Opposition filibuster drags on

James
James McLeod
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Government House leader Jerome Kennedy speaks to reporters about the filibuster in the House of Assembly Tuesday. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

There are a lot of bleary eyes and ragged faces at Confederation Building this week.

Politicans have been debating in the House of Assembly virtually nonstop since Monday afternoon, and all signs suggest they will continue to go through the day, and likely into Thursday.

If politicians are still debating this morning at 9 a.m. — as is widely expected — they will have been going for more than 40 hours.

The government is trying to pass sweeping amendments to the province’s access to information legislation which would make vast sections of government documents off-limits to the public.

Any document by any government employee which contain “consultations or deliberations” will be withheld from public access to information requests.

The bill will also greatly expand the documents which are covered by cabinet secrecy.

Justice Minister Felix Collins, who introduced the bill in the House, said the government expected Liberals and New Democrats to fight the passage of the legislation.

 

“We knew it wasn’t going to be a love-in,” Collins said. “When you bring in this kind of legislation that tries to strike a balance between public’s access and the right to information and good stewardship and good governance, you expect to find some negative reaction.”

The new legislation would expand cabinet secrecy to include any “discussion paper, policy analysis, proposal, advice or briefing material, including all factual and background material prepared for cabinet.”

The government can also refuse to give out any document that includes “consultations or deliberations” by any government employee.

Government ministers and other heads of public bodies can also ignore access to information they consider “frivolous or vexatious” or any request that they see is “made in bad faith or is trivial.”

Many of the provisions in the legislation come from a review of the access to information law done by John Cummings, a government-appointed commissioner.

In public consultations Cummings held, only 10 people from the general public gave their say on access to information legislation.

But Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said that now that the legislation has been written, they’re hearing for lots of people who aren’t happy.

“There’s certainly a lot of displeasure with it,” Ball said. “People are asking a lot of questions about it.”

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said even in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, when she was in the House of Assembly, she was getting messages via Facebook and Twitter from people saying they support the opposition’s filibuster.

The government needs to give a day’s notice before they shut down debate, but at this point, it looks like Government House Leader Jerome Kennedy wants to test the opposition stamina.

“We’ll let the debate go on. This is an important piece of legislation. It’s one they feel needs to be debated extensively, and we have no problem with that,” Kennedy said. “A couple of our new MHAs are fascinated by the fact that they’re sitting through the night, and seem to be enjoying themselves immensely.”

Kennedy indicated that the filibuster could run through the day today, and potentially into Thursday.

Overnight sittings of the House of Assembly are relatively common; they happen every few years.

To have two consecutive overnight sittings is much less common.

Nobody can point to a time in living memory when there have been three consecutive all-night sittings.

 

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Confederation Building, Government House

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Recent comments

  • NDP Liberal Alliance
    June 13, 2012 - 17:06

    Mr. Speaker, I like to hear myself talk........

  • Joseph McGrath
    June 13, 2012 - 15:56

    Fuddle dudle on the Premier and her hang- a -shore legislative mates.A period of government and secretness by fools lies directly ahead.No way out for decent voters in this Province for 3 years and what will be left!!!!

  • Eli
    June 13, 2012 - 14:27

    Just visited Kennedy's district. Speaking to people there about the clown's performance in "Tthe House", all agreed it was scandalous but Kennedy would go "back in" the next election. Go figure!

  • Politically incorrect
    June 13, 2012 - 09:28

    Had the feds had this kind of legislation in place, we would not have heard about the robocalls, the real F-35 costs, the real cost of the Lybia mission, etc. We need a mass mobilization to support the opposition.

  • Jeaola
    June 13, 2012 - 09:10

    Bill 29 gives me the confidence that my privacy is being protected. I hope the government don't give in to the foolish antics of the opposition on this issue.

    • steve
      June 13, 2012 - 09:27

      Bill 29 has very little to do with privacy protection. Bill 29 is about restricting access to government records about the policies and actions of government. No one except you could access your personal information under the old ATIPPA. Bill 29 actually sets out more situations where the government can disclose your personal information to others, not fewer.

