, who seem to drip with venom at any announcement that Harper may have known something about who did what, when.”
That’s the pith of an editorial published last week in the Nanaimo Daily News. Ishmael N. Daro, Canada.com’s trends editor, was quick to mention that’s the same newspaper that published two letters to the editor disparaging First Nations peoples. But what hasn’t been mentioned is the newspaper’s managing editor Mark MacDonald also appears to have some strong opinions about the political leanings of Canadian journalists.
In a three-page document document obtained by the B.C. Reporter Reporter Website, MacDonald stated many editors are “sympathetic to the socialist cause” and that, while there are “some positive aspects of socialism,” they “shouldn’t dominate the editorial flavour [sic] of the paper.” He clarified that doesn’t mean newspapers need to be become “‘right wing rags’…It is not a fair representation of the community at large. But they do need balance.”
• If you think Canadian legislatures are fortresses of free speech and expression, think again. Consider this example, first reported by the Province’s Mike Smyth: earlier this month, the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation asked permission to use British Columbia’s legislative lawn for a news conference on December 2. During that event, the federation wanted to fly their nine-metre-tall Mike Duffy balloon. But the group’s British Columbia director Jordan Bateman was advised the news conference would be an “inappropriate use of the Legislative Precinct Grounds.” The following is a complete copy of that rejection letter.
• “The Japanese government, which already has a long history of cover-ups and opaqueness, is on its way to becoming even less open and transparent after the lower house the Diet, Japan’s parliament, passed the Designated Secrets Bill on Tuesday.” According to the Daily Beast, “With new powers to classify nearly anything as a state secret and harsh punishments for leakers that can easily be used to intimidate whistleblowers and stifle press freedom, many in Japan worry that the if the bill becomes law it will be only the first step towards even more severe erosions of freedom in the country.”
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