“If you look at the Yukon, everything is transparent. There are no secrets.”
Peter Jenkins, 2005, The New York Times.
There is a widespread impression there are no secrets in the Yukon.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
The truth is, there are far too many secrets in this territory, despite the best efforts of many of its citizens to uncover them.
Hank Moorlag, the Yukon’s former ombudsman, started fighting for stronger freedom of information legislation in 1996.
For years, he used Freedom of Information Week to lobby for better laws.
Today, 13 years later, little, if anything, has changed.
Case in point: one of the things Moorlag and his successor, Tracy-Anne McPhee, have fought for is a better definition of what a public body is.
In the last year, the government’s Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board were asked for information under ATIPP.
Both assert they are not public bodies under the Yukon Access to Information Protection of Privacy Act and, therefore, not subject to requests. The information was denied.
Is this good for public governance?
This year, with the ongoing ATCO scandal, the Yukon public has learned firsthand where rules like that can land you.
If public bodies are more accountable to the community, and if people are given access to their government, the government becomes more responsible.
And, as Yukoners have learned, the converse is also true.
Today, we have a rogue Premier Dennis Fentie operating behind the backs of his ministers.
Ministers, perhaps understandably, won’t answer for their department’s actions in public – they probably don’t know what, exactly, is going on.
So, again, we ask: Is this good for public governance?
It would be nice to get some answers. Unfortunately, all too often, none are forthcoming.
This is Freedom of Information Week and there are three events planned.
Monday, there was a private open house for ATIPP co-ordinators.
Friday, starting at 7 p.m. at the Old Firehall, there’s a film on the legacy of the Exxon Valdez.
Also Friday, the office of the information and privacy commissioner will hold Shredfest, offering free destruction of personal documents.
We are curious to see which ministers attend, and whether they will share their expertise. (Richard Mostyn)