    • Doug
      June 13, 2012 - 09:48

      Jeaola , who's privacy are you refering to, are you a member of govt or cabinet. Privacy from the Auditor General, our watchdog. Privacy for those previous members who were involved in the spending scandals or the cabinet briefing notes which became part of the Cameron inquiry. This government does not want to be scruntinized, they do not want a legislature, they do not want committes of the house, they do not want an effective oposition or an informed media. If this is the government you want move to Syria, (I feel sorry for you because there is nothing foolish about an open democracy)

  • Ash
    June 13, 2012 - 09:08

    This is a prime example of the BLIND REACTION of the people on an issue that they chose to ignore when they had the opportunity to provide input during the provincial consultations. Goes to show, that this foolishness on the part of the opposition does not reflect the concerns and interesst of their constituents; it is simply an example of trying to score political brownie points at tax payers expense by putting the House under "Seige". Give it up!! Make better use of my tax dollars.

    • Steve
      June 13, 2012 - 09:36

      So, the government sent someone around to hold meetings to say that there might be a change to the access legislation, with no other details, and you think people were going to show up? Perhaps if they had had the guts to lay out for all to see what their actual plans were, and then do a consultation, you would get a much different reaction. The provincial consultations were meaningless given that people had no idea what direction government was heading or what kind of amendments were proposed. Furthermore, even among the few who showed up back then, do you think one individual actually proposed reducing the right of access to information?

    • One Woman
      June 13, 2012 - 11:51

      I attend the consultations meetings in Corner Brook and there were five individuals in attendance. I think that government is misrepresenting the facts regarding only 10 people province-wide attending these consultation meetings. Government has argued that the low attendance at the consultation meetings is an indication that citizens are happy with their governance and that legislation is working. If that’s the case, why are they making such drastic and draconian changes to the legislation? Obviously the citizens are not happy with these changes. The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act is a greatly improved piece of legislation over the former Freedom of Information Act, particularly with the creation of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Removing the Commissioner’s review of any category of records sets us back 10 to 20 years, leaving court as the only option to request a review the public body’s decision. I am grateful for the efforts of the NDP and the Liberal parties in representing me as a citizen because my MHA, my ministers and the PC party are certainly not representing me. Bill 29 is a very self-serving piece of legislation for the government that allows them to hide and cover-up their actions.

  • Concern Citizen
    June 13, 2012 - 09:00

    So much for a transparent government! I guess they forget we the people who put them in office deserve FULL transparency and accountability. We lose both of these things with secrecy. Whenever government tries to hide information from the public it is not a good thing. I am surprised they are not pulling a Danny and Incorporate the Hill due to the nature and secrecy of the ongoing natural resources and how revenues are being spent… I am sure the spin doctors could convince Joe Public that this is a good idea… LOL

  • Maurice E. Adams
    June 13, 2012 - 08:58

    Talking about 'misrepresentation'. Our Minister of Natural Resources (Jerome Kennedy) in the House on May 3rd said "When Holyrood gets to its full rate of capacity, Mr. Speaker, it burns 18,000 barrels of oil a day. Holyrood is used at its full rate of capacity in the wintertime. That is when we need the energy in this Province."....... Now go to Ed Martin's Leadership Blog, April 27th, reply to comments section and Nalcor advises that Holyrood did NOT operate at capacity at all in 2011.

