Le Blogue Broadbent

Is this what transparency looks like?

The deadly train derailment in Lac-Mégantic raised serious questions about rail safety. Too bad the federal government seems intent on keeping Canadians in the dark for as long as possible about safety gaps in Canada’s rail system.

Canada’s access to information law gives the public the right to request records under the control of any federal government institution. Reading these kind of records is pure gold because the documents are unfiltered. In other words, they don't go through the Conservative government spin machine.

There are exemptions, but the government needs to justify those. The government is also supposed to hand over the records within a certain number of days.

Now get this: Transport Canada says it needs 340 days – yes, almost a full year – to process a request from PressProgress about records on the derailment in just one office – the Transport Minister’s Office – covering just a 30-day period immediately after the crash.

The department also says it needs a full year – yes, 365 days – for departmental records produced within 30 days of the derailment that discuss rail deregulation.

It looks like there's a pattern here. Reporters who have filed access to information requests about the Lac-Mégantic train derailment are getting the same line: we'll see you in a year.

The backdrop to all this is Canada’s information commissioner Suzanne Legault recent warning of "previously unseen delays, a resource crunch, and a government and public service with a laissez-faire approach to following the access law."

Legault said: "The faltering in the system is actually quite dramatic and it's not getting better." What does this mean? "When the access to information system falters, the health of our Canadian democracy is at risk," she said.

See you in a year, Transport Canada.