Psst… Harper Wins CAJ secrecy award
EDMONTON, May 24 /CNW/ – When it comes to secrecy, nobody does it better than the prime minister’s office.
Despite a field of tight-lipped competitors, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office has run away with the Canadian Association of Journalists’ Code of Silence Award for 2007.
“Harper’s white-knuckled death grip on public information makes this the easiest decision the cabal of judges has ever rendered,” said CAJ President Mary Agnes Welch. “He’s gone beyond merely gagging cabinet ministers and professional civil servants, stalling access to information requests and blackballing reporters who ask tough questions. He has built a pervasive government apparatus whose sole purpose is to strangle the flow of public information.”
The ignominious award, handed out Saturday night at the CAJ’s investigative journalism awards banquet, dishonours the country’s most secretive government, department or agency for obfuscatory excellence.
Harper’s office was the overwhelming choice for this award.
“If journalists can’t get basic information from the federal government, Canadians can’t hold the government accountable. The Prime Minister’s Office has repeatedly demonstrated contempt for the public’s right to know,” Welch said. “Harper pledged to run a government that was open, transparent and accountable, but his track record to-date has been abysmal.”
Harper was invited to accept the award in person but failed to respond.
The other nominees for the CAJ Code of Silence Award were:
- The B.C. government’s climate change secretariat for holding closed-door meetings and refusing to reveal basic information about its members, funding and stakeholder presentations.
- The city of Rossland, B.C., for falsifying records of a council meeting and forcing a city councillor to resort to freedom of information requests to get documents that should be public.
- The Ontario government for the secretive tendering process involve in building nuclear power plants worth $26 billion.
- Ontario’s Ministry of Children and Youth Services for their two-year delay in releasing daycare records following a freedom of information request by the Toronto Star. The records revealed serious problems at several hundred of the 4,400 licensed daycares in the province.
- Transport Canada for proposed draconian secrecy provisions in amendments to the Aeronautics Act. If implemented, these will see a veil of secrecy fall over all information reported by airlines about performance, safety violations, aviation safety problems and their resolution.
- The town of Montague, P.E.I., for using loopholes in the provincial Municipalities Act to hold pre-council meetings in the guise of committee of the whole sessions.
The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with more than 1,500 members across Canada. The CAJ’s primary role is to provide public-interest advocacy and quality professional development for its members.
For more information, visit www.caj.ca.
For further information:
Mary Agnes Welch, CAJ president, Cell: (204) 470-8862;
John Dickins, CAJ executive director, Cell: (613) 868-5442