COVID-19: The government is acting in secret and ignoring access to information requests
Montreal, October 27 – Three months after having received a request for access to information from the MEI, the Quebec government is still refusing to follow up on it, whereas the law provides for a response within 20 days.
On July 24, the Montreal Economic Institute submitted an access to information request to four provincial Departments (Education, Health, Finance, and Families) and to the INSPQ in order to obtain, quite simply, the documents used by the Quebec government that contain the information justifying its efforts to mitigate the risks associated with COVID-19. In particular, the MEI posed 23 specific questions related to:
- Government measures;
- Elective surgeries;
- Approaches used by other countries;
- Imperial College London;
- The decision to close schools;
- The decision not to reopen schools;
- The decision to immediately close summer camps for children;
- The restriction of access to certain regions of Quebec;
- The closure of all non-essential stores and businesses;
- The decision to suspend non-essential retail and business activities;
- Communications with the heads of religious communities;
- Senior residences;
- The safety benefits of protective masks;
- The safety benefits of social distancing measures;
- The effectiveness of social distancing measures put in place March 21, 2020 for preventing the propagation of COVID-19;
- The safety benefits of prohibiting interior and exterior gatherings;
- The effectiveness of the prohibition of interior and exterior gatherings put in place in March 2020 for preventing the propagation of COVID-19; and
- Evidence regarding prevalence.
To this day, all the MEI has received is a document from the Education Department that is not relevant to its questions. As for the Health Department, it responded by guaranteeing that it would get back to us with the said documents… on August 13!
“And despite repeated follow-ups, we still have no response. Not only is the government not officially acknowledging receipt of requests as the law requires, but civil servants do not even respond to follow-ups. There is a complete lack of transparency, worthy of a banana republic,” says Michel Kelly-Gagnon, President and CEO of the MEI.
Based on science? But what science?
“We want to know which studies the government relied on when it decided to lock down the population. What documents justified its decisions? The lives and livelihoods of millions of Quebecers have been turned upside down in the name of science. So where are the documents that show this science, upon which the government says it is relying?” asks Miguel Ouellette, Economist and Director of Operations at the MEI.
For its decisions with serious consequences, for the major socio-economic measures that have driven thousands of Quebecers into bankruptcy, lost jobs, and/or psychological distress, the government must justify itself.
“It is inconceivable that today, over seven months after the start of the crisis, the government refuses to release any supporting documents,” adds Mr. Kelly-Gagnon. “Quebecers deserve answers, and they deserve them without further delay.”
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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent public policy think tank. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship.
Interview requests: Maria Lily Shaw, Economist, MEI. Tel.: 514 273-0969 p. 2230 / Cell. 450-522-6602 / Email: email@example.com