As citizens of a democracy, it is imperative that our governmental institutions remain open and free to the public.

That’s essential for every Canadian, and it continues to be.

In 2015, Justin Trudeau promised Canadians a more open and transparent government. At the time, the Liberal Party said the previous Conservative government had “grown secretive and closed-off from Canadians.” Trudeau promised he’d do things differently.

Now, a year into the new Liberal government, questions are being asked about the fate of certain public policies in Canada.

Behind closed doors, government ministers and their staff are devising rules and coming up with solutions which are far beyond the mandate at the ballot box. And that is concerning to Canadians.

At no point did the Canadian people get a say in these deliberations.

Canada’s health representatives were at the World Health Organization’s 7th Conference of the Parties Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in New Delhi, India in November 2016.

Throughout the conference, delegates from countries such as Iran, India and China proposed initiatives to limit the market of tobacco and further enforce plain packaging regulations. Many of these initiatives were adopted and will have to be enforced by Canada as a party to the convention.

But at no point did the Canadian people get a say in these deliberations.

After the first day of the conference, media and the public were shut out. As I wrote in my recent blog on the Huffington Post, “This cut off access for the rest of the week to the nearly 100 journalists and members of the public who made their way to New Delhi to participate.” Canadian delegates refused to speak to any media.

If rules which will impact Canadians are going to be decided in large international conferences where media and the public aren’t even allowed in, how is this transparent and open? More than that, how can rules and regulations proposed by countries with abysmal human rights records muster being passed here in Canada?

Canadians have to know that they are getting what they were promised and they will have a choice to make their voices heard.

It’s already been proven that plain packaging efforts in countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom have not been as effective as they claimed.

Now in Canada, with so much at stake, how much is an informed public worth when it comes to determining the fate of our public policies?

“We have also committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government,” wrote Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his mandate letter to the minister of health, Jane Philpott in 2015. “It is time to shine more light on government to ensure it remains focused on the people it serves. Government and its information should be open by default.”

In that sense, the Canadian government has not been open about what rules and regulations will be adopted to limit our lifestyle freedoms.

Don’t you think that you have the right to know what the government is up to?

Published on Huffington Post Canada