NDP calls for Istchenko’s resignation

Public Works Minister Wade Istchenko should resign for consistently misrepresenting his government's changes to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, says the NDP.

Public Works Minister Wade Istchenko should resign for consistently misrepresenting his government’s changes to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, says the NDP.

“I do not take asking for a minister to resign lightly at all,” said NDP MLA Jan Stick. “But he just keeps repeating the same things that are incorrect.”

Stick also called for the minister to take the proposed amendments off the table.

The bill passed Thursday on the final sitting day of the legislature despite these objections. The changes will restrict public access to some government documents, including briefing reports prepared for ministers.

A document prepared by Public Works and obtained by the NDP through an access-to-information request compares the relevant legislation across the territory.

The chart shows that only three Canadian provinces currently restrict access to briefing documents, as is proposed under the new act.

Many other records that will be restricted under the new law are restricted in few jurisdictions across the country.

In fact, the information and privacy commissioner pointed out in his report on the matter, some of the territory’s new measures to restrict access to information are without precedent in Canada.

“Will the minister acknowledge that these changes to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act will make the Yukon more secretive and less open than other jurisdictions?” Stick asked Istchenko in the legislature Thursday.

Istchenko answered with the briefest and most direct response of the legislative sitting.

“No, Mr. Speaker,” he said.

“What a shame,” replied Stick. “Shameful, though perhaps not surprising, since the minister’s words have been proven incorrect by a document from his own government. Let’s not forget his comments on the positions of the Information and Privacy Commissioner – also incorrect.

“It’s a sad day for democracy. Becoming the most secretive government in Canada is nothing to celebrate. It’s not surprising that a Yukon Party government would do this, although it’s outrageous that the minister wouldn’t be more forthright with Yukoners.”

The minister has repeatedly suggested before the legislature that the proposed amendments were supported by Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner.

“The proposed amendment is very narrow,” said Istchenko on Nov 8. “In fact, specific and limited, as recommended by the (commissioner).”

In fact, a report by the commissioner shows he took issue with much of the new legislation.

“I consider this a substantial amendment to the ATIPP Act that would have better been done through a review of the ATIPP Act where all the provisions of the act could be considered and read together and where consequences of the amendment could be better considered,” wrote Commissioner Tim Koepke.

The legislation passed without full debate thanks to the guillotine clause, which enables bills to be passed on the last day of the sitting.

Pushing through with this legislation goes against the Yukon Party’s election promises, said Stick.

“That was their platform: open and transparent. Accountable. And by just closing off so much of this ATIPP and claiming that it’s about personal privacy, is just ludicrous.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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