Written Question backlog suggest lack of transparency
Morell – The week of October 24-30 is International Open Access Week and has Morell-Mermaid MLA Sidney MacEwen taking the MacLauchlan government to task over extended delays in responding to requests for public information and suggesting that legislative rule changes may be required to bring more transparency.
MacEwen today revealed that only one out of 1054 written question submitted by the PC Opposition Caucus since the Spring sitting of the House has been answered by the MacLauchlan government.
“The MacLauchlan government’s reluctance to answer written questions is part of an ongoing trend to not share information with Islanders. Over 98 percent of the written questions we’ve submitted since the last election haven’t been answered and some date back nearly a year and a half. Many of these questions from our PC MLA’s directly address local issues raised by our constituents. Others address requests for statistics, financial data and information about government programs and services. They deserve to be answered, not ignored,” said Morell-Mermaid MLA Sidney MacEwen.
MacEwen noted that this is not the only area where the MacLauchlan government is reluctant to share information, citing other examples such as unanswered requests for information during review of budget estimates, difficulties obtaining data around school review underway, extended delays for Freedom of Information requests and ongoing road blocks obtaining information through legislative committees that can drag on for months. In the case of information requests during budget estimates MacEwen pointed out that under questioning in the House this spring that Premier MacLauchlan directly committed to providing answers to information requests during budget estimates. To date this has not happened.
To remedy the situation with written questions MacEwen said he will be seeking a legislative rule change requiring government to answer written questions within a set period of time. The federal House of Commons rules allow members to request answers to written questions within forty-five days. MacEwen noted that some of the unanswered written questions date as far back as August 2015.
“Sharing more information will help shape better public discussion of issues and lead to better policy decisions. That’s why our party called for a greater emphasis on open data and strengthening transparency laws like the Freedom of Information Act. I will be asking the Legislature’s rules committee to adopt a new rule that requires timely answers to requests for information similar to the practice federally,” said MacEwen.