Citizens Services Minister Jinny Sims takes questions in the B.C. legislature Oct. 19, 2017 about delayed information on the Pressy Lake fire that destroyed 33 homes near 100 Mile House in August. (Hansard TV)

Changes coming to FOI rules, B.C. minister says

Jinny Sims looking at 72-hour public release policy

Weekly newspapers and freelance journalists might soon get more time to produce stories gleaned from freedom of information requests to the B.C. government.

Citizens Services Minister Jinny Sims isn’t making any promises, but a review of freedom of information (FOI) requests to the B.C. government and its agencies is underway, and the policy of releasing all results on a public website 72 hours after they are given to the applicant is part of that.

B.C. Ferries was the first provincial agency to start public release of all FOI requests, and the rest of the government followed suit under the previous B.C. Liberal administration.

“It has been brought to my attention that this is still happening, and we’re doing a review, and we’re looking at making some changes,” Sims said in an interview with Black Press.

“One of the things that I’ve also heard is that when you publish a name on a website of who has put in a request, that also has a chilling factor for some people. So we’re looking at the whole issue around this, and we are planning to make changes.”

The NDP promised in the spring election campaign to change the public release policy.

After former finance minister Mike de Jong began posting FOI responses to a public website, researchers and reporters objected. Media lawyer David Sutherland noted that when law firms use FOI for civil cases, they try to keep them secret from the other side. He predicted public release would result in lawyers using agents to file requests, adding more complexity to cases.

Sims said the on-time performance of response to FOI requests has also improved, up from 80 per cent last year to 91 per cent. She attributed the improvement to her new direction for staff, who she said have been “unleashed to do their job.”

Sheer volume of FOI requests is an issue for the B.C. government, including everything from political staff combing through ministers’ calendars to provincial prison inmates demanding menus of correctional institutions.

“We do have a small number of high-volume users, the frequent flyers on our FOI system, and they do generate significant workload pressures,” Sims said. “In 2016-17 alone, two requesters were responsible for 29 per cent of all general requests, and one of these two requesters generated 65 per cent of all media-related FOI requests.”

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Liberal candidate Duck Paterson on the campaign trail. (Submitted photo)
BC Liberal candidate Duck Paterson clarifies position on climate change

Paterson calls human activity a ‘contributing’ factor and says climate change must be addressed

Property on the Trans Canada Highway beside the Country Maples Campground has been sold and will become a modular home park. (Photo submitted)
Development, business transactions significant for Chemainus

Two highway properties and Owl’s Nest Bakery and Bistro sold

Chris Istace campaigning in Crofton. (Photo submitted)
Green Party’s Istace apologizes for remark about First Nations gaming grants being a ‘handout’

Candidate determined to do better in thinking and communicating matters of reconciliation

Debby Baker completed her 671km walk in style with a celebration at Eagles Hall in Ladysmith (Submitted photo)
671 kilometres later, Debby Baker raises $5,000 for local charities

Baker travelled the distance from Ladysmith to the Dalles, Oregon – all without leaving the Island

Jenna Forster moderated the Virtual All Candidates Forum between Duck Paterson (top left); Chris Istace (top right); and Doug Routley (Youtube/Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce)
Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidates state their case in virtual debate

Duck Paterson, Chris Istace, and Doug Routley are on the ballot for October 24

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

Nanaimo RCMP arrest man with axe in downtown park. (File photo)
Man seen with axe at Nanaimo park, numerous RCMP officers respond

Incident happened Friday evening at Maffeo Sutton Park

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation load lobster traps on the wharf in Saulnierville, N.S., after launching its own self-regulated fishery on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Vancouver Island First Nations back Nova Scotia’s Indigenous lobster fishermen

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council calls for action before lives are lost

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Skiers line up to start the Royal LePage Comox Valley Snow to Surf Adventure Relay Race. Photo by Tim Penney
Popular Comox Valley adventure race cancelled for 2021

COVID forces Comox Valley Royal LePage Snow to Surf Adventure Relay Race cancellation again

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

Most Read