"We could, in addition to the previous line, perhaps add a line such as..."

Colleague Petrou asked the Department of Foreign Affairs for information. This set squadrons of bureaucrats into many rounds of frantic consultation about how to give him the smallest possible amount of information. Read all about it here. It would be hilarious if it weren’t perfectly appalling.

I’ll note only that this obsession with saying as little as possible and mattering as little as possible did not begin with the Harper government, though it has been refined to self-satirizing perfection over the past three years. In 2002 I attended a summit of La Francophonie in Beirut at which the only usable information Canadian reporters received came, not from Jean Chrétien’s entourage, but from reading the Beirut newspapers and eavesdropping on the French government’s briefings of its own reporters. Every reporter who uses the Access to Information Act has no end of horror stories of duplicitous foot-dragging.

But it has all been getting worse. And Robert Marleau, the departing Information Commissioner, let it go on for years before announcing his snap retirement. Much of the coverage of that decision was given over to wondering why Marleau was leaving so early. I wonder, since he was bound to do so little to fight the attitudes Petrou chronicles, why he bothered hanging around so long.

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