Premier calls for an independent review of Bill 29

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James McLeod
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Province rethinking access to information legislation

Premier Tom Marshall announced Thursday afternoon he will appoint a three-person independent committee to review Bill 29 and the province’s acess to information system.

During a late Thursday afternoon news conference at the Confederation Building in St. John’s, Premier Tom Marshall (right) announced the provincial government will hold an independent statutory review of the province’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, as amended by Bill 29. Marshall was joined by Steve Kent, minister responsible for the Office of Public Engagement. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

The decision to revisit Bill 29 was the very first decision made by members of cabinet when they met Thursday, Marshall said, less than a week after Kathy Dunderdale resigned as premier and Marshall was sworn in.

Thorough look at act

“The review will cover the entire act as amended by Bill 29, and we look forward to the recommendations,” Marshall said. “We’re certainly going to ensure that when the report comes in, the complete report and all recommendations will be made available to the general public, and we will take the recommendations very, very seriously.”

In the coming days, Public Engagement Minister Steve Kent will pick three people to sit on the panel for the review.

 Suggestions welcomed

The premier said that if anybody in the public has a suggestion for who should be involved in the review, he wants to hear the suggestion.

As for timelines, Marshall said it would be nice if the review panel finishes the work in time to amend the access to information act in the fall session of the legislature, but the government won’t be putting any time restrictions in place.

“They’ll take the time they need to do their work; I’m not going to give them any arbitrary time frames,” he said.

Access to information has been a source of controversy in the province since the spring of 2012, when the government passed Bill 29 — a suite of amendments which greatly increased the government’s ability to keep documents secret.

Dunderdale ardently defended Bill 29, but since her resignation, the Progressive Conservative government seems to have done an about-face.

“I’ve talked to good supporters of ours who have expressed to me concern about the legislation,” Marshall said.

“There’s this general concern that the government is not as open and transparent as it should be. So, let’s discuss those concerns.”

There was always destined to be a review of the access to information system; by law, the government has to call a review every five years, and the next one was due in 2015.

Marshall is simply starting that review a year early.

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Recent comments

  • Dolf
    January 31, 2014 - 12:41

    Before Dunderdale threw in the towel Kevin O'Brien and Terry French announced publicly they were behind her 100%. She's gone (thankfully) and Marshall gave those two yahoos promotions. Yes, she's gone b'ys, she's gone.

  • Robert
    January 31, 2014 - 12:25

    Perhaps the most concerning aspect of any current governing party is just how much power the leader has; it really approaches almost a dictatorship. We saw this play out with Ms. Michaels, we've certainly seen it with Mr. Harper and for sure we have seen it with Ms Dunderdale. If you want to function in the house at all towing the leaders rules is sadly part of it. So fresh out from under Ms. Dunderdale's thumb it is very apparent that the PC caucus is seizing the opportunity to the the right thing or at least appear to do so!

  • 55CARES
    January 31, 2014 - 10:10

    This government just does not get it. They stand up in the House of Assembly and speak in support of BILL 29 then they vote on it and make it legislation. Now they want a statutory review. There is something drastically wrong with this picture. The simple thing to do is rescind Bill 29, but no, Mr. Marshall wants to spend more money on a statutory review. Mr. Tom Marshall was Minister of Finance for 6 out of the last 7 years? Just look at the mess government finances are in with deficits, at a time, when government are taking in more money than ever before. Danny appoints Kathy. Kathy appoints Tom. I believe the people of this province are finally getting the full picture.

  • 55CARES
    January 31, 2014 - 10:09

    This government just does not get it. They stand up in the House of Assembly and speak in support of BILL 29 then they vote on it and make it legislation. Now they want a statutory review. There is something drastically wrong with this picture. The simple thing to do is rescind Bill 29, but no, Mr. Marshall wants to spend more money on a statutory review. Mr. Tom Marshall was Minister of Finance for 6 out of the last 7 years? Just look at the mess government finances are in with deficits, at a time, when government are taking in more money than ever before. Danny appoints Kathy. Kathy appoints Tom. I believe the people of this province are finally getting the full picture.

  • Marshall Art
    January 31, 2014 - 09:46

    Steve Kent, Minister responsible for the Office of Public Engagement and Minister of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs. That's it by's, the arse is out of 'er; she's come full circle and it's time for another change in Government.

  • joebennett
    January 31, 2014 - 08:48

    I'm finding very difficult to submit comments to this story. But now I'll try again. It's awful sweet of Marshall to re-visit bill 29 after they threw Kathy under the bus. It must be something to do with the polls. I guess the next re-view will be Muskrat Falls . Oh yeah, did you see the smile on Felix Collins face when he was standing with the rest of the bunch - you wouldn't know if his gold-plated pension got increased by going into cabinet. Sorry looking crowd.

  • New Veteran
    January 31, 2014 - 08:42

    Pick me. I worked for CSEC (Communication Security Establishment Canada) and DND (Department of National Defence), was part of the ATIP (Access to Information and Privacy) committee, worked as an Information Systems Security Officer and was qualified to sanitize information so it could be released at a lower classification. Who knew those skills were needed?

