The results are in! FIPA poll shows British Columbians favour a strong freedom of information system

..And 96% think it is either “somewhat” or “very” important to have this duty to document. Find more images below.
..And 96% think it is either “somewhat” or “very” important to have this duty to document. Find more images below.

FIPA recently commissioned some public opinion polling on BC’s freedom of information system. We worked with Ipsos, a leading independent market research company, to develop and pose four questions related to some of our key recommendations to the Special Committee reviewing BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

A total of 802 people in BC shared their thoughts on duty to document, penalties for interfering with access rights, proactive disclosure, and a timeline for implementing key reforms. You can check out the full questions, answers, and results below.

It seems clear that British Columbians share FIPA’s position on the above issues in freedom of information law:

Poll results show that 96% of British Columbians believe it is important that government officials be legally required to keep accurate, complete records of what they do on the job.

Further, 84% think government officials who interfere with access to information rights should face penalties (with 12% stating they don’t know).

85% of respondents believe these reforms should be put into law before the next BC election in 2017.

On the topic of proactive disclosure of records, British Columbians were asked if the practice should be restricted to emergency situations, or if disclosure should take place whenever there is a public interest. This has been a contentious issue, and the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner recently clarified that the latter interpretation should be used. This is FIPA’s view as well—we outlined the specifics in a supplementary submission (prepared by Rebecca Kantwerg of the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre) to this year’s review of FIPPA—and we now know that it’s also the view of a majority of British Columbians (56% agreed with this view, and 13% said they don’t know).

We hope the Special Committee and the BC Government take heed of British Columbians’ views, and get to work implementing the recommended reforms as soon as possible.

We’re also glad that so many people were able to share their opinions on information rights – but we do still have a ways to go to ensure all British Columbians are informed about their access to information system. Help spread the word by sharing this post or these images describing our poll results:

FIPAPoll_DutyDocument FIPAPoll_Penalties FIPAPoll_PublicInterest

Here are the full questions and their responses:

1. In your opinion, how important is it that provincial government officials are legally required to keep accurate and complete records of what they do on the job?

• Very important – 78%
• Somewhat important – 18%
• Not very important – 2%
• Not at all important – <1%
• Don’t know – 2%

2. BC’s information and privacy law currently does not have penalties for interfering with information access rights. Many other Canadian jurisdictions do have such penalties. Should government officials who interfere with access to information rights face penalties?

• Yes – 84%
• No – 4%
• Don’t know – 12%

3. BC’s information and privacy law currently requires governments to release information even without a Freedom of Information request if it is in the public interest. Some people say this duty to release information without a request should only apply in emergency situations. Other people say this duty to release information should apply whenever there is a public interest in the information. Which of these is closest to your view as to when this duty to release information should apply?

• Only in emergency situations – 30%
• Whenever there is a public interest – 56%
• Don’t know – 13%

4. A number of experts (including BC’s Information and Privacy Commissioner) have called for changes to the law to include both a legal duty to document and penalties for those who interfere with information rights. How important do you think it is that these reforms to the information and privacy law be passed before the next BC election (in 2017)?

• Very important – 48%
• Somewhat important – 37%
• Not very important – 4%
• Not at all important – 1%
• Don’t know – 10%

These responses, as well as breakdowns by gender, education, age group, region, income, and household composition, can be downloaded here. The Ipsos Factum can be found here.