Strengthening the Access to Information Act
No jurisdiction in the world has managed to legislate an access to information system which is fast, efficient and totally satisfactory for everyone involved. The success of such systems is largely dependent on the attitudes and behaviour of the participants, which cannot be legislated. As a Committee charged with recommending measures to improve the Access to Information Act, you will be assisting the Government in adjusting the framework which forms the basis of our system of access. There is a widely-held view that the Access to Information Act is not broken, but that over time we have learned some lessons about how the system works which can help us to make it better.
A crucial aspect of such a review is an open, free-ranging discussion with stakeholders representing all aspects of the system: requesters, access officials, outside institutions which provide information to the government, organizations which are being considered for coverage and officials from institutions which may be most affected by proposed changes. This consultative process will demonstrate to the Committee the commitment of all participants to making the system work. It is a difficult task to balance competing public interests, so it must be done carefully, and it must be done thoroughly, so that no group believes that their interests have not been heard or considered, or that their views are not seen as legitimate.
The Government appreciates the importance of the work you are being asked to do, and looks forward to receiving your considered views when your work is complete. Then the Government will be able to proceed with drafting a bill to reform the Access to Information Act with confidence that the reforms we propose will achieve our objective of strengthening the ATIA.
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