One of the Harper regime’s supposed achievements is the creation of an Open Government policy. So far, however, that policy has failed to actually achieve anything new, in terms of publicly available data. Nor does the Open Government page offer much assistance to citizens, unless they are looking for regular data dumps from Statistics Canada — again, information already available to the public.
The Sixth Estate Open Government Project aims to compete with the Open Government project of the actual Government of Canada. It does so in three ways. First, I track the timeliness and completeness of information released by the government through its various transparency and accountability initiatives. Second, I track how often Parliamentary committees meet in secret, hiding from the public — something which in the present government can only happen when the Prime Minister’s Office wants them to. Finally, I provide links to important information resources for people who want to actually read something relevant.
Since the Chretien years, all departments and agencies of the federal government are required to release information on a quarterly basis about the ways they spend taxpayers’ money: all contracts over $10,000, all other grants over $25,000, and all expenses claimed by ministers and senior staff for travel and hospitality. The releases are staggered, so every department is required to disclose one of the lists on the last day of every month.
But how many still do? Less than we could hope for. One in four of the Harper regime’s Cabinet ministers missed their disclosure deadline on April 30. Some are months behind. So every month, I’m going to see how many get their filings in on time. They expect me to file my taxes on time. It’s only fair that I demand they file their returns on time, as well.
Secrecy in Parliament
The government currently holds the majority on all Parliamentary committees, and a number of journalists and politicians have noted in recent months that they are using that majority to force more and more committees to meet in secret, away from journalists and the public and thus away from any way of holding them accountable for their actions.
How true is this accusation? The second part of my Open Government project will find out. As you can see, currently around one-quarter of all meeting times of the Parliamentary committees occurs in secret, but that number may be going up, or it may be levelling off:
It will take quite some time to input all of the data for committees in past sessions. As I make progress towards this goal, however, I will post the information here. So far, four sessions have been input, showing steadily increasing secrecy which peaks under Harper:
Posts in This Series
- In June, Committees Spend 47% of Time in Secret
- CP Bobbled Figures in Story on Parliamentary Secrecy (May 2012)
- Sixth Estate Dissents from CP Report (May 2012)
- In April, Parliamentary Committees Met in Secret 24% of Time (May 2012)