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.”

Just Posted

Police seek tips in 2015 death of Brown

Four years has passed since the body of Penelakut Island teen was discovered

Brewers go down swinging in baseball semifinal playoff

Chemainus junior men’s squad falls just short of a second straight trip to the finals

Lack of consultation on Chemainus Road corridor project irks business owners, residents

Surprise expressed over change to anticipated North Cowichan plans

Fuller Lake Beach remains closed

High bacteria count prevents people from being in the water during warm summer days

Ladysmith Chamber president speaks up for local business at meeting with provincial ministers

Tammy Leslie, Ladysmith Chamber president presented three policy proposals to the government

VIDEO: Canadian zoos’ captive breeding programs help preserve endangered species

Programs considered last-ditch effort to prevent local extinctions of turtles, butterflies and more

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

B.C. log export rules killing us, northwest harvester says

NorthPac Forestry says Skeena Sawmills has plenty of timber

Search crews find 4-year-old boy who went missing near Mackenzie

George went missing early Saturday afternoon

Most Read