Undermining Freedom of Information in B.C.

The media, and individual members of the public, have for years used FOI requests to access information

The provincial Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FIPPA) is a vital piece of legislation that can be used to hold the government accountable and transparent – a crucial component in a contemporary democracy.

The media, and individual members of the public, have for years used FOI requests to access information from government and other public bodies that would otherwise be protected or deliberately withheld.

However, the effectiveness of the act is on the verge of being seriously degraded.

The provincial government is changing the legislation, and making all active FOI requests public, before they are completed.

While that may sound reasonable, it will gravely damage the media’s ability to conduct investigations into government decisions and actions discreetly, releasing stories only when all information and sources have been pursued. Alerting other media, government officials and the public of an ongoing investigation is a deep disincentive to journalists, and may well compromise confidential sources.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong has indicated the impetus behind the change is to assist applicants in tracking their FOI requests. We challenge this reasoning. FOIs can be followed by  calling the FOI analyst of the agency to which the request has been directed. Other options for that process also exist, such as a password protected database.

The perception can be formed that the underlying reason for making FOI requests public before they are complete is to discourage the public and the media from using the legislation.

Other changes to FIPPA are laudable, such the proactive disclosure of a range of government information, without the necessity of an FOI request, and an improved government response to applications.

However, we urge Minister de Jong to abandon the automatic public release change, and allow FIPPA to continue to be the effective tool it was intended to be.

That’s the mark of an accountable government, willing to bear the scrutiny of its constituents and media watchdogs.

Andrew HolotaEditorAbbotsford News

 

Just Posted

Competition offers $2,000 to Ladysmith and area playwright

Yellow Point Drama Group continues focus on supporting and nurturing local arts scene in 2019

Editorial: Federal byelection, if it happens, is no reason for voter fatigue

If indeed a byelection is called to choose a Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP, we might as well embrace it

Two of Chemainus photographer Marston’s images picked among National Geographic’s 2018 elite

Rare double honour from the 36 best Your Shots out of nearly 19,000 photos

Strong winds up to 100 km/h for parts of Vancouver Island

Wind warning in effect for north, east and west Vancouver Island into Saturday morning

Police officer recounts wild car chase through downtown Ladysmith and Duncan

B.C. Supreme Court trial of Armaan Singh Chandi hears of pursuit following Nanaimo drive-by shooting

VIDEO: Students in MAGA hats mock Native American at Indigenous Peoples March

Diocese in Kentucky says it is investigating the matter, caught on video by onlookers

CONSUMER REPORT: What to buy each month in 2019 to save money

Resolve to buy all of the things you want and need, but pay less money for them

Want to avoid the speculation tax on your vacant home? Rent it out, Horgan says

Premier John Horgan and Sheila Malcolmson say speculation and vacancy tax addresses homelessness

UPDATE: B.C. woman and boy, 6, found safe, RCMP confirm

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

PHOTOS: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Women and allies marched worldwide protesting violence against women, calling for equality

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

No winning ticket in $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

No win in Friday night’s draw means the next Lotto Max draw will be approximately $17 million

Most Read