Friday, October 31, 2008

Licence to vote: N.S. Grits propose dropping voting age to 16

Licence to vote: N.S. Grits propose dropping voting age to 16

Last Updated: Friday, October 31, 2008 | 11:34 AM AT Comments14Recommend6

CBC News

Nova Scotia Liberals want to give 16-year-olds the right to vote.

Stephen McNeil, leader of Nova Scotia's Liberals, introduced a bill Thursday in the legislature to lower the voting age from 18 for provincial, municipal and school board elections.

McNeil said younger teens deserve a voice at the ballot box, as many issues up for debate now will directly affect them in the future.

He cited the example of legislation relating to post-secondary education.

"They should have a right to cast their ballot on that and pass judgment on the government and the direction where we want to go as Nova Scotians," McNeil said.

McNeil also sees it as a way to get young people interested in politics.

Premier Rodney MacDonald isn't ready to embrace the idea of lowering the voting age.

"I haven't really given it much thought, but I do have reservations," he said. "One of the things I think is better to do is to make sure our young people are getting more exposure to learning about civics."

MacDonald, a former gym teacher, said he's not sure 16- and 17-year-olds are ready for the responsibility of casting a ballot.

NDP Leader Darrell Dexter is more open to the idea.

"Well, they were mature enough to go to war back in the early days and mature enough to drive," Dexter said, "so those kinds of age limits are basically arbitrary."

He wants to hear from a legislature committee looking at democracy in Nova Scotia before he decides whether to support the Liberal bill.


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

DELAWARE: State gets low marks on transparency |

Among the subcategories, Delaware ranked worst in the category of campaign finance, which looked at each state's laws regarding disclosure, public financing, contribution and solicitation limits and penalties.


Under a scoring system developed by the Better Government Association, the state received its lowest score in the freedom-of-information category, getting poor marks for its response time, judicial priority of FOIA complaints and sanctions.


It got better marks for its appeal process and awarding of attorney fees and costs.


In the whistleblower-protection category, Delaware ranked 45th overall. The state did better in the open-meetings and conflict-of-interest categories, ranking 26th and 24th, respectively.



"I have long believed that Delawareans have a right to know what happens in the state government their tax dollars support," Minner said in the statement. "I have always tried to be open in the processes that affect the people of our state and will continue to do so."


Full Article:

Minority of candidates pledge to support open government (Maine)

Minority of candidates pledge to support open government

AUGUSTA (Oct 28): In early September, the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition challenged all candidates for the Maine Senate and House of Representatives to sign the coalition's pledge to support open government and public access.


The response has been mixed.

"The MFOIC believes that freedom of speech, open meetings of government and access to public records are fundamental tenets of democracy," said MFOIC President Mal Leary. "We would like to believe candidates for the Legislature agree, but relatively few of the 371 House and Senate candidates have signed the pledge to support Maine's long tradition of openness."

Candidates for the state Senate had the best response rate, with 40 percent of the candidates signing the pledge. Among House candidates, 24 percent of all the candidates signed the pledge.

Area legislators and candidates who have signed the pledge include: Sen. Carol Weston, a Montville Republican, who represents Waldo County; Seth Yentes, a Monroe Democrat, who is a candidate in House District 42; Rep. Jayne Giles, a Belfast Republican, who represents House District 43; and Andrew O'Brien, a Lincolnville Democrat, who is a candidate in House District 44.

The MFOIC mailed pledge forms to each legislative candidate and has posted the names and districts of all candidates that signed the pledge on its Web site, Candidates may still sign the pledge by email and be listed on the Web site.

"It is important for us all to know that the people we elect as our personal representatives are pledging to uphold our right to access government," said Judy Meyer, vice president of the MFOIC. "These pledges serve as a personal guarantee that we are electing people who will honor Maine's right-to-know law, which is our best guarantee of government transparency and accountability."

When Maine's Freedom of Access Act became law in 1959, the Legislature declared "public proceedings exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of the Legislature that their actions be taken openly and that the records of their actions be open to public inspection and their deliberations be conducted openly."

Since that first measure became law, though, legislators have enacted hundreds of exceptions to it.

The Maine Freedom of Information Coalition believes government best serves the public when it operates in the most open manner possible. Members of the coalition, which include media organizations, lawyers, academicians, public-policy groups and like-minded individuals, strive to ensure the public is informed about government actions to the fullest extent possible.

The MFOIC will continue to update its Web site through Election Day and urges Mainers to see if their local candidates have signed the open government pledge.


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Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia: NS Online Food Safety Inspection Reports a Great Example in Proactive Access for All Government Offices to Follow

The Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia welcomes the decision of the Department of Agrculture to make public the results of inspections of Nova Scotia restaurants. I hope other Departments will follow Minister Taylor's lead is making important information readily available to Nova Scotians.

Darce Fardy
President Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia

Food Safety Inquiry | Government of Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Food Establishment Inspection Reports

There are approximately 5000 food establishments in Nova Scotia, including restaurants, takeouts, grocery stores and other food-service facilities. Based on a risk assessment, Food Safety Specialists visit each establishment one to three times a year. After each visit, the operator is provided with an inspection report that confirms they are in compliance with food safety regulations or requires them to take corrective action to address violations and food safety issues. The inspection report disclosure web site provides information to the public concerning the results of these inspections.

The reports that are located on this site are only for inspections completed after July 10, 2008. As more inspection reports are added, they will be available for a two-year period. In general, inspection reports will be posted to this site within three days of an inspection being completed.

The information in these reports describes conditions found at the time of the inspection. Food establishment inspections are part of a comprehensive, three-prong approach to food safety in the province of Nova Scotia. The process includes government regulations, owner/operator processes and training, and consumer education and awareness. Periodic inspections reinforce operators to ensure safe food handling occurs everyday they service customers. All aspects are meant to work together to facilitate best practices in the industry overall. Visitors are encouraged to browse the history of the establishment.

