On the podcast: The History of FIPPA

On this episode of the show, we go back to a time before British Columbia had freedom of information or privacy laws—to the year 1990—and find out what it was like to request information from government.

Then, we find out how a small group of dedicated individuals were able to advocate, draft, and ultimately bring about B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, bringing this province one step closer to the ideal of open government.

We’ll hear about how the new legislation offered the promise of greater government transparency and accountability, and about what’s transpired in the nearly thirty years since the Act was passed.

Guests on this episode include: FIPA co-founder Darrell Evans, FIPA co-founder and former Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis, current Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy, former Attorney General Colin Gableman, former MLA Barry Jones, current MP Murray Rankin, and the Vancouver Sun’s legislative reporter Vaughn Palmer.

Book your FOI workshop now!

We offer Freedom of Information workshops to anyone looking to learn basic and practical skills needed to start tackling their own FOI projects.

Workshops are entirely FREE and can be focused on the foundational knowledge of FOI through our 101 workshops, or the more advanced intricacies found in our 201 version.

Send us a message at fipa@fipa.bc.ca for more details

Update on Whistleblower Legislation

Last November, we published Carroll Anne Boydell’s analysis of BC’s new whistleblower legislation – the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) – and how it compares to international best practice standards. The study, which is currently available to download from our website, examines different legislations containing protections for whistleblowers who disclose wrongdoing in the province and determines how well they follow best practice principles.

Click here for a free download of the document.

The SINs of the Speculation and Vacancy Tax

Image of luxury tax square on monopoly board

We’ve been hearing from a lot of British Columbians who are concerned about sharing their Social Insurance Number (SIN) with the Ministry of Finance in the administration of the new Speculation and Vacancy Tax.

The Social Insurance Number is a sensitive piece of personal information that should only be provided under very specific circumstances. The concern from the public centers around the justification of the provincial government in asking for this information.

In order to provide more information to the public, we’ve reached out to the Ministry of Finance about where they draw the authority to request SINs, why they are necessary in the administration of the new tax, and how this information is going to be kept secure.

Before proceeding with the Ministry of Finances response, a general familiarization with two pieces of provincial legislation is useful: The first is with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act , which delineates how public bodies collect, use, and store personal information; and the second is the Speculation and Vacancy Tax Act, which outlines the administration of the new tax.

What follows is a response from the Ministry of Finance:

Authority to Collect SIN:

Social Insurance Numbers (SIN) are fundamental to British Columbia and Canada’s taxation system.  The Speculation and Vacancy Tax Act, subsection 64(1) authorizes the administrator to collect information from property owners through the annual declaration in order to administer the act.  Requiring personal information, including the SIN, is necessary for the administrator to determine tax liability, identifying whether property owners pay income taxes in Canada and whether an individual may be eligible for a tax exemption or BC tax credit. 

Why the SIN is being collected:

The collection of SIN is crucial to identify whether home owners pay tax in Canada and to confirm residency information.  This information is relevant to ensure individuals that live in their home, and are eligible, receive the principal residence exemption.  In addition, residency information is required to determine the amount of tax an individual is subject to, and, if applicable, the amount of speculation and vacancy tax credit an individual may receive.

How information is kept secure:

The SIN is one piece of personal information that is collected through the online declaration application.  eTaxBC is the online secure government application that is used for the declaration process.  All information entered into eTaxBC is encrypted at the time of entry.  Once a SIN is collected it is masked and the ability for employees to view the number is controlled by security access on a need to know basis. The personal information that is collected under the Speculation and Vacancy Tax Act is protected in a manner consistent with the BC Government’s Information Security Policy, Federal Security Standards, and provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

– The Ministry of Finance