Data on Climate Change Impacts excluded due to "Cabinet Confidences" in Requests under Access to Information Act

Our readers will be familiar with previous posts reviewing extreme rainfall and temperature trends, focusing on reliable, official datasets - in many cases this is to respond to claims made in the media that are not supported by data. This post lists many corrections on extreme rainfall trends made by the CBC and Radio Canada over the years: In 2015 the CBC wrote: ""Environment Canada verified that there has been no significant change in rainfall events over several decades". In 2019 the Environment Minister Catherine McKenna  wrote that "For Canada as a whole, observational evidence of changes in extreme precipitation amounts, accumulated over periods of a day or less, is lacking."

Despite this, federal documents continue to suggest otherwise. As a result I made an Access to Information Act request on this statement in the 2021 budget:

"Communities across Canada now face once-in-a century floods every few years due to climate change. These devastating deluges are damaging homes, businesses, and infrastructure."

As show below I requested records of flood frequency for communities across Canada referred to in the 2021 Budget statement that show once-in-a-century floods, e.g., 1-in-100-year floods are already occurring every few years. The response below cited exclusions in the Act related to cabinet confidences:

Others have made similar inquiries regarding statements on climate change impacts made in the 2022 federal budget. For example the statement: "Canada is already experiencing an increase in heat waves, wildfires, and heavy storms. These impacts—and the economic and health repercussions that come with them—will continue to accelerate if we do not act now.", was made in the budget published on April 7, 2022.

A reader's inquiries for information to support the above statement (ATIP File A-2022-00126) was also met with the same exclusions. Below are links to a couple of the reader's follow up documents including:

1) A complaint to the Office of the Information Commissioner on the cited exclusion:


2) A summary of factual data on temperature, wildfire and rainfall trends:

The later cites data showing that heat waves in Canada have not increased, the area of wildfires has not increased, and heavy storms have not increased either. This is all contrary to the budget statement, for which data is protected by 'cabinet confidence'. 

Good policy and budget decisions should be guided by good fundamental data - that data should not be a secret, protected by cabinet confidences. The current lack of openness to provide data to back-up statements (claims?) on extreme weather trends in the 2021 and 2022 budgets calls into question the validity of the strategic directions advanced in these recent budgets.