  • Don II
    June 13, 2012 - 08:25

    In the United States of America the Government is of the people, by the people and for the people. The Government is the people not some closed shop bunch of politicians. Some people complain that the US system of Government creates gridlock but that gridlock is designed to slow or stop Governments from ramming legislation or policies into law without proper study and debate. Regrettably, that is not the case in Canada where majority Governments can virtually do what they want without adequate study or debate. In the USA, anyone who does business with or accepts funding from the Government has no expectation that their information will be kept secret and they may even have to testify before a Congressional hearing or investigative committee. When a business or anybody else comes to Government seeking funding or changes to or creation of legislation to enrich themselves they should have no right to demand that their discussions and contractual arrangements with the Government be kept secret from the people. That is what is gong on in Newfoundland and it is not right! In Newfoundland and Labrador there are numerous mistakes, wasteful projects,errors and corruption caused by the Government that can now be covered up by Ministers of the Crown with impunity. The Government of Newfoundland is a dictatorship and should be removed from office. Anyone who cares about democracy, ethics, transparency and honesty in Government should never vote for politicians who support this kind of police state approach to Government. Only 10 members of the public provided their opinions on changes to the Freedom of Information laws and the Government moved forward swiftly with major restrictive changes to the law based on that miniscule sample of public opinion. Apparently, there are a lot of Newfoundlanders who like living under the boot of a dictatorship and are willing to subjugate themselves to such a secretive and corrupt dictatorship. It appears that Newfoundlanders are not educated about how democracy and good Government should work or they just don't care! In Newfoundland, the people have never experienced democracy and good Government and it looks like they never will!

  • Dan
    June 13, 2012 - 08:10

    Speak up people of Newfoundland Labrador, your right to know is being eroded. Don't let hidden agendas stay hidden! The people are watching Ms. Premier you can see it in the polls!

  • Peartree
    Peartree
    June 13, 2012 - 08:03

    I agree with the Government's position!

  • Ben
    June 13, 2012 - 07:46

    I still don't know why people would request to see a Cabinet Minister's briefing notes. Isn't that taking away their right to be briefed abt a topic. Some things need to be confidential. Funny when their were public meetings held about this only 10 people showed up. I guess there wasn't enough grand standing for the opposition to attend. BTW...anybody remember Kruger Mill. Oh yeah...thats only important when its convenient for the opposition. Some may complain about the present government but one should look at the alternative! Doesnt look great at all!

  • tom
    June 13, 2012 - 07:43

    To be able to deny your request because the party with the info deems it 'frivolous' is ridiculous. We need more access to information, not less. More secrecy? Yeah, I want my politicians to be able to operate in a cloak of darkness... I mean, who ever heard of a crooked politician?

  • Grow-Up Grow-Op
    June 13, 2012 - 07:27

    The people of the province were given a chance to comment on this beofre it came to the House, no one did. The opposition never rallied thier troops, too bad too late. Just a stunt now on their part. Sometimes people need their privacy protected. Sometimes in the interest of national security or provincial benefit, things need to be on a need-to-know basis. Sometimes minutes made in closed meetings needs to be kept private for longer to ensure that people spek thier mind to make better decisions. People can on purpose bog down the information request system so bad that valid applications are done poorly or not quick enough. These hostile applications are put in by members of the opposition or media for no other reason than to make themselves relevant for dirt digging. The opposition mentality and practice of this is now showing in the filibuster. The opposition is making themselves look bad.

    • Eli
      June 13, 2012 - 08:03

      So a sweetheart deal to award millions in contracts to government friends without scrutiny is ok? That what you're saying GROW UP? If it is, you have huge problems with reasoning.

    • grow-down grow-down
      June 13, 2012 - 08:28

      "Sometimes in the interest of national security or provincial benefit, things need to be on a need-to-know basis." "These hostile applications are put in by members of the opposition or media for no other reason than to make themselves relevant for dirt digging." Steven, Steven Harper? Is that you? What are you doing on the message boards you ol' dog?

  • Harold
    June 13, 2012 - 07:15

    I echo the comments of Erica Myers June 13, 2012 at 07:59:45 . speakup people while you still have the right and enjoy your freedom.

  • Erica Myers
    June 13, 2012 - 06:29

    Government actions shouldn't be secret, and the wording of the legislation (what is a "vexatious" request?) is vague. This is an opportunity for the current government to shut down oversight, in line with its overarching goal to become the Stephen Harper government of Newfoundland. Good work, opposition! Keep speaking for your constituents, even those who don't appreciate government transparency until they need it.