Now this would definitely qualify as going out with a bang. From today’s installment of the Toronto Star’s almost-certainly-eventually-to-be-award-winning “Sham-ocracy” series:
Canada’s outgoing information watchdog is threatening to seize documents after complaints that the bureaucratic wing of the Prime Minister’s Office is stonewalling some access-to-information requests.
The information commissioner served formal notice on the Privy Council Office this week, warning that commission staff would use their legal powers to seize the documents themselves if the paperwork wasn’t provided by today.
“I’m about to walk into PCO next week … for files they didn’t give us. We’re going to take them and they can’t stop us,” Robert Marleau told the Star.
“I cannot be denied access. I can walk into any federal government premise without notice and take what I need.” […]
“The powers are there for a reason so that where there is … stonewalling or deliberate obstruction, we can break that jam. By and large, I’m here to serve Canadians. So is the department that is being asked to give a response. We shouldn’t have to have a struggle,” he said.
Marleau is probing complaints about the PCO’s handling of access-to-information requests by Canadians. In particular, he wants answers on 150 cases that involve “administrative” issues – complaints that could include the PCO’s demand for photocopying costs, other fees and time extensions.
Marleau, who announced his retirement this week, made clear there’s no reason why such complaints could not have been informally resolved long ago, saving the time and effort of a drawn-out investigation as well as the frustration of those making the requests.
“We should be able to lick administrative complaints at the early resolution stage,” he said, snapping his fingers for emphasis.
He hinted at one possible motivation – the government’s desire to tie up a file and delay the release of information.
“If you overcharge for photocopies and got a complaint, that file was parked for two years. It takes the pressure off,” Marleau said. “I won’t let that happen any more.”
The Privy Council Office was unable to comment in time for deadline yesterday.
Just imagine the liveblogging possibilities! Not that the media would likely be be allowed to join the raiding party, of course — but we could hang around outside Langevin and wait for the wheelbarrows full of documents to start rolling out. It would be just like the raid on Conservative HQ — without the cheesy Muzak, and with the added possibility of spotting Guy Giorno scowling down at us from the battlement as he boils the oil. Of course, now that they know he’s serious — I mean, seriously serious — my guess is that the good folks at PCO will hand over the goods before Marleau shows up at the front door, but still. ITQ can dream, right?