Thursday, March 26, 2009

Uranium Development Partnership: CIC refusing to release agendas and minutes from panel’s meetings; freedom of information legislation violated

The Brad Wall government is ramping up secrecy around the Uranium Development Partnership’s (UDP) deliberations.

In mid-February an access to information request was submitted to Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan (CIC) for copies of the complete agenda package and minutes to any UDP meetings held from Dec. 31, 2008 to Feb. 19, 2009.

The Mar. 23 response from CIC vice president and general consul Doug Kosloski states: “CIC has now completed its review of your request. We identified two responsive records that are relevant to your request. In accordance with The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the Act) access to those records is denied on that basis that if disclosed would release information that could reasonably be expected to disclose advice, proposals, recommendations, analyses or policy options developed by or for a government institution or a member of the Executive Council in accordance with section 17(1)(a) of the Act.”

Section 17 is a discretionary exemption and is by far one of the most used and abused by government institutions to hide information from the public.

Furthermore, CIC appears to have violated the Act by not applying Section 8 which is mandatory stating: “Where a record contains information to which an applicant is refused access, the head shall give access to as much of the record as can reasonably be severed without disclosing the information to which the applicant is refused access.”

In his letter Kosloski goes on to say, “Please note however that the information contained in the records is expected to be published within the next 90 days with the release of the final report of the Uranium Development Partnership, on or about March 31, 2009.”

This does not mean, however, that the original agendas and official minutes for any meetings conducted will be released, only information from them.

The CIC’s actions represent a complete 180 degree turn from those it displayed on Feb. 15, 2009, when it partially released the agenda and minutes for the UDP’s first meeting held on Oct. 20, 2008, at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. One important record that access was denied to in its entirety was the panel’s work plan and timeline. Among the four reasons given for doing so was that disclosure of the record “could be reasonably expected to result in disclosure of a pending policy decision or budgetary item.”

The Wall government maintains that no decision has been made on nuclear power in Saskatchewan, but the secrecy it displays seems to betray that at every turn. Just recently the CIC withheld critical information concerning Bruce Power’s feasibility study and a meeting that was held between the company and CIC officials on Sept. 29, 2008.

The UDP was established on Oct. 20, 2008. At least 10 of the 12 members, or the organizations they represent, have in the past voiced support for nuclear power.


At 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is ridiculous. Public money is being paid to public servants, and the release of these records would not prejudice privacy, or the operation of the Government. Will it take a revolution to finally get the operation of government out in the open? So much for Brad Wall's promise of openness and transparency in government. This is just as bad as the NDP tricks and scams in the Crowns when they were in charge.


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