Liberals To Launch Major Open Government Policy Initiative

For months, Canadians have been pointing with envy to open data/open government initiatives in the U.S., U.K., and Australia as those countries push forward with strong commitments to open data and Canada sits quietly on the sidelines.  While the federal government has been very slow to move, sources say that the opposition Liberal Party will be unveiling its commitment to open government today. [update: policy posted]  The four part commitment will include:

  • A commitment to make as many government datasets as possible available to the public online free of charge at in an open and searchable format, starting with Statistics Canada data, including data from the long-form census;
  • A commitment to post all Access to Information requests, responses, and response times online at
  • A commitment to make information on all government grants, contributions and contracts available through a searchable, online database at
  • A commitment to immediately restore the long-form census

The open government/open data commitment is particularly noteworthy since it will apparently include a direction to all federal departments and agencies to adopt an open government principle where the default position is to provide information to the public. The plans for access to information would also be enormously helpful, including restoring the CAIRS database and following the recent UK lead by making all documents released under ATI available online.

If adopted, there is still work to do – for example, we need to address barriers to access created by crown copyright (Elizabeth Judge examines access to public sector information in her contribution to From “Radical Extremism” to “Balanced Copyright”: Canadian Copyright and the Digital Agenda) – but this is a great start that is particularly timely given that it is Open Access Week. A growing number of local municipalities across Canada have implemented open data initiatives, but the notable absence of the federal government has been discouraging as Canada watches other countries race ahead. The development of a clear commitment from the opposition is a welcome development that should raise the profile of the issue and increase the chances of seeing movement sooner rather than later.


  1. I’m not overly surprised that we’re lagging behind other countries in this regard.

  2. Russell McOrmond says:

    Curious about Bloc or CPC policy proposals
    With Charlie Angus of the NDP tabling his motion, that is two parties that are thinking along these lines. I’m curious if anyone is aware of where the Bloc or CPC stand on these things.

  3. Yes, Minister?
    I love the idea, but I can’t help but see the similarities of the Liberal initiative with the BBC program Yes, Minister, in which an opposition party gets itself elected, partially on a platform of “open government” and then completely reneges when it falls on them to implement it.

    I shutter to think what Canada’s “open government” will look like once the Humphrey Applebys finish with it.

  4. Yeah, sure ..!!!
    If the minority Conservative gov’t had accepted an “open government’ policy, the Liberal-infested public service would have dished out every previous gov’t snafu, and the Liberal media hounds would have hung it on the minority Conservative gov’t. The voting masses cannot discriminate between past and current gov’ts, and will take out their anger on the sitting gov’t. It was just a matter of simple survival as a minority gov’t.

  5. I hear the Liberals are also going to announce ponies for everyone, and re-establishing the unicorn herds that once roamed the hills of Gatineau.

  6. @DB
    Agreed. Political parties in Canada will say anything that they think their demographic wants to hear to get themselves elected… what happens later, well, lets just say that the Canadian people have short memories. For instance, the LPC also promised to get rid of the GST in the ’93 election. And yet they were re-elected. Three times.

    Frankly, talk is cheap. And in Canadian politics, there is a major difference between party policy and election platform. To me this sounds more like an election platform rather than party policy since if the latter why hasn’t it been debated at a party gathering?

  7. Liberals to launch …. Liberal party will be unveiling … gov’t has been slow to move … ergo if we elect a Liberal gov’t, that will remedy the problems … and by default we will have a PM Ignatieff.

    This is good Liberal strategy to sell the Liberal sizzle and not the Liberal steak, because Ignatieff is not exactly considered a prime cut by polled Canadians who place him dead last as their choice for PM of Canada.

    The Liberal ‘brand’ is twice as popular as Ignatieff, which could mean that half those who prefer the Liberal brand don’t want Ignatieff for PM. No wonder it was Goodale, Brison and Garneau who stood on podiums to deliver the Liberal economic statements, while Iggy was on his bus touring somewhere.

    The Liberal brand is still strong in Canada, but Iggy must be kept under wraps because is lagging the brand quite badly.

  8. Cons running scared
    Judging by the silly comments from the conbots here this is a proposal that worries them. Can’t wait to air the con dirty linen. Finally the public will have prool that not only is Harper et al out to lunch they’re also up to something.

  9. @DB
    That’s pretty much what the Conservatives did to get in power.

  10. Whatever they release, of course, will be “open”. It, by no means, means that it’s the truth!! And then, of course, there’s the whole if we don’t know anything about it in the first place we can’t complain or do anything about it. Isn’t that what they initially tried with C-32…fast track it through before oposition groups got wind of it?? 😛 M0r0n government!!! I’ve become increasingly cynical of the last few months.

  11. @Anon-K
    While I agree it is probably just talk, it is better than nothing! They’re at least bringing publicity to the issue.

    When the Liberals gain power and fail to implement open government as promised, the party which takes their place may actually do it properly in response to public outcry.

  12. @David
    Seeing as the Conservative government ran on a platform of more open government because of the Cretien’s years the government was closed and have since not followed through, pretty much what your describing should happen if the Liberals get in power again. Personally, I think the chances of it actually being implemented are low, but we’ll see.

  13. BC Liberals too says:

    ‘Free’ government cash brings privacy fears
    There are still people in society willing to join together and voluntarily contribute their own money to aid fellow citizens in need. These groups have been so successful that government decided to join in and hand them non-voluntary contributions from taxpayers. It seems this “free” money comes with strings attached and now, people who had voluntarily joined together to solve a social problem may soon be turned into data collection agents of the state. What’s going on here?

    The B.C. government hands out more than $1.8 billion in tax dollars per year to a wide range of independent, non-profit organizations and charities. It now wants some of them to turn over the personal information they’ve collected about their clients, including mental-health and addiction information.

  14. I asked Ignatieff (via twitter) at last night’s Liberal “Open Mike” whether abolishing Crown copyright would be included as part of this platform. He said he really hadn’t though about it; Carolyn Bennett hedged more, saying “they would do what they can”. Hopefully this stays on the agenda.

  15. @Chris A, Riley
    I never claimed the CPC was any different (and frankly, I believe the NDP would do it as well). My use of the LPC example of the GST was aimed more at the voters of Canada; for the most part the voters were not in favour of the GST, and yet we either forgot that they promised this, or forgave them for not following through.