Good afternoon, members of the committee.
My name is Cara Zwibel. I'm the acting general counsel at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
I'd like to thank the committee on behalf of the CCLA for the opportunity to appear before you in relation to your study of Bill . While time will not permit me to comment on all aspects of the bill, I hope to highlight a few of the most significant concerns that the CCLA has about the proposed changes to the Access to Information Act.
In brief, I'm going to speak about new barriers to making requests for information, the absence of a public interest override, the order-making power that's been given to the Information Commissioner, and the new proactive publication requirements.
Before I get into the bill's substance, I want to emphasize how important a strong access regime is to a vibrant democracy. Without information about how our government functions, we simply cannot participate meaningfully in our democracy on a daily basis nor can we make informed choices at the ballot box. The transparency that can be facilitated by way of a strong access regime is also a vital means of ensuring that those in government remain accountable.
The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that access to information is a right that derives from the charter's protection of freedom of expression, and arises where it's “a necessary precondition of meaningful expression on the functioning of government”. CCLA submissions on this bill are grounded in those principles.
I think we're all aware that the Access to Information Act has been in need of a major overhaul for many years. I would remiss if I failed to tell the committee that CCLA is deeply disappointed with Bill . It is not the comprehensive reform that's needed, and frankly, it's no answer to say more is coming down the road. We have been studying the need for a new regime for many years and have benefited from this committee's own study and comprehensive recommendations as well as those of the Information Commissioner. Now is the time for action.
The proposed amendments in Bill do not address a number of the long-standing concerns related to the act. In particular, the long list of exceptions and exemptions have not been narrowed or addressed in any way. There is no right of access in relation to ministers' offices, even though this was one of the promises made by the government prior to the election, and the bill does not create a duty on government offices to appropriately document decisions, a tool that would help to ensure that the kind of information Canadians may want and are entitled to will exist.
Although the act includes a new articulation of purpose and even a new long title that suggests greater openness, in our view the changes in the act may impose new barriers to individuals seeking information about their government. There are a few ways in which it would be harder for individuals seeking access if the changes proposed in Bill are adopted.
First, while the government initially promised to get rid of all fees except for the initial $5 filing fee, the bill does not do this. Instead, it eliminates some of the existing limitations on fees that are articulated in the act and moves the fee-setting function to be done via regulations. Fees are barriers to access. While we believe they should be eliminated, if they are going to be retained, they should at least be clearly limited in the act itself. For example, the act could specify what categories of items would be subject to fees or which categories an institution could not charge fees for. While we can appreciate the reluctance to specify dollar amounts in legislation itself, deferring the entire question of fees to be dealt with by regulation is of serious concern and a strange way to proceed in a bill about openness and transparency.
Another way in which Bill can make access harder for individuals seeking information is set out in proposed section 6, which delineates the items that must be included in a request for access, and proposed section 6.1, which grants heads of government institutions the right to refuse requests that are non-compliant.
Very often, requesters know the kind of information that they want, but not necessarily the types of records or where that information will be found. They may not know the dates that they should be searching for or what form the records may take, and since the bill also eliminates the need, the obligation on institutions to publish Info Source, to publish the types of records that they create, even less information will be available to help a requester figure out how to appropriately frame more requests.
If you have ever made an access to information request, you know that if you're dealing with a professional access person in a government institution, very often they will work with the requester to figure out how to frame the request. The amendments in the bill suggest that a request that is not framed properly can simply be refused. I know the committee will be hearing in the next session from the National Claims Research Directors about how these requirements may frustrate the resolution of historic claims of many first nations communities. CCLA shares these concerns.
There appears to be no clear benefit to be gained from these amendments, but very real risks to the right of access. We urge the committee to remove those new requirements.
In addition to the right to refuse access to records if the criteria in section 6 are not met, there are other new grounds for refusing a request articulated in proposed subsection 6.1(1), including where the request is too large or complex, such that it will unreasonably interfere with the operations of the government institution, or where the institution's head finds the request to be frivolous, vexatious, or made in bad faith.
It isn't clear from the bill what would guide a government head in applying these criteria or how clearly the reasons for refusal will be communicated to the requester. There may be very valid and important requests that could be turned away based on their complexity or size, such as requests relating to how our prisons function or to operations at our borders. The fact that these requests may require a lot of work does not mean that there is no right of access.
