FIPA, the BC Civil Liberties Association, and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation sent a letter to Premier Gordon Campbell today calling for the return of BC Ferries to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
A report by the province’s Comptroller General revealed a culture of secrecy and entitlement at the provincially-owned but privately-run company. BC Ferries was removed from the provincial freedom of information law in 2003 by the Liberal government as part of a massive re-organization of the company.
“This is a concrete example in dollars and cents of how important freedom of information really is,” said FIPA Executive Director Darrell Evans. “I doubt BC Ferries officials would have been paid these outrageous salaries and bonuses if they knew citizens or the media could ask for them through the freedom of information act.”
The enormous salaries and bonuses that were the highlight of the Comptroller General’s report became public knowledge only when changes to federal securities regulations required BC Ferries to disclose them.
“The government should act immediately to put BC Ferries back under the FOI act,” said Micheal Vonn of the BCCLA. “Clearly they made a mistake in removing the company from scrutiny by the public, and they should correct that error immediately.”
“The Ferry Authority and Board are not accountable to anyone, and as politicians are not minding the store, citizens, watchdog groups and the media must be empowered to ensure taxpayers are getting value for money,” said Maureen Bader, BC Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “Putting BC Ferries back under the FOI act is the first step to renewing accountability and transparency among organizations receiving tax dollars.”
A Special Committee of the Legislature is now reviewing the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. All three groups intend to make submissions for improving the law and will call upon other concerned citizens and groups to do the same.