Professor Yan Campagnolo has authored a new book that explores whether or not decision-making at the highest levels of government can maintain a tradition of secrecy in an era when the state executive is increasingly expected to be transparent and accountable to the public. Behind Closed Doors: The Law and Politics of Cabinet Secrecy (UBC Press) brings together Professor Campagnolo’s comprehensive and highly original research on this controversial doctrine.
The legal and political rules that protect the confidentiality cabinet decision-making have come under intense scrutiny in Canada in recent years, especially in the context of the prosecution of vice-admiral Mark Norman and the SNC-Lavalin controversy. In Behind Closed Doors, Professor Campagnolo defends the idea of cabinet secrecy as an essential part of the proper functioning of responsible government. He nevertheless demonstrates that the statutory regime that protects cabinet secrecy at the federal level in Canada is excessively broad and possibly unconstitutional.
Professor Campagnolo’s work is based on a comparative analysis of the rules that apply at the provincial level in Canada, as well as similar rules in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. This detailed analysis allows him to propose innovative reforms that aim to improve the balance between government transparency and confidentiality. As the only English book of its kind on the subject, it is a must read for public policy and legal scholars, as well as public officials and judges.
Professor Mel Cappe of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto offers the following praise: “As a former clerk of the Privy Council, I am delighted to see a book that so comprehensively and rigorously explores the ins and outs of the doctrine of cabinet secrecy in a contemporary context.”
Professor Campagnolo previously explored the topic of cabinet secrecy in French in his 2020 book Le secret ministériel : théorie et pratique (Presses de l’Université Laval). That publication was honoured as the runner-up for the 2020 Walter Owen Book Prize awarded by the Canadian Foundation for Legal Research and the 2021 Quebec Bar Foundation Book Prize, two prestigious distinctions that speak to Professor Campagnolo’s status as one of Canada’s leading authorities on the subject.