Marleau, mon petit


(click to embiggen)

Here’s a table from Information Commissioner Robert Marleau’s new report. Note the second section, for “commissioner-initiated systemic investigations.” That’s fancy talk for “the commissioner takes matters into his own hands and tries to figure out how the government handles inquiries in general.” Note that Marleau’s predecessor, John Reid, initiated almost 400 of those in his last year as commissioner. Note also that Marleau has launched zero during his first.

Alec Castonguay at Le Devoir is, as far as I can tell, the first reporter to notice this discrepancy. It’s an odd thing, when you consider that formal complaints under the Access Act are up 80% this year over last. Two possible explanations:

(1) perhaps Marleau is simply swamped. The Tories’ Accountability Act greatly extends the number of federal agencies and organizations that are now covered by the Access Act — including Marleau’s own office, and the CBC, which accounted for about half of this year’s new complaints. (Which is to say, without the CBC finding its feet in a new access world, complaints would have been up “only” 40%.)

(2) perhaps Marleau is weirdly obsessed with changing the organization of his office and its work methods, to the exclusion — temporarily, one devoutly hopes — of actually making sure Canadians have access to information as the law requires. Frankly, a read of his report suggests this explanation is plausible. He does say, for instance, that he wants to incorporate systemic inquiries into a renewed department-by-department “report card” system. Next year. This apparently makes it OK to abandon one of his tools of inquiry while he plays with org charts.

In any case, you know how governments of every stripe sometimes complain about excessive zeal on the part of officers of parliament? This one has found no reason to complain about Robert Marleau.


Marleau, mon petit

  1. I think it’s safe to say that Marleau is not in the business of confrontation. In the testimony he gave to Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in 2006, he made it clear that he wasn’t going to be going to court with the government.

    This, along with his whitewash of documents on torture that DFAIT held tells me that this Commish is not a friend to freedom of information.

    It’s not surprising though, Marleau spent all of his professional career in organizations that weren’t subject to the ATIA: Parliament and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (before it became subject to access in the Accountability Act).

    When Marleau was Clerk of the House his main function was to provide independent anonymous advice to defuse tense situations for the Speaker. The role of the Information Commissioner is not just that of an anonymous ombudsman, he has to be an advocate for Open Government. He’s not up to the role.

  2. He’s probably afraid of being sued – that’s how Harper handles problems these days.

  3. UPDATE —

    According to FinAlternatives.com who initially
    reported the story on Koenig:

    “The SEC performed a one-year investigation
    in which all of AdultVest’s company records were turned over to regulators. No
    wrong doing was found and no charges were filed. The SEC sent a letter to
    Francis Koenig on April 26, 2010 saying the investigation was complete and no
    enforcement action was recommended.”

Sign in to comment.