‘The right of access to information is vital to the health and vitality of a democratic society.”
This from a proclamation issued by the Yukon government (you can read the full text on page 79).
The statement is absolutely true.
The fact the Yukon Party government is uttering it is a travesty.
The current government doesn’t give a damn about access to information.
Heck, it is contemptuous of it. And of government itself, truth be known.
As some civil servants and former civil servants have noted recently, government ministers and upper managers have created a “you ain’t entitled to anything” culture within the bureaucracy.
Since the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act was passed in the early ‘90s, things have never been worse.
Premier Dennis Fentie’s government intentionally hides information, prevents its release, and has made the process costly, inefficient and difficult.
In 1994, John Ostashek’s Yukon Party passed a policy that guaranteed public access to information.
It said, in part, “The public has the right to information held in government records except in specific and limited cases (our emphasis) necessary for the effective operation of government in the public interest.”
Fentie repealed this policy in 2003.
In the last week, government employees from Carcross to Dawson City have told The News that they’d lose their jobs if they spoke to reporters.
A gag order has been put on Yukon College employees, preventing them from talking to reporters during the election.
The college should be a source of knowledge, providing context and deeper understanding of issues during an election.
Not here. Can you imagine someone slapping a gag order on University of Toronto officials? Not likely.
And, just last week, The News requested enforcement documents from the Yukon Liquor Corp.
Previous requests for that information came with a $1,326.50 price tag. (We note that in BC such documents are posted on a public website).
Nevertheless, last week we honed the request and asked again.
Doug Caldwell, who is employed by the Crown-owned liquor corp. to dispense information to the media and public, deferred it.
“There was a writ dropped and that does put some restrictions on what we can and cannot do.”
Pressed, Caldwell said, “Divulging information restrictions.”
That is, of course, nonsense.
There are no such restrictions.
In fact, the access to information act says: “A public body must not refuse to disclose under this section (a) a report prepared in the course of routine inspections by an agency that is authorized to enforce compliance with an Act.”
But, under this government, the law doesn’t seem to matter.
For several years, through courageous and surprisingly blunt annual reports, the Yukon’s access to information commissioner Hank Moorlag has fought for better public access to government records.
For years, Fentie’s government has ignored the reports.
In fact, a review of the government’s access to information law was abandoned.
Government Services Minister Glenn Hart declared the review “too hard.”
Next week, Fentie’s government has proclaimed Right to Know Week.
What a joke. (RM)