"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Transparent as mud

It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that the surprise Friday proclamation of the Transparency and Accountability Act into law had something – everything, really – to do with the smackdown that DannyWilliamsAdministrationNewfoundlandLabrador received at the hands of the Auditor General earlier in the week.

But it should come as no surprise to any careful observer of Danny’s accountability record. As he promised:

During its first mandate, a Progressive Conservative government will bring in a Transparency and Accountability Act which will provide the legislative framework for the conduct of fiscal policy, encourage better decision-making by the government, strengthen accountability and ensure more informed public debate about fiscal policy.
Well, at least one part of that promise has been kept.

It is, after all, just three years and change “into its first mandate.”

Other parts of Danny’s accountability platform, though, have fallen laughably short.
A Progressive Conservative government will:

Release to the public every government-commissioned report within 30 days of receiving it, indicate the action government will take on a report’s recommendations within 60 days, and ensure prompt public access to all government reports in hard copy and on the Internet.
The (in)famous “fixed link” vanity study, for example, landed on Glorious Leader’s desk in November 2004. He acknowledged its existence on January 11. But it wasn’t released until the very last day of February 2005 – far longer than the 30 days that were promised.

Glorious Leader did speak the truth – just barely –when he said on January 11th that it would be “released within the next month.” February was the “next month” after January, after all.

Or when he told NTV on February 19th that “the feasibility report on the proposed fixed link between Labrador and western Newfoundland will be released within 10 days. Williams says it’s too early to publicly discuss details. He says the cabinet has been “busy” with offshore energy discussions, and now it can turn its attention to the idea.”

Funny though – there was no such “unless the government is busy” caveat built into the original “within 30 days” promise, was there?

And despite the occasional public assurances from Trevor Taylor that Glorious Leader is still fixated on a fixed link, the 60 days for government’s “action” response have long since come and gone.

Or try on this fib for size:

A Progressive Conservative government will:

Proclaim new Freedom of Information legislation which will include amendments that will clearly identify information that should be in the public domain, including cabinet documents, and will require full and prompt disclosure of the information to the public.

On June 29, 2005, Rob Antle of The Telegram reported:

Opinion polls are secret cabinet documents not to be released to the public, the Williams administration has decreed.

The decision overrules the findings of a report issued Tuesday by the province’s information commissioner.

“We disagree with the interpretation that’s been put on this by the information and privacy commissioner,” said Tom Rideout, who is acting justice minister while Tom Marshall is out of the province.

“We don’t feel that his interpretation is within the confines of the spirit and intent of the legislation. ... Based on that belief, we will not be releasing the information.”

The province says releasing public-opinion polling commissioned over a 14-month period would reveal cabinet confidences.


“There are still certain protections for the system, and one of the protections has to do with the confidentiality of cabinet documents,” he said.

It would almost be funny, if it weren’t pathetically laughable, to hear Tom Rideout relying on the very principle of cabinet confidence that his own Glorious Leader had platform-promised, less than two years before, to abolish!

Since last year’s episode, DannyWilliamsAdministrationNewfoundlandLabrador has also used the “cabinet confidence” and “proprietary data” excuses to deny public access to the report by the Department of Transportation and Works into the use of chip seal – which the current minister, in a former incarnation, used to call “cheap seal” – on the Trans-Labrador Highway.

So let the current crowd up in the bunker-in-they-sky on the eight floor of Confederation Building believe their own bumpf about “transparency and accountability” if they want to.

With the record of the first three DannyWilliamsAdministrationNewfoundlandLabrador years behind us, they are about the only ones left who still do.


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