The overall tenor of these amendments is that providing information to the public about a government institution is a chore or an afterthought and reinforces the notion that the information belongs to the government rather than the public. Providing access to the public should be seen as a core function of government institutions. The new rights of refusal send the wrong message to requesters and to access officers.
In addition to the new barriers that the bill creates for requesters, I also want to discuss the exemptions and exclusions under the act, and here I want to focus on the absence of a public interest override.
In our view, a public interest override is an important safeguard that should be included in the act.
The application of exemptions and exclusions, which is largely untouched by this bill, is complex and will be rendered more so by some of the changes proposed in the bill. However, beyond the technical and legal interpretation of all of the provisions in the act, the fundamental question at issue in an access request is whether the public has a right to know. A public interest override is a mechanism to ensure that this question gets answered and that it gets answered correctly. There are some provinces that have such an override in their legislation. We encourage the committee to look at those models and to consider an amendment to the bill to insert a public interest override.
Next, I want to address the order-making power that has been given to the Information Commissioner. That the commissioner be given the power to make orders is something that CCLA and many other organizations were in favour of and have been requesting for a long time. We believe strongly that the commissioner needs this power, but the scheme in the bill grants it and at the same time undercuts it. In particular, where judicial review of the commissioner's order is sought, proposed section 44.1 of the bill specifies that the review will be de novo, that no deference will be given to the commissioner's decision, and that the government department can rely on new reasons for refusing the access.
Frankly, I simply can't understand the rationale for framing the order-making power in this way. This approach places a greater burden on our courts, it ignores the significant expertise that resides in the Information Commissioner's office, and it doesn't provide government departments with any incentive to put their best arguments or information forward initially, either to the requester or to the Information Commissioner.
It will allow for a more drawn-out process, and thus may frustrate a requester's intent by ultimately producing stale information, if information is ever produced.
The commissioner needs robust order-making powers, and review should be of the commissioner's order. We recommend amending this aspect of the bill.
Finally, I want to comment on the new proactive publication provisions that apply to—
Thank you very much for this opportunity.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make a presentation to the committee.
My presentation will be entirely in English, because there are many technical terms in this political issue. I should practise my French a lot more so that I could use those terms.
I will not go into some of the details that Cara Zwibel has already provided on behalf of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, because Democracy Watch is in full agreement with the points made during her presentation. I'll focus instead on a few other areas of concern.
First of all, with regard to the bill overall, the bill breaks the promise that the Liberals made in the open government section of their 2015 election platform, and it also takes steps backwards—big steps backwards—in access rights. The Liberals have also failed to keep their international open government partnership commitments, as weak as those commitments were.
Tens of thousands of voters have sent messages through Democracy Watch's open government campaign page calling on federal parties to make key changes to the act. The public has been consulted numerous times. I have here the report of the task force from 2002, and also my submissions made in 2009, which resulted in a unanimous committee report, and that can only lead me to question what has happened to the Liberals since 2009, because in 2009 they agreed to several of the changes that are not included in Bill .
In 2011 and 2013, twice through the international open government partnership process, the public was consulted and interest groups were consulted. The Information Commissioner consulted and issued a report in late March of 2015, recommending many key changes. The Liberals consulted on their 2016-2018 open government partnership plan.
The result of every single consultation has been a broad, strong call from the public and citizens' groups to make several key changes that are not included in Bill .
To be credible, the Liberals on this committee must agree to the key open government changes to Bill that many groups and past committees and reports have called for over the past 15 years. The act and the open government system have been reviewed several times, and there is a consensus on key changes that must be made. There is simply no justifiable reason for any further delay in making the changes. If these changes are finally made, the current federal law, which really should be called “The Guide to Keeping Secrets Act”, will finally become a real access to information act.
I will talk about just a few of the changes that Democracy Watch believes are key and about the Open Government Coalition as well.
First of all, any type of record created by any entity that receives significant funding from or is connected to the government or was created by the government and fulfills a public interest function should be automatically covered by the law, as in the United Kingdom.
As well, all exemptions under the law must be discretionary and limited by a proof-of-harm test and a public interest override, as in B.C. and Alberta.
Also, every entity covered should be required to create detailed records for all decisions and actions, to routinely disclose records that are required to be disclosed, to assign responsibility to individuals for the creation and maintenance of each record, and to maintain each record so that it remains easily accessible, as in the United Kingdom, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand.