Although the information is thought to be accurate, the Province of Nova Scotia implies absolutely no warranty for its accuracy, completeness, or use. The Province shall not be held liable for any losses or damages, including lost profits, for the use of information within this website or information that can be accessed through this website.

Start Inquiry


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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Three-quarters of FOI requests granted in 2007 - Tue, Oct 28, 2008:

Three-quarters of FOI requests granted in 2007


Tue, Oct 28, 2008

Over three-quarters of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests made in 2007 were granted to some extent, according to a report published today.

The Tenth Report on the Freedom of Information Act, which provides statistics about use of the Act during 2007, shows that 10,704 FOI requests were made in 2007, of which 77 per cent were granted either in full or in part.

That breaks down to 6,323 requests granted, 2,211 part granted, and 1,407 refused during 2007.

Broken down by sector, the Health Service Executive received the most FOI requests - 3,955, or 37 per cent of the total for 2007, followed by Government departments and State bodies (3,230, 30 per cent), and other bodies, including voluntary hospitals and statutory voluntary Agencies (1,685, 16 per cent).

In terms of requester, clients comprised 60 per cent, journalists 8 per cent, business/interest groups 6 per cent, Oireachtas/public representative 1 per cent, staff 5 per cent, and others 20 per cent.

The report can be accessed online on the FOI website and on the Department's website



42% drop in FoI applications shows fees must be cut – Bruton: Fine Gael News

Fine Gael National Press Office Press Release


Leinster House


Richard Bruton TD

Dublin 2

Nick Miller

Deputy Leader /


086 6992080



Tuesday 28th October 2008


42% drop in FoI applications shows fees must be cut - Bruton


FF fostering a culture of secrecy at the heart of the State

The 42% drop in Freedom of Information (FoI) applications since Fianna Fáil imposed fees shows the urgent need for the scheme's punitive fees to be slashed, Fine Gael Deputy Leader & Finance Spokesman Richard Bruton TD has said.

Speaking after the publication of the Tenth Report by the Minister of Finance on Freedom of Information, Deputy Bruton said there were 7,739 fewer FoI applications last year than in 2003, when fees were imposed by Fianna Fáil.

"When Fianna Fáil started charging for FoI applications it had an immediate impact on the number of applications, which dropped by 7,739, or 42%, between 2003 and 2007. The Information Commissioner has said this significant reduction is due to the introduction of fees.

"On several occasions the Commissioner has called for a review of the scale and structure of FoI charges. The Freedom of Information scheme was created in order to foster a culture of openness and transparency. Yet Fianna Fáil's ill-advised decision to impose fees has seriously damaged the scheme and its effectiveness. The Government's repeated claim that the fees discourage spurious applications is bogus and undermines the spirit in which the Act was created. It reinforces the perception that Fianna Fáil is fostering a culture of secrecy at the heart of the State.

"In terms of the eight countries that operate FoI schemes like the Irish one, Ireland is one of only two jurisdictions to charge for an appeal. However, the Canadian State of Ontario charges just €16 for an appeal, compared to €150 in Ireland.

"In 2005 the Oireachtas Finance and Public Service Committee met with the Information Commissioner to assess the impact of fees on the FoI Act. The Committee wrote to the Finance Minister advising him that the fees were excessive and asked him to have 'the matter addressed by way of legislation at the first available opportunity'. The Minister ignored the request, and three years later the regime is as punitive as ever.

"Fianna Fáil has also ignored repeated calls for the FoI Act to be extended to a swathe of bodies which are currently not covered, including An Garda Síochána, the Central Applications Office (CAO), the Adoption Board, the State Claims Agency, the Central Bank and the Financial Services Authority. The Information Commissioner has said there is no reason for these Bodies not to be included in the FoI Act."


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Consultant offers few answers to Prince Rupert citizens

Consultant offers few answers to Prince Rupert citizens

Published: October 27, 2008 9:00 PM

Updated: October 28, 2008 7:18 AM

George Paul, the consultant hired by the city to investigate the hiring of Tanalee Hesse, appeared in council chambers on October 27 to address questions raised by the concerned citizens group last week. But for the most part he left the future of those requests in the hands of the committee.

In terms of papers or reports prepared by Hesse and the request for all documents provided to him by the city, Paul noted that they were both reasonable requests but that the members of the committee should file a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request to properly obtain the documents in a "professional and proper manner".

"The credibility of the [FOI] process is enhanced if it is done through the proper channels. The FOI process is a very viable and appropriate one. The officer responsible for FOI requests needs to go through the exchanges to determine which are releasable, which would infringe on privacy and which are subject to solicitor/client privilege," he said, noting that the FOI process also allows the requester to appeal decisions made by the City in the release of the information.

"There are certainly things I would not provide. I have corresponded with and received documents from your solicitor and that would not be released...Certainly a large amount of the documents would be releasable."



NB Ombudsman says legislation would reduce access to government information: The Canadian Press

Ombudsman says legislation would reduce access to government information

1 hour ago

FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's ombudsman says proposed changes to the province's Right to Information Act would result in reduced access to information, not more.

Bernard Richard says he's upset the number of exemptions for releasing information would go to 15 pages from one-and-a-half pages under the new bill.

He also told a legislature committee Tuesday that an increased cost to seek information would be extremely restrictive.

It currently costs $5 plus photocopying charges to seek government information.

If the changes are approved, it would cost $25, plus photocopying charges and a $30 per hour search charge.

Richard says he is pleased the proposed legislation would increase the scope of the act to include municipalities, police, universities and public agencies.


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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cast your vote -

Check it out, there are some good responses in the comments section.



October 21, 2008

Cast your vote


For Saturday's municipal elections, only 37 per cent of voters cast ballots for the mayor, councillors and school board members, the lowest turnout since the amalgamation of Halifax Regional Municipality. And, on Tuesday, 60.7 per cent of eligible voters took part in the federal election, also an all-time low.

