• Newspaper Canada’s next checkup on freedom of information in this country will soon be released following an attempt to ensure government officials don’t try to skew the results.
The audit, which has been led by King’s College journalism professor Fred Vallance-Jones, measures how fast our governments responds to freedom of information requests, as well as the cost and completeness of those responses.
In 2011 and 2012, that checkup was released to coincide with Canada’s Right To Know Week, which takes place at the end of September. But, this past year, that didn’t happen.
So, back in October, I asked Newspapers Canada, the industry association that commissions the review and represents the country’s newspaper publishers, about the status of the audit.
In response, Jason Grier — the association’s policy and public affairs senior advisor — stated in an email, “There have been some changes to the approach that are designed to help maintain the integrity of the audit.”
Specifically, “the changes will make it more difficult for information coordinators to guess that an inquiry is actually related to the audit” — potential resulting in that request being given preferential treatment.
“With each passing year, governments have become more aware of our annual FOI audit, increasing our risk that we will be detected.”
Grier went on to add, “We expect that the improvements will help ensure that the audit remains a strong barometer of how governments are performing when it comes to the right of access.”
The results of those improvements, according to 24 hours Vancouver’s Jeremy Nuttall, “will be released in the coming weeks.”
• Elections Canada has been supporting efforts to increase voter turnout among youth, aboriginals, immigrants, the homeless and seniors. But recent research into voting behaviour across the Atlantic suggests the agency might look into doing the same thing for lower income Canadians.
Last November, the Institute for Public Policy Research released a study reporting that, during the United Kingdom’s 2010 election, the wealthiest income group’s turnout rate was 22.7 percentage higher than that of the poorest income group.
By comparison, Elections Canada’s most recent research on voter turnout is less definitive about the relationship between the wage gap and the voting gap in this country.
But, in a May 2011 poll that surveyed 85,274 Canadians, the agency found employed individuals were nine percentage points more likely to vote than unemployed individuals. The survey, which did not ask about wealth, also found that home owners were 17 percentage points more likely to vote than renters. However, a 2010 study conducted by BC Stats found that, in British Columbia, income was “far and away the strongest single predictor” of turnout — except in the case of inconsistent voters.
Have a news tip about about the state of democracy, openness and accountability in Canada? You can email me at this address.