Fourth, the access to information law and system should allow anyone who does factual or policy research for the government to speak to the media publicly about any topic they are researching and the findings and conclusions of their research without being required to first seek approval from anyone.
Then, to go to the overall system and enforcement, severe penalties should be created for not creating records, for not maintaining records properly, and for unjustifiable delays in responses to requests.
The order-making power of the Information Commissioner is rather meaningless without any consequence or penalty for violating the law. Like any law, the Access to Information Act is just nice words on paper. Enforcement is key, and penalties are key in terms of effective enforcement. It always seems that when politicians write rules that apply to themselves, they leave out penalties, while imposing huge penalties on others for similar activities.
The Information Commissioner should be given explicit powers to order the release of a record—as in the United Kingdom, Ontario, B.C., and Quebec—and to penalize violators of the law with high fines, jail terms, loss of any severance payments, and partial clawback of any pension payments if the person resigns to try to escape a penalty.
As well, the Information Commissioner should be given the power to require systemic changes in government departments to improve compliance, as the commissioner in the United Kingdom has.
The funding should be increased to solve backlog problems instead of increasing administrative barriers such as set out in proposed sections 6 and 6.1—and Ms. Zwibel summarized very well the problems with those sections—and/or limiting requests in any other way, including fees.
Parliament must be required to review the act, as set out in this bill—one of the few key measures made—every five years.
Another key, and I'll end on this, is that the commissioner's appointment process must be changed before the new commissioner is appointed. The rules have not set up a merit-based, open, transparent, independent appointment system for cabinet appointees. The ministers still control the appointment process entirely.
I am disclosing today that I've applied to be Information Commissioner, I have 30 years' experience working with provincial and federal laws, and I have not even been contacted in response to my application. I am sure there are many others the government does not want to be commissioner—because they will be a watchdog—who are also well qualified and have not been contacted.
Ministers control this entire process still. That's not an independent or merit-based system. It's political and it's partisan. It has to stop. This government is going to select an Ethics Commissioner, Commissioner of Lobbying, Information Commissioner, RCMP commissioner, Chief Electoral Officer, and Commissioner of Official Languages through a process that's political and partisan. You don't end up with watchdogs with that kind of process, as we saw with the fiasco over the attempt to appoint a former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister as official languages commissioner in the spring.
The process must change to be actually independent and merit-based, and that means having a commission made up of people who are non-governmental, who will do a merit-based search publicly and come up with a short list. The cabinet should then be required to choose from among that short list.
There have just been recommendations made by such a committee for Supreme Court judge positions that are coming open. If it's good for Supreme Court judges, it's good for the judges of ethics, transparency, whistle-blower protection, official languages, the RCMP, and elections law in Canada. The same process should be used as for Supreme Court judges, and if the Liberals try to appoint these lapdogs that they want to these key democratic, good governance, watchdog positions, you better believe that Democracy Watch and many people in the public will resist every step of the way. Change the system before the new commissioner is appointed and give it over to an independent commission that will recommend a short list, as you're doing with Supreme Court justices. That was a good move. Do it with all judges of whether the government is following the law, please.
I welcome your questions. Thank you.
Hi. I'm a director of the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom. I was asked by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression to fill in for them this afternoon. We frequently partner with them. The CCWPF is a UNESCO-sponsored organization.
We were gratified that the legislation gives the commissioner the authority to order release of the information instead of having to go to court every time there is a disagreement. That is a step forward.
However, beyond that, we're concerned about a section of the act dealing with nuisance and vexatious requests, and we hope that is amended—if it is necessary at all—so that at least it's up to the commissioner, not a particular department, to release the information.
Overall we regard Bill , as it stands, as a lost opportunity. We agree with the Centre for Law and Democracy that the bill is far more conspicuous for what it fails to do. In fact, we agree with the commissioner that much of this amending legislation is regressive. That was their exact word.
As you know, the government had promised to make itself open by default. Indeed, a promise was made that the ATI law would be amended to include the Prime Minister's Office and ministers' offices. In Bill , the Prime Minister's Office and the offices of ministers and others remain off limits to information requests made under the act. In what the BC Civil Liberties Association calls a “bizarre sleight of hand”, the PMO and ministers' offices will be required to release such things as travel expenses or contracts and other documents designated for proactive disclosure, but it's strictly at their discretion.
