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February 01, 2012


Nicolette Bethel

Excellent, as usual, Larry. And if the bill is passed before the end of this administration, the FNM will bear responsibility once again for deepening the nation's democracy. But is any government prepared for the consequences?

Question, though -- what is being done with General Orders in light of this Act? Or are we, as usual, passing legislation in a vacuum, without concern for the whole web of arenas that must be affected?

larry smith

Good question.

Here's some expert criticism of our Bill from someone who has had experience with FOI laws in other countries.

"It has some good aspects generally, but there are some gaping holes. Given the weaknesses, it would take real political commitment to make this work.

On the positive side, it gives a general right of access, has a public interest test for most exemptions, and creates an information commissioner for enforcement. The whistleblower provisions are also good if they are enforced.

On the negative side:

The minister has a lot of power to limit the application of the law, often without judicial review. It is mostly silent on leaving existing legislation in place (ie official secrets acts, etc) that allow for withholding.

Some of the exemptions are very broad. There is no definition of personal information, so it could apply to all sorts of government records about official activities. Personal information is withheld forever.

The law also does not apply to security or intelligence services, including the RBPF. That kind of exemption is potentially very flexible.

Thirty days is pretty slow for responses in a small jurisdiction with not a lot of files. And it can be delayed another 30 days.

Vexatious and unreasonable requests exemption is undefined.

Philip Smith

Actually wanted to comment on the Gerrymandering article, but the comments to that article are closed. Given the revelation in the Guardian today about citizenships "soaring" it appears that Mr. Dupuch deserves an apology, or at least a retraction. It always serves to take a moment before jumping to conclusions. More scrutiny and less ideology is required of our media.

larry smith

@Philip - Rubbish. This is stereotypical propaganda just before an election. The FNM accused the PLP of the same thing last time. More to the point, I have absolutely no problem with citizenships or permanent residencies given out according to law. The real issue is why these applications have not been processed before now. My family and friends have plenty of experience with PLP withholding of entitlements based upon race or political allegiance. I don't need faux lectures from you or Pierre Dupuch on this subject.

Ken Clarke

I think the so called FOI is more correctly characterised as the Prfotection of information Bill. reminds me of a restaurant with great signage, decoration and an extended menu but every item you ask for is "unavailable" .

Jack Oshei

Where can I see the FOI draft bill? It's not on the govt's Draft Bills page.

The comments to this entry are closed.

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