• Canadians’ access to information doesn’t compare favourably to some other countries, according to the latest Sustainable Governance Indicators survey. In 2011, that survey ranked Canada 13th among 32 nations in an evaluation of our media independence, diversity and access to government information. And now we’re 26th among 41 countries evaluated in the 2014 survey.
The 2014 survey also found we have less access to government information than the five other Anglosphere countries. When that access was measured on a scale of one to ten, New Zealand and the United States scored a nine, while Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom scored an eight. By comparison, Canada scored a six. That puts us in the same company as Croatia, Hungary, Japan, Luxembourg and Mexico.
• The United States’s Sunlight Foundation recently conducted a review of lobbying disclosure in Canada. But the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying didn’t seem to want to participate in that study.
The Sunlight Foundation — which has won awards for its work promoting government accountability — wanted to talk to the commissioner’s office as part of the review. After all, it’s the agency that administers Canada’s lobbying disclosure law. But, after “submitting questions in written form at their request, [the foundation] did not receive any response. Multiple follow ups did not yield results.”
The foundation’s study — which I was interviewed for — found “generally positive views” of lobbying disclosure in Canada, with a few caveats.
• One of the supposed benefits for MPs in Conservative backbencher Michael Chong’s proposed Reform Act is that it would take away the final say our party leaders have on who gets to run under their political banner and who doesn’t.
But I’ve often questioned the value of that benefit, given the myriad of other means those leaders have to manipulate the nomination battles that determine whose name makes it onto the ballot sheet – something I saw during my university years as a member of the Liberal Party of Canada.
In fact, the Hill Times brought some of those other means into relief last week, reporting, “If a party is not happy with an MP because he or she has not been a ‘team player,’ then party officials manipulate the [nomination] rules against that MP or stay neutral depending on if they want to get rid of that MP or merely teach them a lesson.”
The newspaper also reported, “Parties sometimes also disqualify candidates on technicalities, reject applications without giving any pertinent reasons to would-be candidates, and retroactively change the cut-off dates for newly-signed membership forms.”
But former MPs who spoke with the Hill Times said “most of the unsuccessful candidates do not speak out publicly because they don’t want to burn their bridges with the party or for their comments to be perceived as sour traps.”
Chong has told the Huffington Post that his bill “should receive its first vote at second reading either in mid-June or in late September.”
Have a news tip about about the state of democracy, openness and accountability in Canada? You can email me at this address.
Author’s note: Due to my duties as co-chair of the Canadian Association of Journalists annual convention, distribution of my weekly look at news about the state of democracy, openness and accountability in Canada was delayed. Weekend distribution of the column will resume next week.
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