Thursday, May 08, 2008

Tories axe access to information database

The federal Conservatives have killed a useful tool that kept track of access to information requests, according to the CBC.

The Coordination of Access to Information Requests System, or CAIRS, is an electronic list of nearly every access to information request filed to federal departments and agencies.

Originally created in 1989, it was used as an internal tool to keep track of requests and co-ordinate the government's response between agencies to potentially sensitive information released.

Now, users mine the database to do statistical studies, fine tune phrasing on new requests and discover obscure documents — often using the information against the government.

...Last week, a notice to civil servants from Treasury Board stated that effective April 1, "the requirement to update CAIRS is no longer in effect."

The opposition cried "shame" in the House of Commons, but Prime Minister Harper says the system is a relic of over-centralized government.
[Treasury Board President Vic] Toews insisted his government was "opening up the books."

"For the first time, Canadians can see how their tax dollars are being spent by the CBC, the Wheat Board and Canada Post," Toews told the Commons.

...CBC journalist David McKie took over work on the web-based version of CAIRS...in 2006 using another publicly accessible website (http://www.onlinedemocracy.ca).

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