Ford’s senior officials hoped to keep mandate letters away from public view ‘as long as possible’
CBC News plans to continue fight for marching orders to ministers as Ontario looks to keep them secret
There aren’t many good reasons for fighting so hard to keep these out of everyone’s hands, but I’ve come up with a few.
- They’re so poorly written as to be embarrassing.
- Same as above, but in crayon.
- Given the amount of confusing, ill-conceived nonsense they’ve tossed out and then had to backtrack on, there are no marching orders and no letters exist.
- The contents of the letters bears so little resemblance to anything Ford or anyone else said during the campaign that they would not only look even more dishonest if it came out, but what’s there is even worse than the plans they have made public and would make the government even more unpopular.
Option three, as much sense as it makes, is out. The province’s information and privacy commissioner has seen them and has said, essentially, just release the damn things already.
“There is no persuasive evidence or argument before me that disclosure (of the letters) would give rise to a chilling effect on cabinet deliberations …To a great extent, the mandate letters bear a close resemblance to the detailed policy platforms often produced by political parties during election campaigns,” Beamish said in his ruling.
In a blog posted Wednesday, Beamish explained that after reviewing the mandate letters, he determined they did not reveal government deliberations, the substance of any meetings or discussions by the premier’s office.
“The purpose of our freedom of information law is to support the public’s ‘right to know.’ Unless government records are exempt, they should be disclosed to the public. In this case, the mandate letters do not qualify for exemption as cabinet documents,” he said, adding he directed the cabinet office to disclose the letters by Aug. 16.
It is, as I write and you read, later than August 16th, 2019. And since you’re reading about letters we haven’t seen, it’s safe to say that this order was not followed. Why? Because Ford is gonna Ford, which means we’re going to court.
In a statement to CBC News Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Ford government says it has filed an application for judicial review of the commissioner’s order before the Ontario Divisional Court.
“Our position is that the Premier’s mandate letters reflect the deliberations of Cabinet and are exempt from disclosure under FIPPA,” said Ivana Yelich.
“As this matter is currently before the Courts we cannot comment in detail on the Judicial Review proceedings.”
So with option three on my list ruled out, that leaves any or all of one, two and four.
Four is a no brainer. Christ, just look at the PC’s track record over the last year and some.
And before you rule out one and two, have a gander at these important internal government emails.
The request was denied by the cabinet office, which claimed disclosing the records would “reveal the substance of the executive council or its committees.”
But in an email dated July 31, 2018 obtained by CBC News, the executive director of policy to the premier suggests it was the government’s position to keep the letters from public view.
“Here’s the letters. As I said, the intention is to keep them to ourselves as long as possible,” Greg Harrington said in the email to the chief of staff’s senior policy adviser, Derek O’Toole.
O’Toole’s response: “Thanks Greg ! Understood 😊. “
I’m fully prepared for the contents of these things not to live up to the hype once they finally come out, and truth be told I didn’t really care a whole lot about them until I found out that the government didn’t want me to see them. It would just be nice if our government for the people would be honest with us for a change, quit being adversarial with the media simply because it’s a hobby of theirs and stop wasting our money on pointless court cases for the same reason.