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

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I've heard the Tories spinning, each to each

It’s been a while since this corner has had occasion to poke the gormless PC MHA for Bellevue, Calvin Peach. Mercifully, Mr. Peach is making up for his long absence, in droves.

There are many ways in which one could question, critique, and even ridicule his ill-considered attempt at spin on Thursday evening’s VOCM Nightline. Here’s the audio, courtesy of the ever-keen Dave Adey.

As an appetizer, consider this, where Mr. Peach says:
In Bill 29, when it was brought in in 2003, one of the clauses that was in there was that it had to be reviewed and amendments had to be made in five years. So there had to be some, y’know, meetings on this, and meetings were on it, and was brought forward with the changes in five years, because that was one of the recommendations that was in Bill 29.
Bill 29 was an Act to Amend the Access to Information Act, introduced and rammed through the legislature by the Dunderdale government in 2012 as the culmination of an Access-gutting process kicked into gear by Danny Williams in 2010.

It is not the Access to Information Act itself, which was enacted under the former Liberal government of Roger Grimes in 2002, replacing the former Freedom of Information Act, and, after a transitional period, was brought into effect by the Williams administration in 2005.

Bill 29 reflected, almost in its entirety, the January 2011 recommendations of John R. Cummings. Mr. Cummings was appointed as “Commissioner” to review the Act in early 2010. His review was to be informed by responses to a “discussion paper” which, happy coincidence, touched on themes such as giving public bodies more time to respond to requests, and making certain discretionary exceptions to access mandatory – subjects near and dear to the beating heart of Former Premier Dear Leader, who – once in power for a while – came to hate Access to Information with a passion that burned hotter than a thousand suns.

Even happier coincidence: Commissioner Cummings’ final report dealt with the issue of “frivolous requests”, which, in the opinion of Former Premier Dear Leader, seemed to include pretty well all of them.

The original, pre-Bill 29 Access to Information Act did indeed have the five-year review provision within it, referenced by Mr. Peach, as s. 74:
74. After the expiration of not more than 5 years after the coming into force of this Act or part of it and every 5 years thereafter, the minister responsible for this Act shall refer it to a committee for the purpose of undertaking a comprehensive review of the provisions and operation of this Act or part of it.
Note that this section required that the review be referred to a committee. Whatever else Commissioner Cummings is, he is only one person.

Perhaps, had the s. 74 review been a real, honest, good-faith review of the Act by multiple people – a committee – instead of being a blatant and transparent manoeuvre on the part of Former Premier Dear Leader to rush into effect a wholesale gutting of the Access to Information Act, then Bill 29, the filibuster, and the consequential collapse of PC Party support, might never have happened.

The official Tory talking points, distributed last week, hold that Bill 29 was brought in by the nefarious Librils. Much as they have tried to blame the opposition parties for everything from the lack of disclosure of faulty cancer diagnostic tests to the AbitibiBowater expropriation fiasco, the PC Brain Trust – such as it is these days – are counting on successfully sowing confusion in the public mind between the original Access to Information Act itself, and the Dunderdale government's Bill 29.

Gormless PC backbenchers like Calvin Peach (or, for that matter, Tom Marshall) are, frankly, stupid enough to believe that.

The general public are not — as the PC caucus is about to learn with a vengeance.

If the PC party was looking for a way to drive its polling numbers from the merely-dismal 20s into the apocalyptic teens, they may just have found it.

CRA will be back in the field in six weeks.



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