Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to questions during a year end interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Wednesday Dec. 16, 2020. Trudeau says while he is committed to federal transparency, being too forthcoming can hinder the government’s ability to wrestle with tough decisions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to questions during a year end interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Wednesday Dec. 16, 2020. Trudeau says while he is committed to federal transparency, being too forthcoming can hinder the government’s ability to wrestle with tough decisions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Liberals striving for ‘balance’ on federal transparency, Trudeau says

Liberals are faring better than some other administrations, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says while he is committed to transparency in the federal government, being too forthcoming can hinder the government’s ability to wrestle with tough decisions.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Trudeau defended the Liberal record on openness, pointing to the publication of ministerial mandate letters and efforts to make more data available through restoration of the long-form census.

Information commissioner Caroline Maynard has criticized the Trudeau government for failing to provide the resources that departments and agencies need to answer the steeply growing number of requests from the public under the Access to Information Act.

Liberal legislative changes to the decades-old law, a key accountability tool, were widely panned as timid and even a step backwards.

The government announced a full-scale review of the law last June, but has yet to tell Canadians how they can make their views known.

The prime minister said his commitment to transparency and openness “goes to the heart” of one of the responsibilities of any government.

He suggested the Liberals are faring better than some other administrations, saying there is “a division between governments that do believe in transparency and those who still do not.”

“But as we know, the functioning of government requires a combination of openness and accountability and transparency, and an ability to grapple with very difficult questions in a fulsome way.”

He cited the principle of cabinet secrecy that allows ministers to freely tell him exactly what they think without worrying they will be seen as out of step with the government should it decide to go another way on an issue.

A minister’s fear of being perceived as offside “actually weakens our ability to directly have very real deliberations about all the potential paths so we can choose the best one,” Trudeau said.

“There’s always going to be a balance on it.”

Maynard’s predecessor, Suzanne Legault, told MPs in 2016 that the access law, which generally excludes cabinet confidences from disclosure for 20 years, is overly broad and goes beyond what is necessary to protect the ministerial deliberative process.

She recommended changes that would allow the release of purely factual or background information, analyses of problems and policy options, and records 15 or more years old.

Maynard said in September she also wants to see a narrowing of exceptions in the access law, which would result in disclosure of more cabinet-related information and confidential advice drafted by government officials.

In addition, Maynard said she will push for broader coverage of the law, which does not apply to some federal agencies such as cabinet ministers’ offices.

Maynard expressed hope the government will not just fine-tune the access system but “really make big changes and bold decisions to improve everything.”

Some federal agencies have used the COVID-19 pandemic “as an excuse” to shirk their obligations, with a few institutions even completely closing their access offices, she added.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

federal government

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Details will be made available in the next few days. (File photo)
UPDATED: Community vaccine program to open in Golden

The clinic will be held from Saturday, May 8 until Sunday, May 16.

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton, the historians behind popular Facebook page Lost Kootenays, are set to release a book of the same name and have just unveiled its cover showing the ghostly Hotel in Slocan City shortly before its 1953 demolition. Photo courtesy of Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton.
Popular historical Facebook page Lost Kootenays set to release book

128-page hard copy documenting history of East and West Kootenays coming this fall

Al Kowalko shows off the province's first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Okanagan schools shifting gears to electric buses

Vernon, Central Okanagan, Rocky Mountain and Okanagan-Skaha on board

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Five properties have been added to the Lake Country fire protection zone, after council moved to expand the local service area Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Google Maps)
Lake Country expands fire protection zone, covering 5 exposed properties

The properties petitioned to join the local service area after being left out ‘for reasons unknown’

VSAR’s Air Rescue One unit assisted in a rescue in West Kelowna May 3, 2021. (VSAR screenshot)
VIDEO: VSAR’s Air Rescue One team assists in West Kelowna Rescue

The Vernon Search and Rescue helicopter team pulled off a successful rescue Monday

Peachland resident and cleanup volunteer Lloyd Stinson Sotas holds up a discarded TV riddled with bullet holes. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
PHOTOS: Peachland residents clean up community watershed

More than 70 people gave back to Mother Earth by assisting with the cleanup

Officials are surveying the streets of Vernon to get a better sense of the issue of homelessness in the city, as part of the province’s point-in-time homeless count for 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Province conducts homeless count in Vernon

It’s the first time Vernon has been included in the provincial homeless count

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

A proposed development would see two four-storey affordable housing complexes erected on Adair Street in Armstrong, next to the Nor-Val Arena. (Google Maps)
Local tenants to be prioritized for Armstrong affordable housing project

Staff have drafted an expression of interest to find a developer to move forward with on the project

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

Most Read