27 June 2009

What’s sauce for the Harper goose…

So the Telegram has been waiting 18 months to get the resolution of an access to information request for files everyone knows exist but the Executive Council claims doesn’t exist.

Well, not exactly.

The President of the Executive Council  - i.e. the Premier - has admitted on a couple of occasions that “purple files” are real and that he gets them to help prepare for meetings and interviews.

The Telegram knows they exist anyway because one of the Premier’s officials accidentally let it slip in an e-mail.

But when the Telegram submitted an access request, the Executive Council’s official response was that there were “no responsive records.”  That’s bureaucratese for “the records don’t exist.”

Ed Ring, the provincial access commissioner, and his staff have been working on the Telly appeal of the Executive Council denial for 18 months with no end in sight.

The Telegram editorial today raises the issue again and notes that when faced with a similar bit of stonewalling recently, Ring’s federal counterpart publicly announced he’d be using his legal powers to simply enter the government offices and seize all the relevant documents.

Apparently just the threat worked in convincing the federal stonewallers to comply with the law and cough up everything:

Privy Council staff delivered some documents yesterday, the deadline set by Marleau, and promised to deliver the rest soon.

"(Privy Council Office) has already sent several packages of the requested files," Privy Council spokesperson Jeffrey Chapman said in an email yesterday. "We have also sent a proposed action plan to the Office of the Information Commissioner outlining when we will be able to send the working and final record sets to their office."

The Telegram suggests that Ed Ring do the same thing here.  Ring needs to look at the documents just to make the decision;  he doesn’t have to disclose them.

He’s got the legal powers just to get a look at them under the province’s own access laws. 

That’s good advice, especially given the current administration is evidently breaking the Premier’s own commitments from before the 2003 election.  In some instances, the delays, obfuscation and others refusals to disclose documents are exactly the opposite of what Danny Williams pledged to do when he went looking for the Premier’s job in 2003.

You’d think that just the fact that Premier Danny Williams is out of step with then-opposition leader Danny Williams  would be enough to nudge him to correct the problem. 

But if that doesn’t work,  maybe he should consider that – in essence – Danny Williams and his people are doing the same thing in Newfoundland and Labrador that Stephen Harper and his people are doing in Ottawa.

That can’t be good.

How could he ever talk badly about Stephen Harper again  - ABC and all that - when he does exactly the same things?

What’s sauce for the Harper goose is sauce for the Williams gander.