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Poilievre pledges to fix broken access-to-information system, release more faster

Darpan News Desk The Canadian Press, 08 Feb, 2024 04:33 PM
  • Poilievre pledges to fix broken access-to-information system, release more faster

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is pledging to fix the federal access-to-information system to speed up response times and release more information. 

He made the commitment during a news conference in Vancouver on Thursday, where the Opposition leader announced a new revenue plan for First Nations alongside leaders in the region. 

Successive reviews have concluded the access system is broken and plagued by delays, with the Information Commissioner of Canada voicing concerns that it is outdated and there is a lack of urgency to fix it. 

Canadians can use access law to request an array of government documents for a $5 processing fee. The legislation itself hasn't been updated in decades.

It's a striking pivot for a leader who played a prominent role in a Conservative government under Stephen Harper that failed to make good on promises to make more records available through the law.

Now Poilievre is saying that a future Conservative government would fix the system and make sure information gets in people's hands faster. 

"We will speed up response times," he said. "We will release more information." 

"We will give the commissioner more power to override the gatekeepers within the government and favour transparency over secrecy." 

Poilievre also said he believes the House of Commons should release more information automatically, describing the federal access-to-information system as snarled with bureaucracy. 

"(What) we need to do is more proactive release of the expenses and the decisions of the parliamentary precinct, so you have it by default." 

When he was first elected, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to inject more transparency into the regime as he touted openness as one of the brands of his new government. 

Years later, experts and users say the changes made to date fall far short of expectations, and that lengthy processing times and existing backlogs only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Information Commissioner Caroline Maynard said in a speech last November she believes the law must be updated and investment is needed to beef up existing resources to administer the system in a timely manner. 

A culture change is also needed, she said. 

Poilievre's appearance Thursday marked the fourth straight day the Conservative leader appeared before reporters, and the third policy pitch he's made this week. 

It comes as the Conservatives turn their attention to the next general election, which must happen by the end of 2025, and as Liberals and other critics accuse Poilievre of talking in slogans and social-media videos rather than offering Canadians policy solutions.

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