Why do you think people aren't bothering to vote? What will it take for more people to participate in our democracy?


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Openness watchdog turns 30 | The Daily Page | Wisconsin

Openness watchdog turns 30

Bill Lueders on Tuesday 10/21/2008 1:00 pm , (1) Recommendation

In October 1978, a group of 21 representatives of state print and broadcast media met at the offices of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. Their collective goal: To "have more clout, become more of a fist, serve a stronger warning [and] have a bigger impact" in defending rights guaranteed under the First Amendment.

The result was a new state organization called the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. The group, of which I am proud to be part, has survived and thrived.

The driving force behind the council's formation was Bob Meloon, then executive editor of The Capital Times. He gave an impassioned speech at its inaugural meeting.

"The hard fact remains that the arteries of information about government and its legal workings are gradually closing. They are being closed by people who don't believe in the open processes of our democratic society," said Meloon, who died in 1996.

"They are being closed by an ever-more-complex technology which makes physical access to information more difficult. And they are being closed by changing attitudes among the general public, which does not have the fervent support for press freedom processes that we know to be vital."

"In Wisconsin, the trademark of the state is openness, transparency in government and records," said Abrahamson. "Let the sun shine in. Sunshine is a good disinfectant."

We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

Your Right to Know is a monthly column distributed by the Freedom of Information Council (, a nonprofit group dedicated to open government. Bill Lueders is the group's president.


Full Article: <>

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

FOIA and Transparency on TQ Radio

Tomorrow at 10AM, Megan Rhyne of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government joins TQ radio to discuss Virginia's freedom of information laws and budget transparency -- how FOIA works, how you can use it, and why it's critical to keep government open and accountable.

It's a call-in show and your comments are welcome. That number is (347)426-3146. Or, you can email me your questions at nleahy[at]tertiumquids[dot]org, and I'll read them on the air.

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Good news: Federal agencies to be held more accountable

Good news: Federal agencies to be held more accountable

Monday, October 20th, 2008

The Improving Government Accountability Act, signed last week by President Bush, contains more good news for your right to know.

An amendment attached to the bill, HR 928, sponsored by our own Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand requires that inspectors general of federal agencies post all reports or audits on the Inspector General's Web sites for the various federal agencies. The reports, then, will be available to members of the press and public so they can learn more about waste, fraud and abuse being reported in the agencies.

Inspectors general are assigned to each federal agency, and their job is to direct audits and investigations into their respective agencies' operations in order to promote efficiency and detect mismanagement, fraud, abuse and waste of programs and operations. The inspectors general also make recommendations for improvements and corrective actions.

To find an inspector general's office, just Google "inspector general" and the name of the agency you're seeking information about. For instance, if you're interested in the inspector general reports on the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, Google "inspector general Veterans Affairs" and the site will come up. There's already a wealth of information on some sites, including reports and investigations dating back several years, as well as press releases, presentations to Congress and information on how to file Freedom of Information Act requests for information.

Last year, according to Gillibrand's office, the federal government's 58 inspector generals saved taxpayers $9.9 billion through audit recommendations and recovered another $6.8 billion from investigations.

It's important to the promotion of open government that the audits and reports be posted online for citizens to review with their own eyes. This is a good amendment to a good bill that helps make the federal government more transparent.

– Mark Mahoney


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Freedom of Information

October 21, 2008 by Chanroeun Pa

Advocacy and Policy Institute (API), FOI Working Group and Pact Cambodia

Download English Version Khmer Version

This brochure on Freedom of Information (FOI) provides information about the right of Cambodians, guaranteed by the Cambodian Constitution and other international instruments, to access public information. It also explains the importance and benefits of FOI to all Cambodians, the need for an FOI law, and what should be included in Cambodia's Law on Access to Information.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Voter turnout only 37% in HRM election - AOL News Canada

Voter turnout only 37% in HRM election

Source: CBC News

Posted: 10/20/08 8:39AM


Fewer than four out of 10 eligible voters cast a ballot in the Halifax municipal election, with some people blaming the low turnout on voter fatigue.

There were 284,258 eligible voters in the Halifax Regional Municipality. But only a handful more than 100,000 voted Saturday or in advance polls - a turnout of just 37 per cent.

With the use of a new electronic voting system, municipal election officials were hoping to reach 50 per cent.

Krista Snow, who lost her Waverley-area council seat to Barry Dalrymple, called the low numbers disappointing. She would have done better had more people voted, she said.

"There's people that walk miles and miles across the desert to vote," Snow said. "And this election, they could have picked up their phone at home, and so it's extremely disappointing."

First the first time, voters in the HRM had the option of making their choices online or by telephone. The electronic system was introduced to make voting easier and encourage more people to cast a ballot. It was available during an advance poll.

But only slightly more than 10 per cent of voters marked an X through this system.

James Steuwe, who lost a race to incumbent Dawn Sloane in District 12, blamed the low numbers on voter fatigue.

The municipal election coincided with the federal election - an advance poll was even held the same day as the federal vote last Tuesday.

"It was clear when we were heading door to door that people had had enough politics," Steuwe said. "They went out to vote on Tuesday federally, and people weren't going to head out again on Saturday."

Voter turnout for the federal election was also lower across the province than in two previous elections, with slightly more than 60 per cent of eligible Nova Scotians casting a ballot.

Nova Scotians head to the polls every four years to elect municipal and school representatives.

In the 2004 municipal election, voter turnout in the Halifax region was around 48 per cent. But that year's balloting included a province-wide plebiscite on Sunday shopping.

In 2000, turnout was about 37 per cent.


