VANCOUVER - On a Tuesday morning last November, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford emerged from a meeting to announce a framework for energy projects straddling...
Over the last several months, the federal government has repeatedly thrown up the claim that theirs is "the most transparent government in Canadian history," even in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is categorically untrue. Even the practice of stomping on backbenchers who push for more transparency is nothing new for this government.
Since 2009, the Liberals have shuffled ministers in and out of the Ministers of Citizens' Services and Open Government role so quickly that there's hardly been a chance to make any meaningful progress.
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.
A few short days from now, the writ will drop on the 2013 provincial election, kicking off twenty-eight days of heated campaigning. And while there's no shortage of issues for voters to consider, recent controversies around government secrecy and attempts to undermine Freedom of Information make it clear that information policy should be a top priority for voters.
Would you trust a leader who won't make concrete commitments to openness and transparency? Many British Columbians will be asking themselves that very question over the next six weeks.
The government had a clear opportunity to fix the gag on free political speech built into our province's Election Act last spring, when the act was being amended by the legislature. For reasons unknown, they chose not to.
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.
Despite the disastrous launch of the Integrated Case Management System earlier this year, the B.C. government is poised to unveil its next multimillion-dollar, can't-fail IT project: an ID card for everyone in the province. With ICBC in the middle of a labour dispute that finds corporation employees refusing training on the new card, the massive project is on hold, only weeks before its slated November launch.
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.
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.
VANCOUVER - The British Columbia government responds to nearly a quarter of all requests under freedom-of-information laws by insisting it has no records to offer, according to statistics compiled by...