Friday, March 21, 2014


Proxy Premier Tom Marshall showed his moxy yesterday by trying to further reform  the Conservative Government's culture of secrecy with a grand social in the lobby of the Confederation Building.

The new culture of openness is damage control, an attempt to show that the government listens, that as Marshall says, "government's can do better". 

Internal polling has proven to the Conservatives that the controversy surrounding Bill 29 has led to a deeply ingrained sense of distrust amongst the electorate. It is time to con us again, err... reverse gears, well sort of.

On the same day the government announced it's Open Government initiative it became clear that there is confusion in the ranks about the new direction.  

The Official Opposition peppered minister after minister with requests for public reports, documents and reviews that are long overdue or have been kept from the public.

I felt uncomfortable for the government caucus as what could have been a positive public relations day became a farce.

The best example came when Justice Minister King told Opposition Justice Critic Jim Bennett that he would release reports into the Sherriff's office and legal aid immediately. 
MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, it has been almost a year since this government made savage cuts to the justice system.  Under a storm of protests, many of these cuts were reversed and the government ordered a review of legal aid and the Sheriff’s Office.  Government has had the final version of both of these reports for over a month and is refusing to release them. 

I ask the minister: Now that government claims to be open, will the minister immediately release these reports he has been sitting on for the past month?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

The new spirit of accountability and transparency was exposed as the P.R. gimmick it is when Telegram Reporter James McLeod went looking for the reports, only to be rebuffed by the minister's department.

The government was also reminded of the barriers that it has put in place to make it financially challenging for media organizations, individuals and the official opposition to obtain information. 

The government charges outrageous fees for photocopying and staff time to complete requests. Hundreds and thousands of dollars are charged in vexatious fees. Somehow, that little speed bump was missed in the proxy premier's gala announcement.

In case you feel a nagging sense of Deja Vue like you have heard some of this before. In 2003, the Conservatives promised to "release every government-commissioned report within 30 days of receiving it". It was part of the original Blue Book of broken promises:

 "A Progressive Conservative government will ... release to the public every government-commissioned report within 30 days of receiving it, indicate the action government will take on a report's recommendations within 60 days, and ensure prompt public access to all government reports in hard copy and on the Internet"
Back in 2007, the Conservatives made another promise after being grilled by than MHA Kelvin Parsons about unreleased reports. Premier Williams committed to ensuring that his ministers would search and find out whatever reports were outstanding and release them. Another promise that was not kept.

The Conservatives 11 years of governing is littered with examples of refusing to publish public reports, let alone honor the promise of releasing them within 30 days!

Transparency, honesty, accountability - flailing under the weight of their own vexatiousness is more like it!

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