Since winning its majority, the Harper régime has forced most Parliamentary committees behind a veil of secrecy. They meet in camera and, despite being our elected representatives, sitting in our building, they refuse to share their discussions with us. A special report by iPolitics last month reported that during the first two months of 2012 committees spent one-third of their time meeting in secret, away from the prying eyes of the citizenry. The most secretive committees, that site reported, were Environment, Industry, International Trade (which had no public meetings at all), and Public Accounts (which met in public for all of 3 minutes).
The Opposition has been growing increasingly unhappy about this situation. In mid-March, the Liberals announced that they intended to hold a scrum straight outside any committee which had met in secret but which, they felt, had discussed matters of public import. So far the Liberals have not made good on their threat, that I am aware of. Doing so would risk a contempt ruling and possible jail time.
This month, though, it does appear that the government may have blinked — I emphasize, maybe. My count shows that in April, committee secrecy fell to 24 percent of meeting time. That’s still more than the 21% which committees under Chretien apparently averaged (again, according to iPolitics). Is that a trend, or was it just a comparatively “good” month for Canadian democracy?
Last month, the most secret committees were Industry and Natural Resources, which held no public meetings; Veterans Affairs, which was secret 74% of the time; and Agriculture, which was secret 68% of the time.
In contrast, five committees deserve praise for holding absolutely no in camera meetings this month: Aboriginal Affairs, Fisheries and Oceans, Heritage, National Defence, and Transport.
If this is a subject which interests you, please leave a comment and I will make this a regular feature. iPolitics was based on a limited comparison of the last 6 months of 2011, the first 2 months of 2012, and the last six months under Chrétien. My analysis can be broader, but it will take a significant time investment, so I will not do it unless some people express interest in seeing it.Tweet