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PROC Committee Report

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Mr. Joe Preston Chair
Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario

Dear Mr. Preston:

Pursuant to House of Commons Standing Order 109, on behalf of the Government of Canada, we are pleased to provide the Government Response to the forty-second report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on access to information requests and parliamentary privilege.

The Committee's report demonstrates a thoughtful and significant effort to review the evidence and provide practical guidance to the House of Commons when it is consulted as a third party by a federal institution regarding a request under the Access to Information Act. We were impressed by the scope of the study and note the range of views and perspectives presented to the Committee, which are indicative of the complexity of the matter.

The Government recognizes and values the important work undertaken by you and your committee to examine the balance between two fundamental tenets of Canadian democracy: access to information and parliamentary privilege. The Government of Canada takes Canadians' right of access to information seriously and is committed to openness and transparency. The Government also recognizes the important role that parliamentary privilege plays in allowing Members of Parliament to discuss and exchange views frankly when carrying out their duties and responsibilities.

The Government notes that the report's recommended guidance for responding to consultations with institutions that have received an Access to Information Act request for privileged materials is directed to the House of Commons' officials and committees. The Government is confident that representations made by the House with regard to privileged records will be duly considered by government institutions.

While the practice of the House of Commons is for the House to determine, we welcome the proposed framework as a responsible approach to balancing important and historical constitutional principles with the quasi-constitutional statute governing access to information. As Members of Parliament, we would support a motion to concur in the report.

In regard to the proposal to amend the Act, the Government will take the matter under advisement, to be considered further in the context of any broader review of the Act or following a further report of the Committee reviewing the implementation of these new procedures it has proposed.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank you and the members of the Standing Committee for your work.

Yours sincerely,

The Honourable Tony Clement, P.C., M.P.

President of the Treasury Board

The Honourable Peter Van Loan, P.C., M.P.

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons