The Harper government wants to hide all of its secrets. A Canadian Press reported noticed a troubling policy detail buried in the feds' legislative bulletin that would dramatically expand the number of current and former federal government employees under a lifetime gag order, potentially curbing the right to free expression of thousands of Canadians.
The B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, sent all four parties a questionnaire pushing them for clear positions on how they would stop the erosion of our privacy rights and defend our access to government records through Freedom of Information. On April 30th, we received responses from the NDP, the Liberals, and the Greens (we've yet to hear back from the Conservatives). They all had interesting, if decidedly different things to say.
Information issues were smoking hot right up to the drop of the writ. But ever since, they've received hardly a mention. Looks like nobody wants to talk about the government's increasing unwillingness to create written records or its habit of sheltering public documents from FOI by hiding them in personal email accounts. Even multi-million dollar data linkage and information management programs like the Integrated Case Management (ICM) system, which has been slammed repeatedly by officers of the Legislature and civil society alike, don't rate a mention from the four major parties. This is pathetic.
This holiday season, consultation on the deficiencies in the Access to Information Act provides all of us with a chance to do our best Jacob Marley and remind the Info-Scrooge Conservatives that they once campaigned on the position that government works best when open and accountable. Don't miss your chance to participate.
The B.C. government sure does love secrecy for its educational institutions -- or at least their subsidiary companies. What the information and privacy commissioner said would be a relatively simple change to definitions was, according to a B.C. minister, a much bigger issue requiring consultations and even changes to other sections of the act. So, a year later, what has been done? In a word: nothing.
Faulty advertising rules caused extensive problems for small spenders such as non-profit and charity groups during the 2009 B.C. election. The rules led to widespread confusion, wasted resources, anxiety and, most dangerously, self-censorship among organizations that spent little or nothing on election advertising. The government should have (and could have) fixed this situation when it was amending the law this spring, but chose not to.
Citing a whole range of exceptions from legal privilege to law enforcement to personal privacy, the ministry refused to release any of the records we requested. This, despite the fact that our request should have little or nothing to do with lawyers or police! An RCMP investigation shouldn't mean that every record held by the ministry is automatically off-limits to FOI requests.
Federal budget cuts will lead to the elimination of the Interlibrary Loan Department, which gives British Columbians access to national archival collections housed in Ottawa. Without this service, Canadians living and researching anywhere outside the capital region will have to physically visit those collections on their own dime -- a pricey pill that many simply can't afford to swallow.