bc freedom of information and privacy association
This was a spring session that was full of blows to information rights in B.C. Changing the law to make sure nobody is able to be held legally responsible for their actions in misusing government information has been a common theme.
If the federal government doesn't want to hear from people about open government, why did we conduct a series of roundtables in five Canadian cities this spring to get feedback on our new open data portal? I even participated in the first Google Hangout by a federal minister to discuss the potential of open data.
Shhhhh. Don't tell anybody, but the Harper™ government is 'consulting' Canadians on Open Government. Well, sort of. There has been no press release about the consultation program. No ad campaign, either. And the program was quietly started in the middle of summer, while everyone was on vacation. It's almost as if Harper doesn't want anyone to know about it. Crazy talk, right?
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.
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.
Treasury Board President Tony Clement is the federal government's Mr. Open Government, but in many ways, his much-hyped open data schemes testify to the Conservative government's general trend toward secrecy and one-way transparency.
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.
Apparently the illegal scanning of licence plates by Victoria police will continue until fixes are implemented. Unlike their counterparts in Saanich and Ottawa, Victoria police have no intention of switching off the cameras during privacy compliance upgrades.
In B.C. and across Canada, the past 12 months have seen information rights make headlines on a regular basis. And usually not in a good way. At the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, much of our year was spent (once again) in sparring matches with the provincial government over access, transparency, and privacy issues.