Specifically, the kitchen had a problem with rodent droppings.
At one point in the fray, a reporter asked the Service Newfoundland and Labrador Minister if the department was considering making restaurant inspection results available online.
The answer was no, and it’s too bad really.
When a customer frequents a restaurant, there is an element of trust.
Nobody in this day and age asks to see the kitchen. But the kitchen is a sort of public space outside of public eyes.
We count first and foremost on restaurant owners and managers to ensure things are kept sanitary, as they likely are in the vast majority of cases.
We count on the health inspector to make sure standards are upheld.
But if the province were to post results online, or even in the windows of restaurants as is done in other Canadian jurisdictions such as Toronto,
managers and owners would be extra cautious in making sure things are kept clean in the kitchen at all times. It would lead to self-policing.
By making inspections transparent, the government would, in effect, make the walls between the dining room and the kitchen transparent without removing them at all.
It wouldn’t be a violation of the restaurant owner’s privacy, since there’s
nothing private about running a restaurant, at least when it comes to food safety and handling. The information would not affect their ability to operate and compete, as long as they had nothing to hide.
It’s too bad that various levels of government are all too quick to keep
public information from public eyes, while at the same time asking citizens to give up more and more of their private lives, supposedly for the public good.
All too often, the “what have you got to hide?” argument is used on private citizens, while government makes its own excuses to keep its affairs
Private citizens must submit themselves to frisking and body scans if they wish to fly on planes, but in 2010 most of our Members of Parliament blocked an attempt by the auditor general to investigate the MP’s expense accounts.
When the green light was given, the auditor general had access to lists of what had been purchased, but the names of the purchasers were not attached.
It begs the question: what have they got to hide?
Would spending scandals still happen if any citizen could trace their
elected officials’ spending habits online in real time? Would there be a
need for costly investigations, auditors, and forensic accountants if anyone with an internet connection could see the prime minister’s expense claims in real time as they were filed?
And spending is just the tip of the iceberg. Our own MP, Judy Foote, is
raising concerns about how the federal Conservatives have made so many meetings private across the board, preventing her from speaking out on issues that might affect us, the public.
The general public needs to be made more aware of what is (or should be) public knowledge. Transparency needs to be the rule, not the exception. In this information age, where it is easier than ever to distribute, broadcast and circulate information, we need to demand our elected officials do just that.
Brodie Thomas is editor of The Gulf News, the Transcontinental Community Newspaper serving Port aux Basques.