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Software tester honored by FOIFT with 2008 James Madison Award for challenging Texas Gov. on e-mail | - Houston Chronicle

Wisconsin man to receive FOI award

Software tester challenged Perry's policy of deleting e-mails in 7 days

Associated Press

Oct. 17, 2008, 11:19PM


DALLAS — The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas is presenting its 2008 James Madison Award to John Washburn, a software tester and citizen activist from Wisconsin who challenged the Texas governor's policy of deleting e-mails after only seven days.

The foundation will present the award during the John Henry Faulk Awards Luncheon at its Oct. 24 conference in Austin.

The James Madison Award was created to honor those whose appreciation and respect for the First Amendment and open government have been demonstrated by exemplary actions, words or deeds.

Last year, Washburn began requesting e-mail records from Texas Gov. Rick Perry's office twice a week as a way to thwart the destruction of those public records.

Washburn also has offered advice to participants of the first annual Blogger Sunshine Project, which resulted in the first survey of e-mail retention policies of governors' offices in several states.

Washburn became interested in election procedures and open government in 1992 when a friend asked for his help in researching the book, Votescam: The Stealing of America, because of Washburn's extensive experience in software quality and test tracking.

The book alleged persistent election fraud perpetrated in the Florida counties of Broward, Dade and Miami between 1970 and 1989, particularly with punch cards. His friend asked Washburn to determine if any frauds alleged in VoteScam were possible in Wisconsin.

Washburn's interest in election integrity was renewed when several municipalities in southeast Wisconsin experienced irregularities during the November 2004 election. He filed a number of open records requests in his attempts to audit that election and elections in 2005 and 2006.

Washburn successfully sued for the release of Milwaukee election records for the November 2004 election.


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Friday, October 17, 2008

The Right to Information: Good Law and Practice —

The Right to Information: Good Law and Practice brings together information on the legal frameworks for the right to information as well case law from more than 80 countries, organized and analyzed by topic. With a focus on good law and practice, the website  provides comparative overviews of, and country summaries illustrating, the current state of the right to information held by governments and bodies that perform public functions or operate with public funds. Experts from dozens of countries have contributed material and have indicated their willingness to correct, update and comment on the material posted. The Justice Initiative has organized and intends to maintain this website, and, together with Access Info Europe, will continue to collect, analyze and upload information.

The site is still under construction. We will be posting new sections over the coming months, and will also add pages in languages other than English. We have included links to documents in other languages, where available, on the pages under the Laws and Resources tabs in the top horizontal toolbar. New content will be featured on the front page of this website.

For more about this site, please go to About this Site.

There is a Log in button in the upper right hand corner of the screen. We will shortly provide information about  how to register with this site. 

To send us comments, corrections or additions, please click on the contact button in the upper right hand corner of the screen. You may provide your name and contact information, or not, as you prefer.

We very much hope that you find this website useful – and that you will bear with us while we get it in shape!

                               Sandra Coliver, Open Society Justice Initiative

                               Helen Darbishire, Access Info Europe


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Thursday, October 16, 2008

A little ditty about D250 -

October 16, 2008



A little ditty about D250

By Rebecca Schneidereit


D250 is on buses. D250 is on posters. D250 is on the violently neon-green pen I stole off someone's desk. Featuring artsy black-and-white graphics and edgy slogans, D250 is reaching a wide audience here in Halifax. There's just one question: what the heck is it?

"My guess is a camera model," says Iain Canuel, a 21-year-old sales representative.

"I've seen people wearing shirts with (D250) on it," says Sean Smith, 20, holds a technical degree. "But (I've) never checked it out to see what it is."

"They're this company, I guess," opines Stewart Delo, a student studying theatre courses at Dalhousie. "They give out these forms that have totally oversimplified justice questions."

Of all the people I talked to, only Hannah Sarrouy, 20, a screen arts student, knows what it refers to. "It's 250 years of democracy," she says. "They have all these ad campaigns because they're trying to get youth to vote... And they have all these hip, cool ads all over the place."

The D250 website, with the slogan Make Your Mark, does look hip and cool. "Honestly, does your opinion matter?" Its main page asks. "Does your vote make a difference to anyone? Does it even make a difference to you?"

Chastised, I read on. "In the last federal election, more than 1.2 million young Canadians (between 18 to 25) didn't bother to vote. That's enough to affect key issues AND determine a different Prime Minister. That's enough to make people care what you think … But none of that matters if you don't vote in the first place."

It's true that Canadian youth are infamously apathetic when it comes to the ballot box— especially considering their more politically engaged American peers. But is the problem that youth aren't "bothering" to vote—or that they simply see no reason to? "My personal vote doesn't really matter," says 19-year-old Stewart. "I'm out of touch. I don't know how the world works." Besides, "The choice (of candidates) is… interchangeable."

Hannah is more radical. Democracy is 250 years old. Maybe, she muses, the system itself is becoming outdated. "Democracy works better when there's a smaller country … I'm positive that there's a better system, I just don't know what it is."

Why this sudden wave of contrasted radicalism and apathy? Does the under-25 set simply need a talking to? ("When I was your age, I walked 10 miles in the snow to vote … uphill l… both ways!") Or, are there deeper forces at work? Apathy plays a role in the absent youth vote, as does disillusionment with a system dismissed as symbolic. But insecurity about being able to make an informed choice when voting is another reason youth steer clear of the ballot box.

"I don't follow politics or local news … I don't know what's happening," says Matt Coffey, 21. "It would almost be stupid for me to vote … I don't think I really deserve to vote, if I don't know what's going on."

Iain knows "what's going on," but it doesn't impress him. "Voting for political leaders is very skewed. When given two or three options to choose between, all with similar policies and the pockets of the corporation to think about … my vote ends up meaning very little."

Perhaps the refusal of disillusioned youth to vote is itself a social critique. For the federal election, Hannah, Sean, and Iain were planning to vote. As am I. Twenty-one-year-old Alycya Moore, Matt, and Stewart were not.

