07 March 2013

The New Secret Nation #nlpoli

On the front page of Wednesday’s Telegram was another instalment in James McLeod’s blockbuster on the provincial government’s policy of censoring public documents.

This one focused on the claim by a spokesperson for the public engagement office that orders in council were not covered by a section of the province’s access to information law that prohibits disclosure of cabinet decisions even though the orders are essentially cabinet decisions.

At the same time, the spokesperson said the orders were subject to other sections of the act that allowed government officials to censor them selectively.

Yes, that is exactly as screwed-up as it sounds.

Orders in council are public documents.  They are legal orders by the Crown – represented by the Lieutenant Governor –  to give force to a decision by cabinet, formally known as the Executive Council.

As public documents, they shouldn’t be subject to any censorship at all. Censoring them is as ridiculous as censoring regulations or laws passed by the House of Assembly. It’s not the kind of stuff you’d expect in Canada. 

McLeod posted some of the censored orders in council he received to his blog at the Telegram. Here’s one that has a bunch of lines deleted.oc2011-242Note that the document does not have any indication of the section of the access act they’ve used to justify the deletions.  That’s a huge red flag.  Next, note that they have deleted the legal authority cited to justify firing someone.  Of course, the next thing to note is not just that they deleted at least one name, but the space between the word “of” and “with” is enormous.  Is it more than one person? 

And what department was involved?  They even deleted the name of the department in the distribution list so no one could figure out what happened. Lastly they deleted the authority under which they will pay termination benefits.

The most likely reason there’s no reference to what parts of the access act they used to justify the deletions is that there isn’t one to cover some of them.

Wade through the documents McLeod has posted.  Some of it is very interesting.

If you haven’t done it yet, get your hands on a copy of his Wednesday story.  The explanation offered by the department about this censorship is so obviously convoluted that there must be more to this story than meets the eye.  Odds are we’ll be hearing more of this in the days and weeks ahead.