The federal government has released its promised action plan on open government
with a promise.
Treasury Board president Tony Clement said this week that as part of the three-year plan Ottawa will issue a directive to 106 federal departments and agencies on what they must do to maximize the availability of government information to the public online.
To help keep track of almost everything it has, it will also create a huge government-wide records management database of government documents. That records database will be hosted outside the government.
The directive, which will identify the nature of information to be published, the timing, formats, and standards that departments will have to adopt, will be issued within the next 12 months.
“The clear goal of this directive is to make open government and open information the ‘default’ approach” for Ottawa, the plan says.
Essentially, the directive will mean bureaucrats should make all non-personal federal information public unless it is specifically exempted.
However, the plan doesn’t detail what will be exempt.
It’s expected that personal information, such as tax records held by Revenue Canada and criminal and security information held by federal policy and security agencies won’t be covered.
It is also assumed exempted material will include documents that go to the cabinet as well as communications to and from foreign governments.
But there are reams of data and reports assembled by the departments that can be released.
As part of the plan a new Open Government License to use documents will created in the next 12 months. It would promote the reuse of federal information as widely as possible by removing restrictions on the reuse of published Government of Canada information.
Bureaucrats have been using a number of licences for published information, usually based on the principle that the Crown has copyright over everything it creates.
Details of how the new licence will work and what it will limit weren’t released.
Open government expert David Eaves, who sits on a federal advisory committee on the subject, has mixed feelings about the action plan. On the one hand he’s disappointed Canada isn’t “vaulting ourselves to the head of the pack” as leaders on open government, particularly compared to the U.S. and Britain.