Thursday, March 06, 2008

Enterprise Saskatchewan: Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation refusing to release names of committee members

Minister of Enterprise and Innovation Lyle Stewart
& Deputy Minister Dale Botting

Saskatchewan people expect their government to be open, honest and accountable. A Saskatchewan Party Government will provide Saskatchewan people with more transparency and accountability than any previous government, by introducing legislation to pay down debt, taking the ‘guesswork’ out of election timing by introducing fixed election dates and providing more transparency in Government and Crown Corporations.”
Securing the Future, Saskatchewan Party 2007 Election Platform
On Jan. 4, 2008, the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation announced that over 300 invitations had been sent to Saskatchewan organizations inviting them to put forward nominees to the Board of Enterprise Saskatchewan. Invitations were sent to business, labour, aboriginal, agricultural, municipal government, post-secondary institutions and economic stakeholders.

“The establishment of Enterprise Saskatchewan represents a new model for economic development for the province,” Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart said. “We are looking for highly qualified, innovative, forward thinking people.”

“We also want to ensure stakeholders have an opportunity to nominate an individual to the Board, as well as ensure we have a transparent, open and accountable process in place,” Stewart said.

The closing date for nominations was Jan. 31, 2008.

In the news article Gov’t sends out RSVPs for board membership (Leader-Post, Jan. 5, 2008) Stewart said he and another minister and some deputy ministers will be part of the committee that selects the final board members, but those details are still being finalized.

In a Feb. 6, 2008, news release the government announced that the selection process for the Enterprise Saskatchewan Board had begun and that “A committee of senior Ministry officials will score each of the applications based on a standard set of criteria.” The names of the officials were not revealed.

On Feb. 29, 2008, the government announced the names of ten individuals who had agreed to accept positions on the Enterprise Saskatchewan Board of Directors.

On Mar. 1, 2008, a request was made to the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation for the names of the committee members that Stewart spoke of earlier.

In its response three days later a ministry official said:

“The process was led by the Deputy Minister of Enterprise and Innovation, Mr. Dale Botting. The names of any of the other individuals on the selection committee are not being made public.

“The decision to appoint the individuals named in the announcement Friday was that of the Minister, a decision implemented through a Minister’s Order. At the end of the day – it was the Minister who was responsible for the decision – not the selection committee who did the analysis and made recommendations.

“I have consulted with the Ministry’s Information and Privacy Officer who has advised that, should an application be made under The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, access may very well be denied under the protection of clause 17 (1) (a).”

According to The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act the clause in question states:
Advice from officials
17(1) Subject to subsection (2), a head may refuse to give access to a record that could reasonably be expected to disclose:
(a) advice, proposals, recommendations, analyses or policy options developed by or for a government institution or a member of the Executive Council.
This particular section of the Act has been a problem for quite some time.

In Province receives record number of privacy complaints (Leader-Post, July 19, 2005) James Wood reported on the record number of complaints received by the province’s information and privacy commissioner in the fiscal year 2004-2005.

In several of the cases, access was denied through a discretionary exemption based on advice from officials.

“Advice from officials is one that our office watches very closely because that’s sometimes been described as the ‘Mack truck’ exemption because sometimes public bodies give that a very expansive meaning,” said Gary Dickson, who became Saskatchewan’s first full-time information and privacy commissioner in November of 2003.

Not much has changed since then.

Discretionary would mean that the government is not obliged to deny requested information in every case. It is free to disclose it if it so wished. It seems, however, that when given the choice most government departments opt to deny access simply because it can. Complaining to the information commissioner is a process that can take years to complete and the majority of government departments appear to know that.

Releasing the names of the committee members will not compromise records that might contain advice or recommendations from officials. The ministry has yet to explain how it would. The absurdity of the situation seems lost on the senior ministry officials calling the shots.

The ministry has since been asked to reconsider its decision but has so far not responded.

In a related matter, the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation has indicated that it will more than likely cite the same clause in the Act, along with several others, to deny access to a significant number of records pertaining to Enterprise Saskatchewan that were requested in Dec. 2007. That decision is still pending.

Minister Stewart talks about transparency but the actions of his senior staff seem to suggest otherwise.


At 7:40 AM, Blogger Saskboy said...

Anonymity. It's good enough for the MPAA and Internet trolls, and now the Sask Party too.

At 9:12 AM, Blogger leftdog said...

Let me guess! I bet on the list of those who made the selections you will find these names:
-REG DOWNS, Chief of Staff of Executive Council (former Chief of Staff of the Sask Party Caucus)

-IAIN HARRY, Special Advisor to Premier Wall (was supposed to be a 'Deputy Minister but something mysterious happened ??) Iain was working for Harper in Ottawa, picking winners and losers in their 'Infrastructure' program. Iain is a former Sask Party Caucus Director of Communications (until he had to leave in disgrace when he fabricated a quote and attributed it to NDP MLA, Maynard Sonntag).

I would bet dollars to donuts that these 2 political officers, were on the selection committee!

At 9:27 AM, Blogger leftdog said...

Here's the link for details on Iain Harry of the Saskatchewan Party.


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