Collins on defensive at ATIPPA review

James McLeod
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Public Engagement Minister Sandy Collins came to the access to information review hearings in St. John’s Tuesday saying that he wasn’t looking to make recommendations on how to change the law.

Sandy Collins - Telegram file photo

Instead, what he got was hours of being on the defensive, as former premier Clyde Wells and other members of the committee cross-examined Collins about access to information and the changes made under Bill 29.

Right at the beginning, Wells pointedly said that the vast majority of the people who have spoken about ATIPPA complained that it’s too restrictive and too prone to secrecy.

Collins was grilled on why the government found it necessary to keep ministers’ briefing materials completely secret from the public.

Similarly, Wells pointedly said  there is clear evidence the government has abused attorney-client privilege to keep documents secret from the public.

Through most of the presentation, Collins let deputy ministers and senior officials within his department do the talking.

This week, the review committee is hearing from a range of presenters on access to information issues.

Ultimately, Wells along with retired journalist Doug Letto and former federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart will write a report recommending changes to the legislation.



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Recent comments

  • Dood
    August 19, 2014 - 20:13

    Why doesn't the Telegram ask Collins about the 26 children that have died since CYFS was formed. Start the inquiry now.

  • Anna
    August 19, 2014 - 17:16

    This must be why Mr.Marshall promoted Mr. Collins to be a MHA. Someone had to be the fall guy and claim not to know what the committee were talking about. But it does increase Mr. Collins' pension and he can go back to the House and say nothing else until the next election.

    • Dolf
      August 20, 2014 - 07:38

      Right on Anna. Remember the Cameron inquiry? Collins ignorance of the subject equates to Danny Williams' flunkies who couldn't recall getting out of bed in the morning. You're right, Collins is taking the fall for Dunderdale, Kennedy, King, Felix Collins, Clyde Jackman, and others who did nothing to curb Bill 29.

  • Justice for all
    August 19, 2014 - 16:41

    Bill 29 was used by Darin King and the director of public prosecutions to cover up a mess they made involving me and my family. I would like to appear before this committee but just cannot. Instead I have constantly complained to the minister of justice and the deputy and they do not even respond. Typical arrogance by King and his director of public prosecutions. This Bill should not be used to cover the wrong doings of people who are supposed to represent us. It is a shameful mess. I will continue to send messages even though I do not get a response and some day I hope that the minister and his people involved will meet and discuss this matter and give me the response they took to my complaint I made against the people in power who did this wrongful thing to us.

  • Corporate Psycho
    August 19, 2014 - 14:34

    Collins can't stand the heat. No surprise there. Had to let the flunky's do the talking. If Wells thinks no one is watching he better think again. His reputation is on the line.

  • Maggy Carter
    August 19, 2014 - 13:55

    I wouldn't get too bent out of shape with Wells' equating a lack of formal public input with public disinterest, and disinterest with satisfaction with the status quo. These are tongue-in-cheek comments intended to goad the public. As I suggested many months ago, very few ordinary folk would attend the hearings let alone make presentations. The reasons are obvious. The public well understands the underlying issue - secrecy and arrogance versus transparency and accountability. But they will defer to organizations that individually and collectively represent the public interest to carry the ball on what is essentially and esoteric exercise. Not everyone is comfortable with legislative legalese let alone speaking in public. There is also a huge amount of cynicism - generally well founded. They understand all too well the disingenuous nature of politics; that what a government says on its political deathbed a year or less from an election that will almost certainly oust them is hardly the most reliable. Nor should Wells conclude that, because the vast majority of the public never makes an access request, that it has no interest in prying open government information vaults. Most of us cede that initiative and responsibility to news organizations and public interest groups. Nevertheless we also harbour the notion that, should a personal need or interest arise, we can avail of the ATIPPA system without getting the run around. Ironically the Wells' administration was one of three in this province's history that deservedly earned a reputation for being among the most secretive, unresponsive and autocratic. In that sense he is an odd choice for this assignment. And yet, ex-leaders often find things look a little different in the rear-view mirror. Wells has an opportunity to strike a blow for democracy. He could make a clear-cut, insightful and compelling case for government openness that would serve for years as a Canadian benchmark. He could render it so air-tight (for which he is intellectually capable) that this nor any other government for decades to come in this province would dare challenge the legislation that would embody it. Or he could decide - as the old folks would say - to 'pass himself', meaning that he would say and do the minimum that gets him by in the circumstance and that would allow this most arrogant government of present to say 'see, we really weren't so bad after all'. Like a great many of the Newfoundland unwashed, I might not follow the process as keenly as Mr. Wells might like; but Wells should be under no illusions when it comes to our interest in the outcome.

    • jh
      August 20, 2014 - 16:57

      An excellent comment.

  • Dolf
    August 19, 2014 - 10:57

    Yesterday's Telegram said the chairman was lamenting the fact not many presenters had show up with presentations, or words to that effect. My personal feeling was The Telegram would express my feelings based on its commentaries since the inception of the infamous Bill 29. And they would and could do a hell'ava lot better job of it than I.

    • Next caller: Line 1, you're on the air.
      August 19, 2014 - 11:54

      I guess Clyde Wells doesn't listen to the call-in radio programs or read opinion columns and comments submitted to the Telegram. If he did, he wouldn't think that the lack of submissions to his committee represents a lack of discontent concerning Bill 29. A lot of people don't have time to prepare submissions for committees like this. Like Hall and Oates said, "You're out of touch. I'm out of time."

    • W Bagg
      August 19, 2014 - 15:05

      Well I wanted to present but my employer didn't allow me to take the day off, and they also wouldn't pay me and I didn't want to burn 10% of my vacation to present at something the govt prob won't change anyway.