Wesley Wark on the "badly broken" state of access to information in Canada.
Waiting for Access
June 26, 2008
Tags: access to information / atip / wesley wark
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On the subject of “Access To Information”, one needs to ensure that a balanced discussion takes place. Complaints seem to come primarily from two sources: the first is the people who submit the requests and complain about how long it takes to get a response. The second group is the folks complaining about the cost of government, and the size of the budgets and the number of people employed.
I’ll address the latter first. These people are generally not complaining about the ATI specifically, but rather are comparing the costs of government to a private business. What they fail to realize is that a private business has no need for an ATI-like organization. The cost in person hours is quite large, and the overhead of this doesn’t seem to be normally taken into consideration when people examine the budgets of government departments… they see the wages, but not what it goes to. Given that the size of the public service has been a political hot potato for a number of years, the number of people employed was reduced, but none of the workload reduced. This gives rise to the second group.
The second group, from what I can see, seems to be composed primarily of politicians, press and academics. They use the information for a number of purposes, and access would be a good thing, but one needs to remember the cost of the program (see previous paragraph). The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms contains no “right to know” clause… so one needs to remember that ATI is a privilege, and as with all privileges, should not be abused.
I have no problem with an ATI program, except that it should be full cost recovery.
I completely agree Kevin.