Not quite transparent

About the only thing transparent with Premier Ed Stelmach’s government today is Stelmach’s prized election promise of an open government. It’s as transparent as a Baggie full of hot air.

About the only thing transparent with Premier Ed Stelmach’s government today is Stelmach’s prized election promise of an open government. It’s as transparent as a Baggie full of hot air.

Alberta’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Frank Work reinforces that observation. In his annual report released last week, Work castigated Stelmach when it comes to releasing sensitive information under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy law — in particular, to the media.

The commissioner says government employees responsible for releasing information are routinely grilled by deputy ministers to prolong approval of certain access requests. But the final word ultimately comes from Stelmach.

Work’s report comes hot on the heels of a report by the federal information commissioner, castigating the federal government of Stephen Harper.

In her report, Suzanne Legault said Canada has lost sight of why the government passed the federal Freedom of Information Act in the first place. “ . . . Overworked bureaucrats largely focus on the technical application of legal loopholes to withhold information,” she said.

When Stelmach hit the election trail in 2006, he said his top priority was to govern with integrity, accountability and transparency.

That promise has yet to bear fruit, claims Work. “What I do not see, for the most part, is leadership at the political level in terms of getting information out, being proactive and fostering a culture of openness,” Work wrote.

Stelmach’s promise of transparency now seems little more than the use of a convenient buzz word to get attention during electioneering.

“Accountability and transparency are the mantras of our times,” said Work.

“Add evidence based decision-making and you have the basis for just about every election speech given in the past decade. And yet, I feel we are confronted by a disconnect.”

Work does, in all fairness, accentuate the positive, saying: “There is a reasonably good degree of transparency . . . in Alberta. We have the degree of accessibility we enjoy because of a group of well-trained, dedicated” FOIP co-ordinators.

But he still casts doubts on Stelmach’s claimed leadership culture of openness, accusing him of meddling, and purposely dragging his feet with requests under the legislation. He singles out requests made by journalists that are subjected to intense review and are frequently put on the back burner.

“I believe this should not happen. There should be no discrimination with respect to access requests by the media,” he said. “But a law is only a law, and when it comes to obeying it, you can do what is minimally necessary or you can embrace the spirit of the law.”

Work maintains Stelmach doesn’t embrace that spirit.

“It’s a matter of leadership,” he says. “I see a lack of leadership at the provincial level with respect to access to information. It is the difference between a culture of secrecy and a culture of openness. If you are going to promise transparency, then embrace it.”

Stelmach, Canada’s highest-paid premier, is walking on thin ice these days. Certainly the ice is more transparent than his government.

Rick Zemanek is an Advocate editor.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Red Deer jumps to 449 active COVID-19 cases on Sunday

1,516 new cases identified in Alberta

The QEII was closed Sunday morning due to a pole fire. (Photo courtesy City of Red Deer)
UPDATE: QEII near Red Deer reopens

The QEII has been reopened after being closed due to a pole… Continue reading

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Bashaw RCMP investigate fatal collision in central Alberta

Bashaw RCMP are investigating after a fatal collision Saturday afternoon. Police were… Continue reading

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It's not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he'd been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn… Continue reading

Investigators from the Vancouver Police Department were in Chilliwack Saturday, collecting evidence connected to a double homicide. (file photo)
Police investigate shooting death of man outside downtown Vancouver restaurant

Vancouver police say one man was killed in what they believe was… Continue reading

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start registering people 18 years and older for COVID-19 vaccines

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s inviting people 18 years… Continue reading

San Jose's Tomas Hertl, center, celebrates with teammates Patrick Marleau, left, and Rudolfs Blacers, right, after Hertl scored a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, Friday, April 16, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s games record

For Patrick Marleau, the best part about Monday night when he is… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Half of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

WASHINGTON — Half of all adults in the U.S. have received at… Continue reading

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Federal government to send health-care workers to Ontario, Trudeau says

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says federal departments and some Canadian… Continue reading

People cross a busy street in the shopping district of Flushing on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York. Access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is growing by the day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kathy Willens
Despite COVID-19 vaccines, Americans in D.C. not feeling celebratory — or charitable

WASHINGTON — This might make Canadians jealous of their American cousins for… Continue reading

A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2021. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Memorial service in Nova Scotia marks one year since mass shooting started

TRURO, N.S. — A memorial service is planned for today in central… Continue reading

In this April 23, 2016, photo, David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethel, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
‘It’s more than just a fish:’ Scientists worry cod will never come back in N.L.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The latest assessment of Atlantic cod stocks, whose… Continue reading

Most Read