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

(File photo)
‘Very lucky’: Two passengers, dog escape rollover crash in Saanich unscathed

Vehicle flips on Trans Canada Highway after hitting median, possibly due to ice, firefighter says

The large metal gate stolen from Muddy Valley Farm in rural Saanich on Jan. 18 reappeared less than a week later. (Muddy Valley Farm/Facebook)
Large metal gate stolen from Saanich farm makes mysterious reappearance

12-foot gate returned to Muddy Valley Farm less than a week after it was stolen

Langford and Vancouver Island Economic Alliance are partnering to provide local businesses with one-year Island Good memberships. (Courtesy of Vancouver Island Economic Alliance)
Langford offering local businesses free Island Good membership

Island Good label helps consumers identify local products

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered Langford teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

The speculation and vacancy tax raised about $1.21 million in Sidney and North Saanich combined. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich and Sidney property owners paid $1.21 million in speculation and vacancy tax

Speculation and vacancy tax raised 6.5 million in Greater Victoria

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
RCMP asking Vancouver Island residents to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Most Read