The Campaign for Open Government has released a list of the top 10 stories broken in BC during 2006 through the use of the Freedom of Information act.
Information obtained through FOI requests in 2006 threw public light on environmental disasters, threats to public health and safety, official misconduct and corruption, bungled government programs, and at least one attempt by the B.C. government to cover up embarrassing information.
“These few examples are taken from hundreds of reported instances of FOI use,” said campaign spokesperson Darrell Evans. “They show that determined citizens, reporters, and public interest groups are still able to use the Freedom of Information Act to shed light on government secrets and keep officials accountable to the public – in spite of eight years of financial cutbacks to FOI offices and increased barriers to the release of public information.”
Five of the top ten stories were broken by journalists, two by the NDP opposition, two by citizen activists, and one by an environmental group.
“It’s good to see that the Official Opposition is back as an effective user of the FOI act,” said Evans. “When the B.C. Liberals were in opposition and at their peak use of FOI, they accounted for an amazing 30 per cent of all FOI requests for general (that is, non-personal) information.”
The act was introduced by the NDP under Mike Harcourt, but the Liberal opposition became the most effective user of the FOI act in the 1990s, and led the way in demonstrating that FOI is one of the mainstays of transparent and accountable government.