Saturday, July 08, 2006

On information gaps

U.S. Ambassador Michael Wilson's consistent position on the U.S.' planned border restrictions has been to point out the need for full information as to the effects before any plan is put in place - which while somewhat short of the best possible strategy is at least a reasonable start toward public discussion of the issue. But word comes out now that what information Canada does possess is being suppressed by the Privy Council Office rather than made available for public scrutiny:
A U.S. law that will require American and Canadian citizens to present a passport to enter the country is expected to have widespread economic impact, but don't bother asking how much.

Internal government assessments of the economic impact of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), requested by CanWest News Service under the Access to Information Act, have been almost completely censored by Privy Council Office bureaucrats, denying taxpayers the right to see how much the plan is expected to affect tourism and cross-border trade...

Of the 26 pages identified as relevant to the request, only a handful of heavily censored pages were released.

Privy Council Office bureaucrats used a section of the act that allows them to block what they consider to be cabinet confidences. It is the only exemption that can't be reviewed by the information commissioner to ensure it is legitimate.
Particularly given how badly the Cons have messed up negotiations with the U.S. even when the underlying facts are public knowledge, there's a desperate need for public disclosure as to the anticipated impact of the border closure to ensure that Harper doesn't sign away a huge chunk of Canada's economic future in exchange for a photo-op. Now if only the Cons were willing to extend their "culture of increased openness and accessibility" to include allowing Canadians access to the best available information in their own hands.

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