Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Military Ombudsman Argues for Investigative Access to Secret Cabinet Records

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Military Ombudsman Argues for Investigative Access to Secret Cabinet Records

Article excerpt

Military ombudsman wants to see cabinet docs


OTTAWA - Canada's military ombudsman is reviewing whether he has the right to look at cabinet secrets in light of stonewalling from the Harper government during a recent investigation into the care of reservists.

Pierre Daigle's office ran into roadblocks when it asked for documents related to the inability of National Defence to deliver on a promise to increase dismemberment coverage for part-time soldiers.

Both Defence and the federal Treasury Board declared the records secret because they had been deemed cabinet confidences, a designation that surprised both the ombudsman and his investigators.

Officials working for Daigle were quick to point out they received co-operation on other aspects of the probe, but they are troubled because the declaration has started to surface in other cases as well.

"We're supposed to have access to everything," the ombudsman said. "Cabinet confidences have come a few times on other issues."

The ombudsman said his officials are looking into how far he is able to push the government to co-operate, and precisely what constitutes a cabinet confidence.

"We are looking into the authority of my mandate to have access to documentation, access to everything we need to complete a full investigation," Daigle said in an interview with The Canadian Press last week.

"It's becoming a bit harder. We're getting into more discussions to have access to documentation, instead of just asking for something and having it flow back to us. We need to work a bit harder at it."

A spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay insists they have co-operated, but skirted the question of access to cabinet documents.

"The ombudsman reports to the Minister of National Defence in carrying out his mandate. As with all issues, we will continue to work with his office in the interest of the Canadian Armed Forces, defence officials and their families," Jay Paxton said Sunday.

Other federal watchdogs have faced similar bruising fights for information -- the most high-profile example of late being Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, who last week filed a reference application with the Federal Court. …

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