If the federal government has it's way, Canadians won't be getting a dump truck load of information about what mining companies are up to abroad. (Photograph by

If the federal government has its way, Canadians won’t be getting a dump truck load of information about what mining companies are up to abroad. (Photograph by

• Last week, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver announced the federal government wants to see mining companies reveal when they make payments more than $100,000 to governments at home and abroad. According to CBC News, that disclosure is meant to “curb potential corruption and bring greater sunlight to companies securing contracts or resource rights in developing countries.”

But, in an op-ed published by the Toronto Star, open data advocate David Eaves wrote that Oliver’s announcement didn’t go far enough. For example, those disclosures won’t be inputted into a central registry. Instead, they will be posted on company Websites, forcing “anyone interested in actually figuring out what is going on to go and track down each [record] individually. We call this secrecy by obscurity. It makes a mockery of the notion of transparency.”

• More educated countries consistently have better governments. And, according to The Atlantic, the authors of a new paper published in the Journal of Law and Economics believe that’s because more educated citizens complain about public officials who mistreated them. For example:

“…policemen who beat them up, officials who demand bribes, teachers who do not show up…A public official choosing to break rules must trade off the risk of being disciplined, no matter how small for each individual complaint, against the benefits of misconduct. As citizens’ complaints proliferate, the risk of an investigation and disciplinary action rises…As education levels in a country rise, so does the number of complaints when officials misbehave, which raises the expected costs of misconduct and thus encourages better behavior — asking for fewer bribes, avoiding abusing people, showing up to work.”

• Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May will be delivering a lecture entitled “The Crisis in Democracy” later this month at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. In an interview with the university administration’s newspaper, May gave a sneak preview of that talk, saying:

“It’s arguable that we now live in a dictatorship, punctuated by manipulated elections. The symptoms of the problem are easy to spot – low voter turn-out, with worryingly low levels among young people with no sign they will start voting once they are over 30, a less than vital Fourth Estate, undermined by an alarming level of concentration of media ownership in very few hands, public apathy, indifference bordering on antipathy toward the whole process, excessive power in the hands of the few (or the one, since I refer to PMO), a loss of respect for the fundamental principle of the supremacy of Parliament, misuse of the talents of Members of Parliament of the large parties as MPs are expected to toe the party line on every issue, big and small, and its flip-side, excessive control by the unelected top party brass in all three main parties.”

• In 2010, Times Colonist reporters Rob Shaw, Lindsay Kines and Louise Dickson exposed how British Columbia’s court system routinely and wrongly denied access to information. According to Shaw, as a result of the series, then attorney general Mike de Jong promised to “revise aging court access policies so they have a ‘presumption in favour of releasing information.'” But, four years later, this was one Canadian Press reporter‘s recent experience with that system:

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

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