Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Need for More Transparency

Let's remember that after his election, Prime minister Stephen Harper promulgated the Accountability Act. While our state is certainly transparent, it's stuck with one problem since 2006: Mr. Harper's obvious lack of ethical transparency with the media.

Of course, some will say that Harper promised to lead a more "accountable" government. Such a promise was done in response to the mess left by the Liberals that led the sponsorship scandal. Let's not be surprised if our current PM won some votes because of his so apparent transparency and honesty!

To that matter, let's point out a report from Global Integrity Integrity, a non-profit organization that tracks corruption trends around the world, saying that Canada's political institutions got the third highest integrity score. Moreover, this country's score was tied with that of Spain, Japan, Italy and Roumania.

First of all, the discovery of the sponsorship scandal by the Globe and Mail, the dismissal of former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli, reports from CBC that the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) erased some important tapes during the Air India bombing or the Mulroney-Schreiber affair show us that our justice machine has sharp claws.

Obviously, die-hard supporters of Stephen Harper will say that the previously mentioned discoveries were commonly made during Harper's mandate. However, Stephen Harper is a PM who willingly wants to lack transparency while trying to respect our imperfect democracy. Now, there's a good reason to be worried about this.

Judging from Global Integrity's report, Canada shouldn't have deserved such a high score in the report (click on the next graphic). Speaking about something that might make you laugh, it is mentioned that "Canada offers a good environment for media and civil society". This is not wrong, because on paper, the Access to Information Act gives citizens and journalists the information that they want when a demand is made.

The graphic of Global Integrity on the political institutions of Canada.
However, what the report doesn't mention is that since Stephen Harper came to power, our environment became not so good, if you understand the play on words.

Stephen Harper's lack of transparency can be seen in the way he treats journalists. In fact, since his election victory in 2006, Harper has refused many times to give a press conference in the traditional media room of our Parliament.

Besides not always being accessible to journalists, Harper, during his parliamentary press conference, tries to say which journalists get to ask the question. As far as we, Canadians, are concerned, it is not the PM (or a politician) who decides to call out a journalist seeking to ask a question; it is a journalist (elected by his peers) who does.

If we want another example, we should also wonder why it took one week for our current Justice minister, Rob Nicholson, to give his comment on the Mulroney-Schreiber affair. Besides, we can also talk about the fact that the Ministry of Defence took six months (the disclosure deadline is thirty days, mind you) to disclose to the Journal de Montréal.

All in all, our PM Stephen Harper had good relations with the media, back in the federal election of 2006, because he was taking advantage of the sponsorship scandal. However, let's not think that, during the next election, Canadian journalists will forget the way Stephen Harper deals with them. After all, the more we think about it, the more we want to say that Harper does the contrary of what he proposed in his election platform, in terms of accountability.

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