Some might claim this fulfills a promise. We find that curious. It's a situation in which Canadians would be entitled to certain types of information, but they just couldn't ask for the information. That may make sense to somebody, but I don't think it makes common sense. It's logic worthy of a script from Yes, Minister and Sir Humphrey Appleby, or more worthy of Mackenzie King: transparency if necessary, but not necessarily transparency.
We are, however, glad to see that the ministerial mandate letters are under the proactive disclosure section in the legislation. That's a step forward for Canadian transparency in government. We're glad it's being codified for the sake of permanence.
Let me conclude by saying that updating federal legislation to the information law in Canada remains very much a work in progress. We urge this committee to make improvements. Bill is a big step toward finishing the job. We realize this is going to be a long haul.
Thank you to our witnesses.
I'm looking back through some quotes: “After all, a country's access to information system is at the heart of open government”, said the now Prime Minister when debating his own Bill C-613. I think one of his favourite quotes became “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” He said, “transparent government is good government” during the election campaign.
We had the two relevant ministers in front of us just recently. We seem to have a great divergence of views from the Information Commissioner. I'm not sure I've seen a watchdog condemn a piece of legislation quite so vociferously before.
I'm quoting from her report:
|| The government promised the bill would ensure the Act applies to the Prime Minister's and Ministers' Offices appropriately. It does not. The government promised the bill would apply appropriately to administrative institutions that support Parliament and the courts. It does not. The government promised the bill would empower the Information Commissioner to order the release of government information. It does not.
Let's just drill into something specific. What's the concern you have about trying to make proactive disclosure equivalent to access to information? We hear the government saying, “Isn't it wonderful? We have proactive disclosure. Why are you people complaining? We're just going to tell you about things. You won't even have to ask. We're going to tell you.”
Mr. McIntosh, from the media, from the point of view of the press holding government to account, what's the problem with government getting proactive in its disclosure?
Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members.
I'd like to start out by quoting a Federal Court decision from 2006 that related to a judicial review of an access request that had gone to Statistics Canada.
What the court said was this:
|| It would be absurd and wrong if the Crown had the evidence the Aboriginal people required to prove their land claim, but the Government was entitled to suppress it. This would be inconsistent with section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
With that, I'd like to introduce our presentation.
I represent a group of organizations, first nations, and tribal councils that carry out research for first nations largely to document claims, grievances, and disputes between them and the crown. This can be for the purpose of specific claims, which is a federal government policy related to lawful obligations of the crown, but also for aboriginal title issues, treaty disputes, and litigation generally. Together we submit hundreds of ATIP requests formally and informally every year. We know from experience what will facilitate or hinder access to information.
Our interests are twofold. First, the majority of evidence related to claims, disputes, and grievances of first nations is held by the crown. It's the defendant in these cases, but it's also the one that holds the evidence. There's an inherent conflict of interest there. That's part of the reason paragraph 8(2)(k) of the Privacy Act was inserted when they did the original legislation in 1982. It mentions that if you're a bona fide researcher for a first nation, you get access to information that would otherwise be deemed as covered by the privacy sections of the act, so there are exemptions for the purpose of documenting first nations research into claims. It's gone to the Federal Court, and the Federal Court has confirmed that it's a legal duty beyond what many Canadians have a right to. It triggers the fiduciary duty of the crown—the honour of the crown, as they call it—and the Federal Court has indicated that it sits within section 35. There are some significant issues there in terms of the right to access when it comes to first nations documenting their claims.
Another reason we need access to federal records is for public policy issues, to obtain information directly affecting a political, social, economic, or cultural interest. For example, between February 2015 and June 2016, we submitted over 37 ATIP requests and nine complaints to the Office of the Information Commissioner because government was stonewalling. If you were the defendant, you wouldn't want to give up the evidence the other side needed to prove its case, and that's the case with the federal bureaucracy.
In terms of our concerns about Bill , we're opposed to the bill. It's a bad bill. It will introduce significant new barriers to first nations and organizations that are trying to access information to document their claims, disputes, and grievances. It will interfere with their right of access. It will also hinder efforts by Canada to meet the standards of redress for historical wrongs that are articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Also, the Minister of Justice—in the summer, I believe—introduced 10 principles respecting the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples. It breaches those.
