Edmonton Journal

18 July 2001

MPs misinformed about lack of input, Justice official says

Lisa Gregoire, Journal Staff Writer
The Edmonton Journal

Parliamentary critics of Justice Minister Anne McLellan are misinformed when they say they haven't been consulted on important legislation, says a department spokeswoman.

McLellan was unavailable for comment Tuesday but a Justice Canada official said critical arrows launched at the minister Monday by Ontario MPs Roger Gallaway and John Bryden are off the mark.

"Having bureaucrats consult the public does not exclude MPs from doing it themselves," said Farah Mohamed.

Backbenchers Gallaway and Bryden criticized how the federal cabinet creates and passes legislation, claiming policy is researched and drafted by bureaucrats and that elected MPs have too little input too late in the law-making process.

They singled out McLellan and the Justice Department for what they call closed-door, undemocratic consultations regarding a review of the current Access to information Act and new legislation surrounding child custody, access and divorce.

Gallaway, who chaired a joint Senate-Commons committee which conducted hearings on custody and access, submitted recommendations to the minister three years ago. Gallaway said this new round of consultations, the second since he submitted his joint committee report, is needless duplication and an attempt to circumvent MPs.

Mohamed said hearings on the new Access to Information Act were closed to media so people could speak freely without the glare of TV cameras. Their comments, she said, were summarized, albeit anonymously, and posted on a government Web site.

Cross-country hearings on custody and access were conducted to bring more people's opinions into the process and to allow provincial and territorial governments to participate, said Mohamed.

As far being excluded from the legislative process, Mohamed said MPs have plenty of input once preliminary drafts of laws reach standing committees. "No one for a moment questions the power of an MP," she said.

2001 CanWest Interactive