Friday, December 14, 2012

Dear Mr. Hudak, remember me?

Dear Mr. Hudak,

I wanted to write you again, and give you an update on the McGuinty government's stealth attack on Freedom of Information (FOI) in Ontario.

You never responded to my last letter on this issue. Neither did your health critic Christine Elliott. In fact, I also sent letters to three of your other MPPs regarding this horrid situation, Mr. Randy Hillier, Mr. John O'Toole and Mr. Rick Nicholls. By snail mail no less. None of them responded to me either. Funny that.

If one was a conspiracy theorist, one might even wonder if someone told them to keep quiet on this (apparently) touchy topic.

In any event, since you and your Conservatives did nothing to stop this fiasco, I thought I'd find out for myself what went on, when all of this occurred.

So I sent in another FOI to the Ministry of Health and asked for this:
"copies of any and all information (i.e. briefing notes, talking points, reports, emails, letters, and any other documents) relating to this recent abortion exclusion clause in Bill 122, An Act to increase the financial accountability of organizations in the broader public sector. Specifically, referring to this clause 65 (5.7): "This Act does not apply to records relating to the provision of abortion services. 2010, c. 25, s. 24 (17).". As well, I would like to see any and all information (i.e. briefing notes, talking points, reports, emails, letters, and any other documents) that may not specifically refer to the above clause, but that does refer to "abortion" or "abortion services" and that resulted in this eventual exclusion clause which came into effect on January 1, 2012."

What do you think I got back? Not much (see below). Why? Because of these reasons:
• Section 12 (Cabinet Records), some of the records would reveal the substance of cabinet's deliberations or contain draft legislation.
• s. 19 (a)(b) (Solicitor-Client Privilege), all records contain Solicitor-Client Privilege.
• Section 13 (1) (Advice to Government), some records contain recommendations.
• Non-Responsive to request, the records contain information about issues other than the abortion exclusion.

I have a suggestion for you. Maybe you could do something about this. Maybe when you try and get elected next time, maybe you could follow the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario's philosophy regarding Access to Information:
"Access to information is a fundamental and necessary democratic right.

The values underlying freedom of information (FOI) laws, regardless of their jurisdiction, are quite simple — open, transparent, accountable and citizen-driven government. Stated simply, FOI legislation is based on a presumption that information should be widely available and accessible to the public. Governments throughout the world have recognized that citizens of a democratic state have the right to know what their government is doing, and to hold it responsible for its actions and inactions. Accordingly these rights have been enshrined in legislation providing for, and protecting, public access to government-held information."

And Mr. Hudak, you could:

a) reverse this secret abortion exclusion clause and restore our "right" to participate in the democratic process, and

b) ensure that our right to access information is granted all citizens of Ontario.

You never know. A little "openness, transparency and accountability" goes a long way. It might even get you elected.

Patricia Maloney

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