The answer: the federal government only believes in one of them.
Yep, the feds are devout when it comes to the God issue, throwing five million bucks into the collection pot for an office that is supposed to keep tabs on religious persecution around the world. But when it comes to sharing information about Canadian issues with the great unwashed, well, the feds – like too many other governments around this country – are pretty much atheists. They just don’t believe in it.
Thankfully, the men and women of science – and who better to challenge a faith-based system? — are calling them on it.
Scientists on the federal payroll have for a few years now been effectively muzzled by their political bosses, unable to openly discuss issues such as climate change and fishery stocks. Even though our tax dollars paid for the research, we aren’t privvy to it unless the brass (tutored, no doubt, by Mordac, the Preventer of Information Services from the Dilbert comic strip) decide it is in their — not our — interests to release it.
Well, sympathetic to the plight of the scientists, a couple of non-profit watchdog agencies this week asked the Information Commissioner of Canada to investigate whether that breaks the law, namely the Access to Information Act (known in the halls of government as the “Let’s Pretend To Make Information Available But Those Ungrateful Taxpayers Can Rot in Hell When They Dare to Ask for It” Act).
Democracy Watch and the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Clinic argue, rightly, that taxpayers can’t make smart and informed choices without the benefit of the latest government’s scientific assessments – information that belongs to the people.
It all sounds like something from the pages of Banana Republic Dictatorship 101, but it is happening in Ottawa – and in municipal, regional and provincial governments across the land. Politicians of all stripes understand that knowledge is power, and are therefore trying to control the flow of information under the guise of “doing what is best for the public” (and by “public” they mean themselves).
Well, what is truly best for the public is having all of the available information so that we can participate meaningfully in the democratic process, and hold politicians and bureaucrats accountable.
How could it be done? Well, there is this little thing called the Internet, which apparently can display an almost unlimited amount of information at very little cost. If the thing ever catches on, maybe governments could start using it to scan and post all the reports, notes, memos and miscellaneous other paperwork generated every day.
We then wouldn’t need spin doctors on the government payroll. Staff wouldn’t be needed to process requests for information (that’s right – we currently pay people to hunt for the information we already paid other people to generate), and the budget for black markers, used to redact documents, would be eliminated.
It just makes so much sense. Which is why, in Ottawa and other government buildings, the idea probably doesn’t have a prayer.