I guess our concern is that this government in particular set a very high bar in terms of its relations with indigenous peoples, and it seems to have broken the bar with this bill. There's been no consultation. There's been no consideration of first nations rights or interests. There's been no consideration of any of the briefs or evidence that we've presented to Treasury Board or to this committee. We're really concerned that it seems to be a matter of “say one thing and do something entirely different”.
I'd like to also talk a bit about the process we have to go through. After the original access to information legislation was introduced in the early eighties, the government agreed that for the first stage you would make an informal request to the government agency. Quite often that's what's known as INAC now, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.
They had the capacity to respond to those requests, and you'd receive the information, and only if there were problems with it would you need to go to the formal ATIP process.
That worked pretty well for a while, but it has fallen into disrepair, and over the years we've seen a gradual rolling back of our access through arbitrary measures and gratuitous use of exemptions by the people at federal departments in responding to our requests. That has meant an increase in formal requests and complaints to the Office of the Information Commissioner.
In June 2016, we only found out very late about the initial consultations on modernizing the act, so we did submit a brief, but it was late coming in. I think your hearings had ended by then, but I believe it is in the record. If not, maybe we can have a chat afterwards to make sure it is.
At that time we presented a range of concerns to the committee. We expressed hope. The mandate letters that had gone out to the ministers seemed good, and focused on transparency and improving indigenous relations. Treasury Board had announced interim directives on access to information in May 2016, but we said at that time that there was a need to consult with first nations and these organizations to make sure that the rights to access were considered, first of all, and acknowledged in the legislation, and that adequate resources were required to respond to requests.
Also, with regard to training, we found that over the past 10 or 15 years, training of staff just didn't happen. You'd make a request, and staff would not understand why you needed the information. First nations claims are a world unto their own sometimes, and you need staff who understand the nature of your request.
Also, we recommended decentralization and encouraged human contact. We were finding over the last few years that we'd make requests and instead of dealing with a human being, we'd get form letters coming back that didn't provide any opportunity to engage.
We also recommended that there shouldn't be a ministerial veto for powers of the Information Commissioner, and at that time we also supported the other recommendations that the Information Commissioner had made in connection with the announcement to modernize the act.
We weren't contacted about our submission. We gave copies to INAC and to Treasury Board. Nobody followed up. We never got any traction on any of that.
Fast forward to this year. We submitted a document to you folks, I believe it was last week, that builds on the presentation we made in the summer of 2016. We've had it endorsed by over 70 first nations and tribal councils, as well as the Indigenous Bar Association and the Assembly of First Nations. They're all very concerned about this bill. The more they hear about it, the more they ask what is going on, and why does it contradict all these explicit promises that the federal government has been so glad to trumpet? It just seems a strange contrast.
We have concerns about Bill . I think you've already heard testimony to this effect, but I'll make a few comments.
It was created unilaterally, without any effort to consult. There's a legal duty to consult first nations. It wasn't followed in this instance. The only time Treasury Board has been in touch with us, and they've been very cordial, has only been to tell us what they're going to do.
The crown has a duty to disclose records to first nations. Instead, this bill will provide many new opportunities for officials to delay or deny information access, not just for claims but for matters that are integral to first nations governance, such as membership records and treaty pay lists.
Clause 6 is of significant concern, and I'm sure others have explained their concerns as well. We believe this is going to provide legislative justification for the suppression of evidence that we need to document our claims against the crown. The crown is in a conflict. If you give this kind of tool to officials, they'll use it to the max, and we've seen it already under the existing regime, especially, as I mentioned, given that our first route is to make an informal request. Sometimes that comes back with huge redactions, or it might take a year to get the information back, and then we'll file a formal request if the first informal request didn't provide full disclosure. Our reading of the act is that we wouldn't be able to do that anymore. If you've already made a request and received partial disclosure, they could refuse your second request, the formal one.
Again, the act does nothing to address the conflict of interest whereby federal officials are in a position to deny access to the evidence needed to prove claims against the federal crown. There is nothing in the act that deals with that.
Thank you very much for asking us of The Canadian Press to appear before your committee.
Here is a little about who we are. We're celebrating our 100th anniversary this year. We provide news and reporting from across Canada on all platforms to almost every daily newspaper and broadcaster, as well as to numerous corporations and government departments. In Ottawa, we are a team of about 20 French and English reporters, editors, and photographers.