"People my age are a) Marxist, b) apathetic, or c) very jaded about how social systems work," says Stewart. "Hence the not voting."

"I just know who I want to run the country, and then I vote for them," says Hannah. "I'm having a say in how the country is run."

By the time you read this, a federal election will have just passed and the youth demographic will have made their mark – or not.

Either way, however, it seems unlikely that D250 will sway the youth turnout too drastically, especially since many young people regard the campaign with a cynical eye.

"All of a sudden, they're die-hard about getting people to vote," says Hannah. "It's like high school. The cool kids are putting (D250 ads) out."

"There are a lot of companies doing this kind of thing," Stewart agrees, tuning his guitar. "They're trying to be so hip and cool that it turns people off of them."


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Making your mark municipally -

October 16, 2008


Making your mark municipally

By Billy Comeau


Buried under the coverage of the Canadian and American federal elections is the Halifax municipal election. Perhaps not as glamorous, but every bit as important, these elections to elect a mayor, councillors and school board members could have a more immediate impact on the everyday lives of students.

"The issues touch you when you walk out your front door," says James Stuewe, a Dalhousie grad student in Public Administration and municipal candidate for District 12. "Sidewalks, housing, transportation, the environment, a future in Halifax, these are the issues that face everyone, especially students."

Muncipal elections take place every four years on the third Saturday of October. Polls are open Saturday, Oct. 18 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Housing, transportation and crime are issues that can determine whether students want to stay in Halifax. "Local politics affects students on a personal level," says Tara Gault, executive director of the Halifax Student Alliance. "The city needs to do more to ensure students are safe and can afford housing and transportation. The happier they are, the more likely they are to live here after they graduate."

Clouding the issues is the growing concern over student voting regulations. Currently, if you are not a resident of Halifax you may be ineligible to vote. If you're from another Nova Scotia community, you can only vote in Halifax if you're married to someone living in the city. If you're from another province, you have to have lived in Halifax for three months prior to the election.

"This is a hindrance to students," says Ms. Gault. "We're supposed to be celebrating 250 years of democracy yet there is this barrier."

Students live in Halifax "and then they're told they can't vote in the city," says Mark Coffin, vice president, education for the Dalhousie Student Union. "It's completely unfair."

Mr. Stuewe believes it alienates an important segment of the Halifax population. "Students are a huge part of the culture in Halifax," he explains. "Imagine if we could retain more students, more youth and they stayed and built successful lives here."

While the voting policy is made at a provincial level, Mr. Stuewe thinks council can do more. "Council needs to stand up and demand the province re-evaluate the issue of student voting because students are a vital part of this city."

Despite the confusion, Mr. Stuewe, Ms. Gault and Mr. Coffin encourage all students to investigate their options and if eligible to vote, to do so.


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OFFICE OF THE INFORMATION AND PRIVACY COMMISSIONER/ONTARIO | Do you know what your rights are when it comes to FOI and privacy?

Do you know what your rights are when it comes to FOI and privacy?

LONDON, ON, Oct. 15 /CNW/ - The Office of the Information and Privacy
Commissioner of Ontario will have a small team in London Thursday and Friday
to help raise awareness of individuals' rights under Ontario's Freedom of
Information and Protection of Privacy Acts and the Personal Health Information
Protection Act.
One of the key events is an information table that will be set up at
London's University Hospital from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, where two members
of the IPC team will hand out IPC publications and answer questions from the
public about their access and privacy rights. The information table will be
near the hospital's third-floor cafeteria.

Among other events are:

- a seminar Thursday afternoon on the provincial and municipal Freedom
of Information and Protection of Privacy Acts, to which freedom of
information and privacy co-ordinators from a wide swath of
southwestern Ontario (municipalities, school boards, libraries,
health units, police forces and other government institutions) have
been invited;

- a seminar on Ontario's third privacy Act - the Personal Health
Information Protection Act (also Thursday afternoon), to which health
care practitioners and health information custodians from much of
southwestern Ontario have been invited;

- meetings with elementary and secondary school curriculum staff Friday
morning from both the Thames Valley District School Board and the
London District Catholic School Board to discuss the three free
teachers' guides (What Students Need to Know about Freedom of
Information and Protection of Privacy) that the IPC has produced.

For further information: Media Contact: Bob Spence, Communications
Co-ordinator, Direct line: (416) 326-3939, Toll free: 1-800-387-0073, Cell
phone: (416) 873-9746, e-mail:, website:


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September/ October 2008

Transparency International Anti-Corruption Work Around the World

Argentina: transparent rubbish collection

By Georg Neumann

Poder Ciudadano (PC), the TI chapter in Argentina, is monitoring the public call for bids for the local rubbish collection services contract in the municipality of Esteban Echeverría.

PC's involvement from the start of the process has already had a great impact. The chapter has enabled the input of citizens into the bidding process, which represents the first case of citizen participation in the decision-making of a municipal administration in the country.

The municipality and PC have signed a "Transparency Agreement," with the latter undertaking to submit recommendations on how to organise the public procurement for local rubbish collection in the most efficient and transparent way, and to monitor the whole process.

One of the recommendations made by PC was the involvement of a public audience in order to discuss and agree the terms of reference, during which citizens would have the opportunity to submit observations, questions etc. The audience was held in May and around 200 citizens attended. Not only was public participation in the audience very constructive, but the municipality addressed all the suggestions and remarks presented by the citizens, and incorporated several of them into the terms of reference.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cash: Secrecy threatens state pensions


Monday, October 13, 2008

Even though we might not like what we see, transparency is critical in these gloomy financial times as Texans seek scrutiny of their state retirement investment plans.

And even though investors have a right to information about their pension plan investments, taxpayers, teachers and public employees traditionally have been denied that information by private investment managers who say divulging details of where they're putting our money would jeopardize potential profits.

