Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer reports that the B.C. Liberals have rebuffed two requests to include the $100-million New Relationship Trust under freedom of information and protection of privacy legislation. Both requests came from David Loukidelis, the province’s information and privacy commissioner.
“We are not inclined to do what he has asked,” said Tom Christensen, minister for aboriginal relations and the cabinet member who shepherded the trust through the legislature last month.
Loukidelis first put his concerns to Christensen in writing on March 22, the day after the enabling legislation was tabled in the house. The letter urged the legislation be amended, to state that the trust would be covered by information and privacy legislation, same as other publicly-funded bodies in B.C.
The Opposition critic for aboriginal relations also raised the issue during debate.
“I note that there is no mechanism for freedom-of-information access,” MLA Scott Fraser said. “The total transparency of such an act as this is important because it keeps the credibility high.”
But neither side offered any amendment and the bill was adopted without the provision requested by the information and privacy commissioner.
That brought a follow-up letter from Loukidelis, again addressed to Christensen.
He restated his prime concern: “The act provides for the New Relationship Trust to administer $100 million in public funds.”
But the trust would not be subject to “accountability and transparency on the same basis as the over 2,000 public bodies in B.C. covered by information and privacy legislation.”
Requirements for auditing, a three-year strategic plan, and annual reports, were not enough to assure Loukidelis that the trust would meet the same standards for information access as other publicly funded entities.
Read the full column: Vancouver Sun April 22, 2006