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

District of Tofino election official Jayson Towers and election deputy chief Cass Spence welcome Tofitians to the polls. (Nora O’Malley photo)
TOFINO BY-ELECTION 2021: General voting day is today

Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Tofino Community Hall

Nelly and Jens Heyduck hold samples of their Ahoy Bags made from discarded sails. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet’s Ahoy Bags up for two Small Business BC Awards

German-Canadian wife and husband team transform old sails into one-of-a-kind beach bags

The Independent Investigations Office of BC is investigating the shooting of a Tla-o-qui-aht man by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht on Feb. 27. (Black Press Media file photo)
‘Police have killed more TFN members than COVID has,’ First Nation demands transparency in Tofino RCMP shooting investigation

Julian Jones, a 28 year-old Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation man was shot and killed by police on Feb. 27.

Blue Crush Concierge co-owners Ashley Wells and Erika Greenland, pictured here following COVID-19 social distancing alongside their dogs Hank and Lady Bird, are up for two SBBC awards. (Photo courtesy of Erika Greenland)
Three Tofino companies up for Small Business BC Awards

Tofino Kombucha, Blue Crush Concierge and Surf Sister all received nomination honours.

Fish and Loaves Humane Society volunteers Bobby Burns, left, and John Enns, right, receive Volunteer Recognition Awards from acting mayor Duncan McMaster during the free food hand out at the Tofino Legion on Feb.24. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino Fish and Loaves volunteers Enns and Burns cheered for community service

“He’s a very conscientious and hard-working, giving volunteer.”

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead in ‘targeted incident’ in Metchosin

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

Most Read