Today’s Editorial for May 27: Progressing transparency

It was heartening to hear McKeeva Bush, who will once again become leader of government business today, vow to continue to work toward transparency in government.

It was equally heartening to hear Alden McLaughlin, who will become a member of the opposition today, vow to pay close attention to ensuring openness and transparency will continue under the new government administration.

Giving credit where credit is due, the People’s Progressive Movement administration did further government transparency to levels that had not been seen here before.

Holding regular Cabinet press briefings, during which the PPM ministers allowed time for questions on any topic, gave the public unprecedented insight into what Cabinet was doing.

In addition, the PPM ushered in the new Freedom of Information Law, which, at least on paper, opens most of what government does to the public.

Former Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts liked to refer to the PPM’s transparency as ‘government in the sunshine’. However, as much as the PPM did to further transparency in government, there was still much too much of its business that was conducted in shadows, away from the eyes of the public.

We know of gag orders placed on an entire government ministry; of ministerial admonishments to the head of a statutory authority for answering questions to the press; of efforts to stymie requests made under the Freedom of Information Law; of the tricky playing of words so as to not answer questions directly; of refusals to respond to some questions at all, including some Parliamentary Questions.

Rather than government in sunshine, it was more like government in twilight. Although it is much better than government in darkness, it means there still is far to go to reach the goal of government in the sunshine.

Soon after assuming a Cabinet position, Mr. McLaughlin warned that changing the prevailing culture of secrecy would be difficult and that it wouldn’t happen overnight.

Mr. McLaughlin’s comment rightly suggested that progressing transparency in government would be a process that could take a while. Entrenched mindsets are indeed sometimes difficult to change.

We, like Mr. McLaughlin, want to see that process continue into the next administration, and we therefore take great comfort in Mr. Bush’s vow to continue progressing government transparency.

With a former member of the media – Ellio Solomon – now a backbencher of the sitting government, we hope he can help facilitate the kind of openness and transparency he called for while in the ranks of the press.