Ted Byfield: Eggen’s dodge makes a total mockery of the access to information law
What exactly is news? I addressed this question to my father in the late fall of 1945, when at the age of seventeen I had decided to go into the newspaper business. I thought my father, having been in it for more than 25 years, would have a ready answer, and he did. “Anything somebody’s trying to get into the paper,” he harrumphed, “is probably not news. Anything somebody’s trying to keep out of the paper is news.”
Let us now apply that journalistic adage to the complex manipulations of Alberta’s current minister of education. He is making, he says, the most sweeping reform of the school curriculum ever undertaken in the history of public education in his province. What they’re doing, how they’re doing it. who’s doing it, and what exactly is their goal — all must remain secret, he declares.
Aware that parents might have some interest in what he’s planning to do with — and to –their children, reporter Lucie Edwardson of Calgary Metro News put in a formal request under the Freedom of Information laws for the names of the 300 “experts” who are making the revision. (The number since then has been raised to 400.) The minister, clever by half as always, took shelter under a clause in the act and declared an intention to release the information anyway. Ms. Janet Cummings, the “FOIP co-ordinator” (Freedom Of Information and Protection) in the Education Department. announced to Ms. Edwardson she will release the names within the statuary sixty days the law allows.
She didn’t. The sixty days were up last week. “They’ve had a change of heart,” Ms. Edwardson writes. She quoted the minister’s “reluctance” to release the names because he feared “the individuals will be subject to political attacks.” A candidate for the Progressive Conservative leadership had already raised the issue, he said. So to release the names they’d require the permission of all 400. The process would require at least three months.
Ms. Edwardson did not take long finding people to comment. Sharon Polsky, president of the Privacy Access Council of Canada, called the minister’s action “perverse.” He was using an instrument designed to give the public access to information as a means of withholding it from them. “Nowadays, with social media, everybody is subject to being criticized,” she said. By the minister’s reasoning, “every name must be concealed to protect them against ever potentially receiving criticism or being threatened.”
This article continues at [Ted Byfield Blog] Eggen’s dodge makes a total mockery of the access to information law