Friday, November 05, 2010

Parties Don't Create Open Government, People Do

Policies don't create open governments, people do.

The false and incomplete idea that one can create a policy or program that will make a government more transparent or accountable is a mistake, a confusion of causes. In great moments in history it is true that policies, platforms, and the like opened government to the masses, but those initiatives were themselves demanded, propelled, and reinforced by the public.

Though political parties served as vehicles for those policies, those policies began as manifestations of a politically activated citizenry. Today Canadian federal political parties have various open government policies yet all fail because none include the most important aspect, the fostering and development of a politically active public.

The barriers to government transparency are not long wait times for information or denied requests, the barriers exist in the people's perception they can't do anyting about it.

A day may come when the doors of Parliament swing open, caucuses air out their backrooms, and Ottawa clothes lines droop from all the dirty laundry, but such openness would be a meaningless gesture if Canadians weren't there to see it. What good is the Access to Information Act if no one uses it? What good is the opening of public accounts if no one looks at them?

What makes an open government open is not access, open government exists only when a democratic people are actively engaged in the happenings of their government. The only assurance of obtaining an open government is found in engaging the people.

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