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

This map illustrates the number of active COVID-19 cases in Greater Vancouver from Feb. 21 to Feb. 27, 2021. (BC Centre for Disease Control image)
Delta’s COVID-19 numbers continue to climb

Total number of cases in Fraser Health increased by 206 from Feb. 21-27

An example of a Surrey Police cruiser, showcased at Mayor Doug McCallum’s State of the City Address at Civic Hotel in May of 2019. (File photo: Amy Reid)
Surrey Police Service hires first three inspectors as ‘next layer of leadership’

Three men have more than 80 years of combined experience

Scales of Justice
Court awards woman $167K after vehicle was struck by White Rock taxi in 2016

Plaintiff’s knee injuries and resulting chronic pain disability are genuine, judge rules

Delta police have arrested a suspect in the theft of a custom-made wheelchair hoist stolen from a Ladner condo complex’s underground parkade on Dec. 15, 2020. (Debbie J Green/Facebook photos)
Delta police arrest suspect in theft of custom wheelchair hoist

The device was stolen Dec. 15, 2020 in Ladner and later recovered, stripped and damaged, in Surrey

TEASER - SAGAís Gift Shop Manager Barbie Warwick wearing The Summons while sketching in Facing Time exhibit. Photo by Pardeep Singh.jpg
‘The Summons’ face masks created as fundraiser for Surrey Art Gallery Association

Image of magnolia flower and poetry printed on specially designed mask

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Burnaby Mounties responded to 56 complaints and issued 10 tickets to people flouting COVID-19 restrictions in February. (Patrick Davies/100 Mile Free Press)
COVID denier fined $2,300 for hosting gathering in her home: Burnaby RCMP

The woman told Mounties she does not believe the pandemic is real

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

RCMP members responded to calls of a man-down at Landsdowne mall in Richmond Wednesday afternoon. The 40-year-old was suffering from stab wounds. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man in critical condition following afternoon attack outside Richmond mall: RCMP

The Vancouver resident was found lying injured outside Richmond’s Lansdowne Centre

Most Read