What they don't say is that allowing public access to those details also might reveal risky investments, brother-in-law deals and bad decisions. Basically, fund managers have sought to use our money in secret, without any accountability to the investors who've entrusted them with their retirement.

At stake is the level of access and scrutiny available for the way private firms invest and manage billions of dollars in government funds and pension portfolios.




What would it take to get you out to vote?

I am a Canadian,

a free Canadian,

free to speak without fear,

free to worship God in my own way,

free to stand for what I think right,

free to oppose what I believe wrong,

or free to choose those who shall govern my country.


This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.


John G. Diefenbaker House of Common Debates, July 1, 1960


Right, left, or centre; green, blue, red, or orange;

the Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia wants you to get out and vote!

Find out more at Elections Canada


Voter turnout appears to hit all-time low

Voter turnout appears to hit all-time low

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 | 6:06 AM ET Comments151Recommend108

CBC News

Tuesday's federal poll revealed an electorate that seemed apathetic in terms of who should lead the country, with voter turnout appearing to be the lowest in the history of Confederation.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives won a second minority government.

But with just under 60 per cent of the votes counted at 2 a.m. ET Wednesday, turnout hovered around 59 per cent. That figure was slightly below the lowest turnout recorded in 2004 at 60.9 per cent when Paul Martin's Liberals won a minority government.

Only two years ago, 64.7 per cent of Canadians went to the polls, also giving Stephen Harper's Conservatives a minority government.

The highest voter turnout was 79.4 per cent in 1958. The lowest was 44.6 per cent in 1898.


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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Public urged to examine proposed FOI law - Barbados

Public urged to examine proposed FOI law

Web Posted - Tue Oct 14 2008

By Nicholas Cox

Getting access to Government information will be considerably easier if the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2008 is passed. Government is currently circulating the 30-page draft legislation that seeks to give the public the right to access Government information, which should be made available unless there is a good reason for withholding it. The legislation seeks to "enhance good governance through knowledge, transparency and accountability".

The public is being encouraged to examine the proposals in the Bill and provide feedback by October 31, 2008. They are also urged to attend the four town hall meetings that will be held on the legislation in the next month. Copies of the legislation are available online at and at post offices islandwide.



Ghana marks Right to Know Day on September 28 -

Ghana marks Right to Know Day on September 28


Ghanaian journalists in collaboration with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and the Coalition on the Right to Information, on Wednesday, outlined activities to mark the 2008 "Right to Know (RTI) Day", which falls on September 28.


The activities include a public lecture, on Monday September 29, at the British Council, on the theme: "Adopting the Right to Information Legislation in Ghana - Where are we?" Distribution of RTI materials, media sensitisation and intensification of lobbying campaigns for the passage of the Right to Information Bill.


Speakers at the public lecture includes Professor Kwame Karikari, of Media Foundation for West Africa; Justice V. C. R. A. C. Crabbe, Government Special Commissioner on the Right to Information Bill; Ms. Katherine Bain, Programmes Manager, World Bank and Mr. Akoto Ampaw, Ghana Bar Association.


The rest are, Dr. Steve Manteaw, Director, ISODEC; Mr. Vitus Azeem, General Secretary, Ghana Integrity Initiative; Nana Oye Lithur, Regional Co-ordinator, CHRI and Mr. Al-Hassan Adams, Ghana Coalition against Water Privatisation.


The day commemorates a worldwide recognition of the right of every individual to know and access official information from governments and private bodies exercising a public function.




Source: GNA



Your right to know today - Daily Times Pakistan

Your right to know today

By Iqbal Khattak


PESHAWAR: A strong democratic government and an effective information-sharing regime can support national stability. Openness reduces any unfair advantage of one group over another and creates direct channels of communication between the people and the government.


This is what the third 'International Right to Know Day' will symbolize. Observed today (Wednesday), it aims to strengthen the global movement to promote the right to information.


Right to Know Day was first marked in 2003. In 2002, freedom of information organisations congregated in the Bulgarian city of Sofia to create a network of Freedom of Information (FOI) advocates. The FOI advocates proposed September 28 as an International Right to Know Day to highlight the right to information.


It is important to change the culture of secrecy and the alienation of people by the government and bureaucracy by promoting transparency and public accountability.


Right to information allows the people to know about what policies the government has carried out. Lack of access to reliable information makes people susceptible to government manipulation. The right to access information empowers people, giving them an opportunity to participate in the affairs of the state. While passing a right to information law could be slow, experience proves that the real challenge comes in its implementation.


The Right to Know Day provides a good opportunity to draw people's attention to this fundamental right of the people.




Lower FOI fees, head of advocacy group urges -

Lower FOI fees, head of advocacy group urges



Tue. Oct 14 - 4:46 AM

Lowering fees for information requests would be a good way for the province to mark 250 years of democracy in Nova Scotia, says the head of a non-profit advocacy group.

Darce Fardy, who founded the Right to Know Coalition after retiring in 2006 as the province's review officer for the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, said his group has started a petition calling on the province to reduce the $25 fee to $5 for requests under the act. It now charges one of the highest rates in Canada.

"I don't think it adds much to the government budget to be able to collect that," Mr. Fardy said in an interview.

"But it does, in fact, deter people from using the act."





Thursday, October 09, 2008

2008 Joseph Howe Symposium: The Media's Right to Offend

2008 Joseph Howe Symposium



The Media's Right to Offend:

Exploring the Legal and Ethical Limits on Free Speech


Hate speech. Offensive speech. Free speech.

Where do we draw the line? Where should we draw the line?


Legal, human rights and media experts from across Canada will discuss the legal limits on what Canadians can speak and write, and explore the ethical considerations for journalists who cover minorities and racial and religious issues.


A one-day symposium organized by

the School of Journalism at the University of King's College, Halifax,

and the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership, Calgary


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Alumni Hall, University of King's College

6350 Coburg Road, Halifax

10 a.m. – 3 p.m.


