Statement on Right to Know Week

Ms. Catherine Fife: Every year, we celebrate Right to Know Week during the last week of September. This year marks the 250th anniversary of the world’s first access-to-information legislation. Since 1766, when Sweden became the first country to recognize that citizens have a right to access unpublished information produced by its government, over 100 countries have passed some form of freedom-of-information laws.

Next year, Ontario marks the 30th anniversary of our own Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. As I’m sure everyone in this legislative chamber today will agree, freedom of information is essential to a strong democracy and to good governance. While we have come a long way in ensuring greater transparency of our governments and the public’s right to know, we still have a very long way to go. There are very real challenges to freedom of information in Ontario.

In July this year, our new Financial Accountability Officer, Mr. Stephen LeClair, was again forced to complain about the Liberal government stonewalling his office by invoking cabinet confidence on requests for information. By refusing FAO access, they are preventing him from doing his job as an independent officer of this Legislature.

Last year, I introduced a private member’s bill that would further empower the FAO to readily gain access to information needed to perform his duties by removing the cabinet-confidence exemption, and I’d like to let the House know that I will once again be introducing this legislation.