What to Know About Our Right to Know
Sep 28, 2017
Today, countries around the world will
mark September 28th as “Right to Know Day,” recognizing the need for greater
transparency and access to government information. Here’s why we, as union
members and public employees, should be paying attention.
In Manitoba, The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, commonly known as FIPPA, allows Manitobans to gain access to documents of public bodies such as Provincial departments, Regional Health Authorities, crown corporations and post-secondary institutions. It’s through FIPPA that unions like ours can request access to information that will potentially impact our public services and the people who provide them. However, many of these requests end up being denied because of the way FIPPA legislation is currently written.
The good news is that the government is currently reviewing the legislation and has asked for input on improving FIPPA, hopefully making information more easily accessible.
The MGEU recently submitted our recommendations for improvement, which includes changing the legislation so that it takes the public interest more into account. For example, if releasing information is clearly in the public interest, then the head of the public body should have the discretion to disclose that information. As it stands, a public body can avoid releasing information for many reasons, most of which err on the side of releasing less information, rather than more.
At a time when trust in government is declining, those working in the Right to Know movement argue that governments must be more open and release more information.
Open and transparent government is a hallmark of a democracy, where citizens have a right to the information required to hold government officials and institutions accountable to the public.
In the lead up to the 2016 provincial election, our premier stated : “We will advance an open government program that will put Manitoba at the forefront of the most transparent and ethical governments in the world.” But so far, our experience has been just the opposite.
On “Right to Know Day,” we call on the Manitoba government to amend FIPPA to enhance transparency, accountability and openness in government so that they can truly live up to their election commitment.
Andy Regier is a Researcher at the MGEU.