Keynote address:  Margaret Wente, columnist, The
Globe and Mail



Stephen Ward, Director of the Center for Journalism Ethics, University of Wisconsin - Madison;

Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Director, Canadian Civil Liberties Association's Freedom of Expression Project;

Ezra Levant, lawyer and former publisher, the Western Standard;

Kelly Toughill, associate professor of journalism at King's and Toronto Star columnist;

Wayne MacKay, Dalhousie Law School professor and expert in constitutional and human rights law;

John Miller, associate chair, Ryerson School of Journalism in Toronto;

David Swick, lecturer on journalism ethics at King's.


– All Welcome –

-- Kelly


Journalism School

University of King's College

902-422-1271 Ext. 159

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Lower freedom of information fees - Tim Bousquet - Reality Bites: The Coast

Lower freedom of information fees

October 08, 2008 | 01:52 PM


In all the jurisdictions I've worked, Nova Scotia has, by far, the most unfriendly access to information laws. The Freedom of Information process is something of a private, sad joke among journalists, as we get denied, delayed and ignored at every turn by public bodies holding allegedly public info.


Full Article: <>

Norwalk District B Democrats Upset Over F.O.I. Request Delay -

Norwalk District B Democrats Upset Over F.O.I. Request Delay

By WSTC/WNLK Newsroom @ October 7, 2008 8:14 AM Permalink | Comments (0)
TrackBacks (0)

Norwalk's District B. Democrats are agressively pursuing their Freedom of Information Act request over the cities recent trash hauling contract with City Carting that was enacted last July. The five year $13 million dollar deal places City Carting in charge of solid waste disposal at the Crescent Street transfer station. This contract has been controversial since some Democratic Common Council members have alledged an unfair bidding process and a lack of due dillegence in researching alternatives.

District B Democratic Chairman Bobby Burgess and other members of the party held a press conference on Monday at the Sono Community Center to accuse the city and the Republican Moccia administration of delay tactics in turning over the requested documents.

Mayor Moccia denies this, citing the extensive amount of paperwork stretching over two years in reference to garbage collection and City Carting and further says that District B Democrats need to clarify exactly what documents they need in order to fulfill the request and be willing to pay for copies made.

Moccia also says that the Freedom Of Information office will be contacting the city to perhaps meet with the parties concerned and there could be arbitration.


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Saturday, October 04, 2008

US Towns scrap Web sites to avoid FOI mandate

Towns scrap Web sites to avoid FOI mandate

A new law that requires towns to post meeting minutes on the Internet is causing at least two Litchfield County communities to shut down their Web sites.

New Hartford First Selectman Earl R. MacInnes Thursday ordered his town's municipal Web site closed, a day after neighboring Harwinton's Board of Selectmen voted to shutter theirs.

The new state law, which was passed by the General Assembly in June and went into effect Wednesday, forces town boards and commissions to post meeting minutes on their municipal Web sites within seven days of holding a meeting in order to comply with the state's Freedom of Information Act. Towns without Web sites are exempt from the law.

Voting in Your Pajamas

My E-Vote is in, HRM's Online Voting System is Great!
I logged in as soon as it opened this morning at 8am only to be caught in rush hour traffic. The system was jammed with other early morning keeners who were anxious to use the new (new to HRM anyway) method of casting votes. After 20 minutes I gave up but came back later ~10:30am and flew through without any problems this time.
Generally you don't design a system to handle all voters in the first 5 minutes. It is just too expensive but since voting could take place over two and a half days, there was no rush. You could start and stop and then restart from where you left off any number of times within the voting period so it is a very forgiving system.
It is definitely a much better way to go and should encourage greater turnout.
Too bad the federal election couldn't be done the same way.
Use your PIN, Cast your vote NOW!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Niagara Falls Democrat Renae Kimble: “Good government is transparent government"

BRIDGE COMMISSION: County lawmakers getting in on the act

By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette
October 02, 2008 08:46 pm

Niagara County lawmakers may formally add their names next week to the list of those interested in the terms of the compensation package of former Niagara Falls Bridge Commission Executive Director Thomas Garlock.
Niagara Falls Democrat Renae Kimble has sponsored a resolution that calls on the commission to release information about any severance package Garlock may have received when he left the binational agency in July.
"Good government is transparent government," Kimble said. "I just think it's important for this information to be given to the public."
Ful Article:

Thursday, October 02, 2008

CNW Group | Canada's Access to Information Act fails to meet global standards, report finds

Canada's Access to Information Act fails to meet global standards, report finds

OTTAWA, Oct. 1 /CNW/ - A new report co-sponsored by the Canadian
Association of Journalists says Canada's access to information laws lag behind
those of countries such as India, Mexico and Pakistan, meaning the public's
right to know is slowly eroding.
On International Right to Know Day, the CAJ calls upon the leaders of the
country's political parties to detail how they would improve the Access to
Information Act to ensure greater openness and accountability to citizens.
"Canada used to be a global model of openness, and now we're backsliding
into the dark ages of government secrecy, obfuscation and denial," said
CAJ President Mary Agnes Welch. "It's national Right to Know Day, but the
public's right to know is seriously at risk."
The 392-page document, "Fallen Behind: Canada's Access to Information Act
in the World Context," found that, on 12 key points, Canada's act fails to
meet the international standards of freedom-of-information (FOI) law endorsed
by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression.
It found that Canadian reporters wait many months or even years for
replies to their ATIA requests, whereas the average national FOI legal
standard for replies is 14 days. Some nations also have strong penalties for
delays, which are lacking in Canada. And Canada's federal information
commissioner lacks the essential power to order the release of information --
unlike his counterparts in five provinces. That key power, which was promised
by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is just one among a list of promised reforms
to the country's access to information regime that were not fulfilled.
There are also more than 100 quasi-governmental agencies -- including
bodies dealing with blood services and nuclear waste -- that are not obliged
to follow the Canadian law, unlike similar bodies in most other nations.
Strong access to information legislation guarantees the public's ability
to scrutinize the activities of government. Since the act came into force in
1983, Canadian journalists have used it to produce hundreds of articles on
risks to health and safety, the environment, law and order, and the proper use
of taxpayers' funds -- articles that would not have been possible without
ATIA requests.
Last month, through ATIA, the Globe and Mail revealed that in 2006, the
Canadian government strongly opposed tougher U.S. rules to prevent listeria.
In May, the Ottawa Citizen found about 1 in 20 gas pumps in Canada was pumping
less gas than indicated on the readout, according to Measurement Canada
inspection data.
The new report was prepared by Stanley Tromp, a Vancouver-based freelance
reporter and co-ordinator of the CAJ's freedom of information caucus. It was
sponsored by the CAJ, the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association,
the Canadian Newspaper Association, the Canadian Community Newspapers
Association, and members of two Vancouver law firms. The full report can be
found at:

