Here is the story so far: the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NTREE ) made arrangements to transfer its 25 years of records to Sustainable Prosperity, a national research network based in the University of Ottawa, which would make them available on the Web. Peter Kent, Canada’s Minister for Environment, countermanded those arrangements and demanded that the records be transferred to Environment Canada. Kent also insisted that no new material be placed on the NTREE site.
A Communications Officer speaking for Kent advised that all records and information generated by NTREE will be “widely available” on the Environment Canada Website.
“Available” does not necessarily mean readily accessible. Some Websites are difficult to search and to navigate, so finding information is not simple. Robert Page, a professor at the University of Calgary’s Business School and the last Chairperson of NTREE, confirmed that publicly available documents on the NTREE site were properly indexed and easily searchable. He called the decision “a gut reaction of the Harper Government.”
If 4RG’s experience of Environment Canada’s website is typical, certain pages disappear. A surfer receives a 404 Response, indicating that Website was not able to find what was requested. How easy it would be for Environment Canada to withdraw information claiming that nobody was using the information.
Yesterday there was a slight modification in the Government’s position. The Communications Officer referred to the Library and Archives Canada Website as the location of the information. A curious change: why would the Minister personally intervene to cancel the Sustainable Prosperity arrangement if the information is to be stored with Archives Canada?
Perhaps because the Minister now realizes that the environmental and university communities do not trust Environment Canada. In their view, the Minister’s original instructions were part of a Government strategy of limiting debate and discussion on climate change.