Closed government -

Closed government


Less than a week after Tony Clement announces the Harper government’s open government action plan, Tom Spears explains precisely how far the government has to go.

The Citizen asked the National Research Council a simple question back in March: What’s this joint study that you and NASA are doing on falling snow? The federal department never agreed to an interview. It sent an email instead, with technical details on equipment but without much information on the nature of the project. It never even explained the study’s topic.

Before sending even that modest response, however, it took a small army of staffers — 11 of them by our count — to decide how to answer, and dozens of emails back and forth to circulate the Citizen’s request, discuss its motivation, develop their response, and “massage” its text.

Democracy Watch wants the international Open Government Partnership to reject the Harper government’s membership.

See previously: Open to question


Closed government

  1. It’s a revolving door, so it only looks open…. sometimes.  Heh.

    Canadians also discovered it was snowing on Mars, but our scientists weren’t allowed to announce that….gawd knows why, as it’s important….so the Americans took the credit for that too.

  2. Hey look, exactly what I was talking about in the “Dismantling Civil Society” story.

    See, this is exactly why the public service must be constantly challenged.

    •  Um no, this is political not bureaucratic.

      •  We’re not reading the same newspaper article then.  You should read the one titled
        “A simple question, a blizzard of emails, and a peek inside how Canada’s bureaucracy works”
        Unless I’m not seeing the hand of the PMO somewhere.   It seems to be the culture of the department itself, not the hand of outsiders from the government.

        •  Where have you been all these years when Harper has muzzzled scientists, MPs, bureaucrats and the like?

          The PMO isn’t an ‘outsider’ to govt….it IS the govt.

          •  So you are saying this wouldn’t have happened under a previous administration?

          •  No, they were often slow, but they didn’t shut down info.

          • Hmm… odd.  We must have different experiences with government departments under the Liberals and the Mulroney conservatives then.

        • This is a new feature of Harper’s tenure. All government communication needs to be approved, and massaged, by political operatives. Bureaucrats are not allowed to speak to media except by very, very exceptional circumstance. The general rule is that no information at all is released unless approved by political masters, or through ATI requests (which are to be fought tooth and nail).

          Things were not ideal under Chretien/Martin, but there was a step-change in opacity when Harper came to office.

  3. I thought this was most interesting story I have read in long time because it actually looks at bureaucracy and its performance. Why do we need so many bureaucrats to decide whether to tell public about public funded programs? It is absurd.

    I remember way back when in university I remember learning in a politics class that in Canada, government information is considered private unless there is good reason to release it to the public, while in US information is considered public unless there is good reason to keep it private. 

    Completely different philosophy, one government trusts its citizens and one doesn’t. 

    • We need that many bureaucrats because of the hyperactive precaution of their political masters. Anyone who speaks to the media without carefully adjusting the message and gaining approval from political masters soon finds themselves not a member of the civil service.