The CAJ is Canada's largest professional organization for journalists
with more than 1,500 members across to country. The CAJ's primary role is to
provide public-interest advocacy and high quality professional development for
its members.


Canada's rusty freedom-of-information law fails to meet global standards:

Below are some findings from the report Fallen Behind: Canada's Access to
Information Act in the World Context. It is available at, along with a chart contrasting each part of the
ATI Act with the freedom of information (FOI) laws of 75 nations and the
Canadian provinces. The site also has an index to global FOI rulings, to allow
applicants to find precedents for their FOI appeals.

- On 12 key points, Canada's ATI Act does not meet the international
standards of FOI law which were set out in the 1999 document
The Public's Right to Know: Principles of Freedom of Information
Legislation, by Toby Mendel of the London based human rights
organization Article 19. These principles were endorsed by the
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and

- Canada's ATI Act also fails to conform to many central
FOI recommendations from at least ten other global political
organizations, such as Commonwealth Secretariat, the Council of
Europe, the African Union, the World Bank, and United Nations
Development Agency (UNDP).

- The Conservative Party of Canada's 2006 election platform statement
Stand Up for Canada promised to grant the Information Commissioner
the power to order the release of information, a pledge that was not

- Yet this order-making power is held by the information commissioners
of five Canadian provinces and 16 other jurisdictions including
Mexico, India, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom (our parliamentary

- Amongst the world's FOI laws, the average request response time is
two weeks. At least 60 other FOI nations in the world prescribe
shorter timelines than in Canada, and some have strong penalties for
delays. Yet under the Canadian ATI Act, public bodies must respond to
requests within 30 days, and may extend this for another 30.

- Delays in responding to ATI Act requests have truly reached a true
crisis level. Some departments are so backlogged that they
automatically add extensions of more than 100 days to most, if not
all, requests. Others agencies coolly grant themselves a 240 day
extension, for in the ATI Act the limit may be stretched for an
unspecified "reasonable period of time." In a recent report, the
Information Commissioner validated a 2005 complaint by the
Canadian Newspaper Association that agencies red-flag and further
delay ATI Act requests by the media.

- The Conservatives made an (unfulfilled) pledge to "expand the
coverage of the Act to all Crown corporations, Officers of
Parliament, foundations and organizations that spend taxpayers' money
or perform public functions." This promise was only partially
fulfilled by the new inclusion of several entities in the
Accountability Act.

- But more than 100 quasi-governmental entities are still not covered
by the ATI Act. The exclusion of such entities such as the
Canadian Blood Services and the nuclear Waste Management
Organization blocks transparency could impact public heath and

- On this topic Canada has fallen farthest behind the world
FOI community. The FOI laws of 29 nations cover legal entities
performing "public functions" and/or "vested with public powers," and
the statutes of the United Kingdom, India, and New Zealand also
provide good models.

- The Conservatives made an (unfulfilled) pledge to "provide a general
public interest override for all exemptions." Today the FOI laws of
38 other nations - and all but one of the Canadian provinces and
territories - contain much broader public interest overrides than are
found in the Canadian ATI Act.

- The Conservatives made an (unfulfilled) pledge to subject all ATI Act
exemptions to a "harms test," where the government must prove that an
injury would result from releasing exempted records, such as those
regarding law enforcement or trade secrets. Seven ATI Act exemptions
still lack harms tests, a situation which falls seriously short of
accepted world standards.

- Only in Canada and South Africa are the records of cabinet
discussions completely excluded from the scope of the ATI Act law,
and Canada's Information Commissioner does not even have the legal
right to review such records.

- Yet ten Commonwealth nations, including the United Kingdom, have an
exemption instead of an exclusion for these records, meaning they can
be reviewed by an appellate body and released. More than 50 other
national FOI statutes have no specific exemption for cabinet records
at all. As well, such records can be withheld for 20 years in the
ATI Act, but for only 10 years in Nova Scotia's FOI law.

- The Conservatives made an (unfulfilled) pledge to "oblige public
officials to create the records necessary to document their actions
and decisions." It is well known that the pernicious trend towards
"oral government" has spread in Canada: officials often fail to
commit their thoughts to paper and convey them verbally instead,
mainly in an effort to block the information coming out under FOI.
Several other national FOI laws prescribe record creation, and the
duty to file records in a way that facilitates access.

- Today there are more than 50 other provisions in other laws that
override the ATI Act. The Conservatives made an (unfulfilled) pledge
to fix this problem, and so make the ATI Act supreme on disclosure
questions. Several Commonwealth nations - including India, Pakistan
and South Africa - establish that their FOI law will override secrecy
provisions in other laws.

For further information: Mary Agnes Welch, CAJ president, (204)
943-6575, Cell (204) 470-8862; John Dickins, CAJ executive director, (613)
526-8061; Stanley Tromp, Vancouver, (604) 733-7595,


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