The government of the day continues to abandon its commitment to improve accountability through transparency.
According to the assembly, the Special Committee to Review the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act has not yet received a Terms of Reference to continue their work in the 2nd session. With only a few days to go in BC’s current legislative session, that leaves the Special Committee non-functioning.
This creates an unprecedented situation where a government is failing to comply with its own legislative requirements to review the act that enables the public to access information. According to FIPA Executive Director Jason Woywada, “The legislative review and acting upon the Committees recommendations is one the most basic actions to improve government accountability. This governments words and actions do match. We hear one thing and see them reducing transparency and the public’s right to access information.”
Equally concerning are an increasing number of reports that the government and its Ministries are proceeding to hold consultations under the cloak of darkness and behind closed doors with industry and other public bodies on reforms to FIPPA. Participants indicate they appear to be predefine prospective legislative changes before hearing from the public. “Holding private consultation on transparency laws seems counter to the intent of the legislation.” Woywada added, “there are serious flaws in the current legislation highlighted by issues around the pandemic, access to Residential School records and wood-chippers at the legislature. At this point, the public has every right to ask “What is this government trying to hide?”
As outlined in the legislation and by the government in its FOIPPA Policy & Procedures Manual, section 80 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act requires that a comprehensive review of the act must be begun at least once every 6 years. The previous review of the act that resulted in recommendations to the legislative assembly began on May 28, 2015 – more than 6 years ago at this point. In the previous session, the Special Committee to Review the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act was established with Terms of Refrence. After proroguing the legislature, new terms of reference for the Special Committee have not yet been received and there are no updates regarding when the Special Committee will be reconstituted.
The Government has a clear course of action to meet its requirements in legislation. Failing that FIPA as always is prepared to work with people and provincial stakeholders to improve access to information. FIPA has created a Transparency Matters donation page. Donations will help carry the costs as we file complaints and legal challenges to ensure greater government transparency. You can help and contribute by making your donation here.