At Tuesday’s Freedom of Information (Or Not) event hosted by the Canadian Journalism Foundation the Information Commissioner of Canada Suzanne Legault said: “Transparency is an idea whose time has come because transparency generates trust”.
It’s not just towards the government has there been calls for transparency where full information was released just 16% of the time in 2010 down from 41% in 2000 when asked for access to information. I’ve seen these calls across a wide swath of industries as people struggle to keep up with a rapidly changing world that has become increasingly divided between the big corporations and the smaller to medium sized businesses.
Simply put, access to information is critical to driving innovation in Canada from both business and government.
One of those leaders as of late has been John Ruffalo, the CEO of OMERS Ventures who presented a vision to Canada to chart the course for Canada’s knowledge based industries. He said that a recent Conference Board of Canada report gave Canada a “D” on innovation, and ranked 14th out of 17 peer countries.
Ruffalo continued in saying that large anchor companies are vanishing, either through acquisition or bankruptcy, and mid-sized companies are not stepping in to take their place. Meanwhile, smaller companies are being starved to death as venture capital levels hover at levels not witnessed since the mid-1990s.
He also added that Canada was one of the worst countries in the world when it came to the sharing of information, confirmed by the Stratford Report which was released at Canada 3.0 conference back in May.
Chris O'Neill, the Managing Director of Google Canada also added that it needs to be easier for businesses that need funding to know where to go rather than relying on a single resource. He continued in saying that there is a need to foster this idea that it is more than okay to share ideas and that he would love to see this more in Toronto.
Canada was pointed out as a failure compared to worldwide standards when it came to access to information recently by a worldwide study.
Legault, the Information Commissioner, also supported the idea of open government and the public release of all information that doesn’t infringe on personal privacy or national security matters because years of legislation have now been passed and the technology is available to do such a thing.
After all, 60% of Canadians believe the Harper government makes it too difficult to access information, according to a recent study pulled up by the Canadian Journalism Foundation.
The idea of open government is one that is a difficult decision for any government to make- especially as every ruling party makes mistakes while in office and open government would allow for the intense scrutiny of nearly anything which may result in department scandal after scandal.
It’s hard to see how the government could want that, especially in this day and age when things can be super amplified by social media.
A ruling on access to information by high courts some months ago indicated that ministers and prime ministers offices would not be forced to comply with access to information requests.
While Canadian journalists won’t get to open up the whole Pandora’s box at once, we are seeing the CBC being investigated by the current Harper government, which is an example of the court’s ruling that departments are forced to comply with access to information requests.
However, it’s a step in the right direction that may allow Canada to get back on top of the innovation rankings despite all the great technological breakthroughs Canadians have made in recent years.