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Harper up for another ‘Code of Silence’ award

For a second year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper leads the pack of nominations for a journalist-selected award honouring the most secretive government, department or agency in the country.

“We’ve got Harper again and it’s only gotten worse,” said Mary Agnes Welch, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, which hands out the annual Code of Silence Award.

The grounds for the nomination of the Harper government, according to the CAJ:

For muzzling civil servants and cabinet ministers, blackballing reporters who pose tough questions and building a huge spin machine designed to staunch the flow of information.

Other nominees for this year’s award include police forces across Canada that refuse to release information about Taser use and Canada’s human rights commissions for trying to censor speech “that merely offends.”

Some of this year’s nominations were predictable, Welch said, while others were more surprising, such as the Yukon government’s refusal to release the amounts of top civil servant salaries.

“You’re getting battles we thought journalists had fought and won years ago,” she said.

The tongue-in-cheek award will be given out on Saturday at the CAJ conference in Vancouver and the winner will be invited to attend the event and receive the award.

Last year the Prime Minister did not respond to his invitation.

Rounding out the CAJ nomination list are:

Fort Erie's Economic Development and Tourism Corporation for spending nearly $750,000 in taxpayers' money yearly with no open meetings or transparency.

Alberta’s Ministry of Children and Youth Services for failing to provide journalists and the opposition with access to quarterly reports of the Child and Youth Advocate.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada for charging the Toronto Star $6,500 for data on labour market opinions, the government approvals needed before an employer can hire foreign workers. Ottawa eventually released some information, but the names of all employers were blacked out.

The Ontario government for waging a four year battle to keep secret its spending on outside lawyers and consultants in civil corruption cases.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency for dramatic delays and extensions on requests related to the listeria outbreak that killed 22 Canadians and triggered hundreds—perhaps thousands—of illnesses.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.

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