Modernizing Transparency Laws: How Revamping Access-to-Information Benefits the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees and Labour Advocacy
The announcement made on June 23, 2023, by Treasury Board President Mona Fortier regarding the access-to-information system in Canada is significant for the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (UCTE) and the broader labour movement in several ways:
Transparency and Accountability
Access to information plays a crucial role in ensuring transparency and accountability in government operations. In Canada, the federal government has implemented the Access to Information Act, which allows citizens, including employees and labour unions, to request government documents. However, the law has not undergone a comprehensive revamp since its introduction 40 years ago. This lack of revamping has resulted in an outdated system that struggles to meet the needs of Canadians and the demands of the modern information age.
Empowering our Members
Fortier’s focus on improving the administration of the existing law is particularly relevant to the UCTE and labour unions. The outdated access-to-information system hampers members’ access to relevant information on government policies and labour issues. By addressing the deficiencies in the system, the government can empower our members to make informed decisions, actively participate in discussions on labour rights, workplace safety, fair wages, and advocate for necessary changes.
Timely Responses and Penalties
One of the persistent issues with the current access-to-information system is the lack of timely responses to information requests. The law stipulates that government agencies should respond within 30 days or provide valid reasons for requiring additional time. However, this timeline is often not met, resulting in delays that hinder the UCTE and labour unions’ ability to gather essential data for negotiations and advocacy efforts. As mentioned in the announcement, the need for penalties would incentivize timely responses and ensure that employees and labour unions can access the necessary information when needed.
The announcement highlights that the federal access-to-information law has not undergone significant legislative reforms for 40 years. The UCTE and the broader labour movement have been advocating for changes to the law to address its limitations. Legislative reforms should include updating the law to reflect the current technological landscape, reducing exemptions that limit the release of information, and imposing stricter timelines for responding to information requests. These reforms would ensure that the access-to-information system aligns with Canadians’ needs, including transportation sector employees, and fosters greater transparency and accountability within the federal government.
In summary, the announcement regarding improving the access-to-information system in Canada is particularly relevant to the UCTE and the broader labour movement. The outdated state of the current access-to-information law, which has not been revamped for 40 years, underscores the importance of addressing its deficiencies. By improving transparency, empowering our members, ensuring timely responses, and implementing necessary legislative reforms, the government can enhance the access-to-information system and better serve the interests of Canadians.