February 28, 2013 11:30 am
Updated: March 24, 2013 1:45 pm

Tony Clement discusses open data during Google+ hangout

Nicole Bogart / Global News
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TORONTO – Minister Tony Clement, along with a panel of industry experts, held the Government of Canada’s first Google+ hangout Friday, discussing how developers can make the use of open data provided by the government.

Clement, the Treasury Board president, hosted the conversation through his YouTube page Friday.

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He was be joined by a panel of experts, entrepreneurs and developers during the Google+ hangout, including member of the federal government’s Advisory Panel on Open Data David Eaves, co-founder of Open Data Ottawa Edward Ocampo-Gooding and Ray Sharma a leader in mobile gaming.
The hangout discussed ways in which industries can take advantage of open data, by making information created and collected by the government more accessible to entrepreneurs and developers.

“There are reams of data in areas ranging from public health to agriculture, but only recently have governments begun to grapple with the many ways it might be put to use by enterprising developers, businesses, NGOs and other organizations,” read Google Canada’s blog.

In November 2012, Clement highlighted a proposed new license for the Government’s Open Data Portal that would make it easier to download and reuse government data.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for Canadian entrepreneurs and innovators to turn government data into user-friendly applications,” said Minister Clement.

Clement also noted plans to move to a new open data portal that would include improved search capabilities and “enhanced interactive tools.” The portal is based on a version of the Open Government Platform, “designed to promote transparency and greater citizen engagement” by making government data freely available to the public.

But the idea of Clements’s open government is in stark contrast to the federal government’s reputation for being secretive.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has been scolded for refusing to produce documents requested by the House of Commons and has been known to stonewall data requests from outgoing Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page.

According to a report by the Vancouver Sun, Liberal Treasury Board critic John McCallum slammed the government for failing to give parliamentarians spending information for 2012 in advance of an upcoming federal budget.

The report also describes Canada’s Access to Information system as verging on being dysfunctional.

“Doubtless it will be a long time before any Cabinet-related documents turn up on a Government of Canada website,” says Barbara Yaffe of the Vancouver Sun.

Some critics have even argued that the government’s promise to release summaries of information requests simply replicates a similar database that previously existed but was cancelled by the Harper government.

In December 2012, Clement is quoted as saying “our government is the most transparent government in Canadian history. There has never been a time when Canadians have had as much access to government information.”

Sun Media national bureau chief David Akin called this quote “demonstrably false,” citing examples including being the first government ever to find the Speaker of the House to be in contempt of Parliament for failing to provide information Parliament requested.

Global News posed this question to Clement during the Google+ hangout:

“The government has faced criticism for being secretive with some information and muzzling federal scientists. Some people think this is the opposite of the open government you’re trying to achieve. What do you say to this criticism?”

Clement did not address the question, or the criticism the government has faced in recent times.

© 2013 Shaw Media

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