Right to know has historically been neglected
Re: Health Minister Patty Hajdu’s remarks disappoint information commissioner, Oct. 23.
When questioned recently about the delay in processing freedom of information requests, Health Minister Patty Hajdu retorted: “Not once has a Canadian asked me to put more resources into freedom of information officers.” This is surely because most people naïvely believe that the Access to Information Act is already properly resourced.
As a former investigator of complaints for 16 years in the Office of the Information Commissioner, I cannot state emphatically enough that, without exception, historically government has been guilty of failing to respect citizens’ right to know. This has been due to both the grossly inadequate resourcing of those tasked with processing departmental requests and those investigating complaints, but also by neglecting the glaring need to comprehensively update the Access to Information Act.
There are obvious solutions: The simplest would be to encourage residents of a given neighbourhood to designate only a few drivers to collect and transport this waste to the depots. This would require co-ordination, of course, kind of like car-pooling. The city would need to publicize this accordingly.
A more effective and enduring remedy would be to discourage public drive-in collection altogether. Why doesn’t the city designate a few days a year for hazardous waste pickups using larger vehicles operated by the city or contractors? Specialized recycling trucks would not be necessary. There could even be an online or phone appointment system set up to notify truck or van crews to drop by and haul this stuff away as opposed to a general house-by-house pickup. If charities can organize pickups for used items, the city should be able to do something similar for hazardous waste in various neighbourhoods.
Let’s find a way to end this significant generator of greenhouse gases plus the needless wasting of time and fossil fuel.
Wesley Dearham, Ottawa
For those of us intimately familiar with this not-so-dirty little secret, we are painfully aware of how far behind Canada has fallen since 1982 – from being an early international leader in the field – to now being an abject failure due to both inadequate resourcing and the failure to dramatically revamp a sorely outdated Act.
Marey Gregory, Ottawa, former Investigator of the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada
Why not have pick-up days for hazardous waste?
Recently, I drove to one of the City of Ottawa’s hazardous waste depots held periodically through the year. This one was at the Barrhaven snow dump, many kilometres from my Westboro residence. To their credit, those who organized and ran this event did a superb job given the hundreds of cars bearing a variety of household hazardous waste ranging from toxic and flammable liquids to propane tanks and fluorescent lighting tubes. Traffic flow was well managed. One also has to give credit to the many Ottawa residents who took the time to dispose of this waste in a responsible fashion.
There is, however, a serious flaw with this operation — no fault of those who operate or participate in it. It defies logic that so many vehicles need to line up and idle their engines for nearly an hour to accomplish this important task. This aspect of these depots contravenes the goals of reducing global warming and air pollution. The city has announced its new climate change masterplan with great fanfare. One relatively easy way to reduce greenhouse gases would be to eliminate these drive-in depots or at least diminish their impact.