The Sixth Estate Open Government project tracks, among other things, the extent to which Parliamentary committee meetings occur in camera, meaning in secret. I began tracking this after there was substantial media criticism of the Conservatives for increasing the number of meetings held in camera, followed by a politically useful CP report based on a demonstrably wrong analysis purporting to show that Martin and Chretien actually presided over more secretive Parliaments than Harper has. I took CP to task, and the article has subsequently been pulled from most online media outlets and stuffed down the memory hole.
Today I’ve finished computing the committee secrecy figures for May. Last month committees met for a total of 79 hours in secret, which was 22.3% of their total meeting time. That’s down from 25.5% the previous month. I wouldn’t get too excited about a Parliamentary Spring, however. The main difference was the series of public hearings held by the Finance Committee following the introduction of the budget. If you take out the Finance Committee’s numbers, then the amount of time spent in secret meetings during both of the last two months would have been 25%.
Either way, after the opposition began to threaten resistance to growing secrecy over the winter and early spring, Parliamentary secrecy seems to have reached a new plateau level that is just a few percent higher than in previous governments: