Mary Campbell Asks About Access to Information

Mary Campbell (me), the editor/publisher of the Spectator, who has complained frequently about the state of the country’s access to information (ATI) system, asked this question of federal candidates in Cape Breton-Canso and Sydney Victoria:

A 2017 audit of the federal access to information system (led by Fred Vallance-Jones of the University of King’s College in Halifax) found that the system is slower and less responsive than provincial and municipal systems. The federal government was given a grade of “F” for disclosure of information — much of what it releases is redacted and it is reluctant to provide information in computer-readable formats like spreadsheets. Given that citizens have a right to this information and that access to it is key to a functioning democracy, what do you (or your party) intend to do to improve Canada’s access to information system?

Here are their answers (by riding, in the order in which they were received):



Lois Foster, Green Party of Canada

Lois Foster

Lois Foster

A Green Government will strengthen the Access to Information System. Its platform includes plans to:

  • expand access to information about the government and its activities by scrapping all fees, except the filing fee;
  • provide enforceable deadlines so that requests are processed in a timely manner;
  • authorize the Information Commissioner to order the release of the information;
  • place the administration of parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office and minister’s offices within the scope of the ATI;
  • override all exemptions so that public interest comes before the secrecy of the government;
  • provide for exclusions based on claims of cabinet confidences to be reviewed by the Information Commissioner;
  • require public officials to create a public record to document their actions and decisions regarding all ATI requests;

I would work with my party to ensure these platform items are met.


Kenzie MacNeilKenzie MacNeil, Independent

Both provincial and federal governments and their bureaucracies have made Freedom of Information and access to information even more difficult and expensive, as you well know. Claims of transparency in government are hypocritical as a result. I would fight for real transparency.


Jodi McDavid, New Democratic Party

Jodi McDavid

Jodi McDavid

Our platform states that a New Democrat government will take immediate steps to boost accountability. We also know that Canadians understand that our conflict of interest regime needs to be strong, comprehensive and impose real penalties when politicians break the rules.

On a personal level it may interest readers to know that I have been a researcher and academic in the past, and so I do understand the need to access this information. Furthermore, I have also been an archivist, one that organizes, maintains and allows access to documents. I can see that access under freedom of information is not timely and that this creates multiple problems. I personally believe in transparency. As an individual MP, I can say that having been an archivist I understand the barriers to allowing access (typically financial and time constraints) and as a researcher and person who has worked in community engagement, I understand the need for transparency.



Cape Breton-Canso

Michelle Dockrill

Michelle Dockrill

Michelle Dockrill, Independent

It has been extremely clear over the last few decades governments continue to place obstacles in place that hinder and/or prevent citizens’ right to Freedom of Information. Governments, both federal and provincial, have placed barriers to this access by imposing unnecessary financial costs, deliberately creating a process whose very existence is dependent on sharing the least amount of information possible and/or making it such that citizens see it as a bureaucracy with its sole mandate being… the success of the department…based on what they prevent being accessed as opposed to sharing the information people have the right to.