  • Concerned Joe
    January 31, 2014 - 08:40

    How interesting to see this government try and whitewash these past couple of years of poor fiscal management and outright cover up of the facts that affect the people of this province. Kathy Dunderdale during her short tenure has done more harm to the conservative party and to the people of this province than any premier in the past. Her lack of skill, coupled with an unwillingness to pay attention to the concerns of the people of this province, have done serious harm. Bill "29" can be easily reversed, but what do we do with the Muskrat Falls blunder that will haunt the people of this province for decades?

  • Tony Rockel
    January 31, 2014 - 08:17

    Steve Kent? Office of Public Engagement? Office of Public Engorgement would be more like it.

  • Terry Walsh
    January 31, 2014 - 08:12

    Bill 29 should never been passed and if Tom Marshal had any kahoona's he would have stood up when it went was being voted on and voted against it considering the public outcry at the time. A review made up of who, cronies of the PC Party?

  • original townie
    January 31, 2014 - 07:36

    From that photo, doesn't Kent remind you of the tail on the dog? How he got a cabinet post....I'm still shaking my head. PS....I have never worked so hard to validate and submit. Telegram, there must be an easier method!

    • Richard Stolth
      January 31, 2014 - 08:10

      Agreed - on both counts. Maybe it's Kent & company clogging up the system with their incessant self-praise, but yes since the Telegram's makeover last year their website has slowed to a crawl. Validation is a real challenge. Even when it finally goes green, you have no idea whether your comment will ever be posted. Half the time they simply disappear into cyber-space. The other half they are posted twice. Time to upgrade your servers guys.

  • original townie
    January 31, 2014 - 07:34

    From that photo, doesn't Kent remind you of the tail on the dog? How he got a cabinet post....I'm still shaking my head. PS....I have never worked so hard to validate and submit. Telegram, there must be an easier method!

  • original townie
    January 31, 2014 - 07:33

    From that photo, doesn't Kent remind you of the tail on the dog? How he got a cabinet post....I'm still shaking my head. PS....I have never worked so hard to validate and submit. Telegram, there must be an easier method!

  • original townie
    January 31, 2014 - 07:33

    From that photo, doesn't Kent remind you of the tail on the dog? How he got a cabinet post....I'm still shaking my head. PS....I have never worked so hard to validate and submit. Telegram, there must be an easier method!

  • original townie
    January 31, 2014 - 07:32

    From that photo, doesn't Kent remind you of the tail on the dog? How he got a cabinet post....I'm still shaking my head. PS....I have never worked so hard to validate and submit. Telegram, there must be an easier method!

  • original townie
    January 31, 2014 - 07:30

    From that photo, doesn't Kent remind you of the tail on the dog? How he got a cabinet post....I'm still shaking my head.

  • Maggy Carter
    January 31, 2014 - 07:13

    This is a transparent, partisan political ploy. It is also an appalling waste of public funds. Would have expected more from Marshall, but it fits right in with the character standing behind him. The goal here is quite simple. The Tories need to diffuse an issue that they know will dog their leadership review and bolster Liberals ahead of the election next Spring. The strategy is to put it on a slow-train-to-China. The thinking is that the public inquiry will re-assure the public that something is being done, while keeping their Secrecy Act in place long enough that they can continue to frustrate any media or opposition search for answers on debacles like Muskrat until the election is in the bag. They are totally indifferent to the cost of a three-man travelling circus with entourage in tow - monies that would be better spent improving health care delivery. Prediction? The non-insider group running for the leadership will condemn the inquiry as a waste and vow to repeal the legislation outright if elected leader. People like Bill Barry, Charlie Oliver will quickly see an opportunity to differentiate themselves from candidates who actually voted for, and publicly defended, this abuse of democracy.

  • Bill 29 Accomplished what It Was Supposed To Do
    January 31, 2014 - 06:39

    It hid the financing costs and risk assessments from public view. The project goes ahead now so they can undo much of Bill 29 as it acomplished what it was intended to do.

  • Cyril Rogers
    January 31, 2014 - 06:38

    Premier Marshall, I will give you the benefit of doubt on this one, provided you ultimately appoint someone with strong judicial credentials and people from the community whose knowledge of the issue is both strong and beyond reproach. They need to be individuals not tainted with ties to a political party, especially the governing party. They need to be respected members of their profession and people who are not constrained by terms set up by the government. Given your government's sorry history of forcing terms onto previous inquiries, when you wanted a certain outcome, I am dubious but hope you will do what is right…..for the right reasons.

  • Tony Rockel
    January 31, 2014 - 03:54

    “I’ve talked to good supporters of ours who have expressed to me concern about the legislation,” Marshall said. Was this before or after Dunderdale's resignation? Was the entire Tory caucus both deaf and blind right up to the time of Marshall's announcement?