Access to information is a crucial tool for us, and we are very anxious about the government's attempts to improve transparency and accountability. We spend about $7,500 a year, give or take, on requests, until the price was dropped recently. Even now we're on track to spend about that much this year. It's one area in which we have not cut back in terms of expenses.
Just to give you an idea about how important it is to us, it is very central to what we do every day. Familiarity with the Access to Information Act is a basic requirement for anyone who wants to work in our bureau.
We've had a lot of successes over the years in using the act for our common goal, which I think is to provoke national debate on public policy. The use of tasers by the RCMP, initial indications that the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women was more than just a coincidence, crucial information about Afghan detainees, and the sponsorship scandal are all stories that we not only broke but enhanced through our use of access to information. They are important, weighty stories that have changed Canadians' perception of how their country works.
We also used the act to expose the fact that the former international development minister, Bev Oda, spent $16 on a glass of orange juice, and that the former foreign affairs minister, John Baird, ordered unilingual gold-plated business cards.
You could argue that those are examples of frivolous requests, or you could argue that they gave Canadians important indications of the culture within cabinet and how cabinet ministers are treating taxpayers' dollars. Bev Oda had to resign over that story, so what is considered frivolous and vexatious is very much in the eye of the beholder and a very nebulous and subjective concept.
We are increasingly forced to rely on the Access to Information Act for basic facts that support or explain government policy, but there was a time when we could ask a bureaucrat or a politician for an explanation about just why we were heading in a certain direction. I'll give you an example from last year, when the government was moving to expand the Canada pension plan. It was only through the act that we were able to fully document why the government thought such a move was necessary—just basic facts. After the expansion was announced it was only through ATIP a year later that we were able to say exactly how much extra money the CPP Investment Board would have to invest. These are basic facts that should be readily available, but aren't.
Despite our successes in using the act, it's also a constant source of frustration for our reporters. Sometimes we wait years for the government to get back to us with documents. Frequently the documents we do get back have so much blacked out that they make almost no sense. That leads to a problem in and of itself. Especially when a reporter spends so much time digging into an issue and gets back a pile of documents that are all blacked out, there is a temptation to write something, a temptation to connect dots that perhaps shouldn't be connected. We try very hard not to do that, but it is a risk. Similarly, exemptions for cabinet confidence or advice to ministers are so pervasive that we suspect they're used cavalierly.
Consistency is another issue. For example, we ask routinely for lists of briefings. Sometimes we receive full lists with some information blacked out. Other times we receive only a partial list, but when MPs ask for the same thing through Order Paper questions, for example, they will get different responses altogether. They are usually more extensive and come much faster. We double up and do both, but it is baffling that they're different.
We're a bit alarmed when we look at the proposals on the table here and we see more ways for the government to turn us down and deny us information.
The requirement to meet three criteria for every request is detrimental to the goal of understanding government and reporting on policy. By requiring users of the act to know exactly what type of record they're looking for, on what subject matter, and during a specific time frame, the legislation would effectively eliminate many of our more general queries and attempts to find out what is actually going on within government. Only in rare cases do we know with that kind of detail what we are looking for, and even in those cases we would depend on a leak from within government, telling us to look for a certain specific document.
We're also concerned about the move toward proactive disclosure. As a matter of principle, we are always in favour of the government disclosing more information. However, in this case, there is often either no fixed timeline or the timelines are longer than the ones we face under the existing legislation. Also, with proactive disclosure it's the government that decides what will be disclosed, shutting out the ability of citizens to assert their own demands to know and understand what the government is up to. If proactive disclosure were backed up by the act, and ministers and departments were to understand that if they did not follow the disclosure rules there would be consequences through the Information Commissioner, then proactive disclosures would be far more meaningful.
Finally, we're concerned that the bill does not apply to ministers, MPs, senators, and the courts, as initially proposed. The government has promised repeatedly to be open by default, yet the bill does not allow for any further citizen-driven insights into these very important and influential offices.
We're intrigued with the measures that are proposed for the order-making powers, but as we read the bill, we suspect the Information Commissioner's new powers would be curtailed by the courts, and we take to heart her own testimony on this subject.
Your committee is doing very important work that will have a large influence on the quality of our own reporting in the future.
I was only asked to appear here on Friday, so I have a lot of information back in the office that I can share with you later. If you want some things in more detail, I'd be pleased to provide that. Besides that, I'd be pleased to take your questions.