They're all important.
One of the things that the government promised was to have ministers' offices covered by the Access to Information Act. This piece of legislation does not do that. I have said that this was one of the priorities in the first phase of amendment. I have said publicly that at the very least the government should ensure that ministers' offices are covered under the access act. I would think that would certainly be a top priority.
With the proactive disclosure scheme that's being proposed under Bill C-58, although I fully support proactive disclosure, the concern I have with the current regime is that it results in an important regression of existing access rights in relation to ministers' offices. This is a real concern of mine. Proposed section 91 basically says that the Information Commissioner does not have jurisdiction over that part 2, which is all the proactive disclosure.
Everything that's in part 2 right now, all of this proactively disclosed information, is currently subject to the Access to Information Act. With regard to lists of briefing notes, QP preparation, briefings to heads of institutions, all of this material is currently subject to the Access to Information Act. If the government institution applies exemptions to that information, those exemptions can be reviewed by the Information Commissioner.
Under Bill C-58, if the government applies exemptions to the proactive disclosure documents, those exemptions cannot be reviewed by anyone. I think that's a very real concern. Those would be two of the most important points.
The third one that is really important are the criteria that have been embedded in Bill C-58 for anyone who wishes to make an access to information request. Aside from my own recommendation in that respect, you have heard from many requesters who are basically saying that this would be a major regression.
When I was preparing for this committee, I went back to the request that was made by Daniel Leblanc, the journalist who uncovered the sponsorship scandal. That request would not have met the new requirement under Bill C-58. That's a perfect example of how new section 6, as it is currently worded in Bill C-58, would amount to a massive regression. I have that request somewhere, but it essentially reads something along the lines of “all records related to the sponsorship budget from 1994 to the time of the request”, which was 2000. That would not meet the test under section 6. That would be denied. I think that's a huge problem.
The News Media association did a recent audit of the federal government to assess the government's performance. In doing this audit, it sent 29 requests to federal institutions. When I looked at those 29 requests, several of them would not have passed the test under the new section 6. Something like 41% of those requests would not have been valid requests.
Last night, before I left my office, one of my directors of investigation told me that an institution had refused to respond to a request, and we had a complaint because the subject matter of the request was not in the request. Allison here, who is the executive director of investigations, has completed an investigation in which an institution is already applying the criteria in Bill C-58, which are not even in force yet, to deny requests for information.
Those are only two that I have complaints about so far. That's the concern I have with the criteria in new section 6.
I'm going to take all your time if I continue, but there you go. I have only mentioned three.