51st place isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. The 51st wealthiest person in the world, or the 51st smartest are blessed to be so lucky. It’s a placement they can be proud of.
When your country is ranked 51st on any list, it is unlikely to be a source of such national pride, especially when the ranking deals with freedom of information. Yet, that is where Canada stands, behind traditional openness powerhouses like Colombia and Niger.
The Canadian government, its departments and agencies are given requests for information, which cost $5, and are supposed to respond within 30 days. Unfortunately if the information is ever released by said departments, it is typically done after several months.
While other countries have updated their access to information procedures, Canadian Government acts, predictably, in a shroud of opaqueness. Mr. Harper’s Conservatives have made no effort to adopt transparency in their Government. From countless muzzled scientists and environmentalists, the stifled debate in the House of Commons, the secrecy behind the F-35 transfers, the 400-page omnibus bills, cutting Elections Canada’s budget during the robocall scandal, there is a litany of abuses to Canadian trust by the current Government.
Canadians not simply in virtue of the fact that they pay high salaries and expenses to their elected officials, but intrinsically because they are citizens of the best country in the world ought to expect, and receive, better from their Government then $16 glasses of orange juice and helicopter rides. For every one policy the Conservatives have put out that I found myself in agreement with (Employment Insurance Reform, elimination of “Second Chance” Deportation for convicted criminals) there are endless abuses on the trust of the country that turn any commendation I was willing to heap on our Prime Minister into condemnation.
I am proud to be a Canadian, but this ranking fills my being with shame. Mostly it is shame for the apathetic Canadians that couldn’t be bothered to care about such a monstrous atrocity in our politics. These are the Canadians we are friends with, the ones we work with, study with and perhaps even live with.
Michael Ignatieff (quoting Bruce Springsteen) told Canadians that after suffering through Mr. Harper’s constant attacks on democracy, and his brutal insincere brand of politics it was high time for the country to “Rise up”. I care exactly enough to do so.
I desire transparency in government, and 51st is not good enough for me. I think Canadians deserve more out of our government, one that is accountable and open at the very least. If we ask for change then we ought to put forward new ideas, rather than simple condemnation of the other side. For starters, a much needed update to the access-to-information process currently in place would be a welcome start to an era of Canadian Governmental transparency. Letting your citizens know where their tax dollars seems like a good place to start.
So, as it turns out placing in 51st for national transparency isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s a call to action.