BC FIPA’s submission in local government election reform consultation

BC FIPA, today, submitted a letter to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development in the context of its consultation on local government election reform.

BC FIPA strongly opposes provisions on third party spending limits and believes the lack of a minimum spending threshold in the provisions makes them unconstitutional violations of freedom of expression protected under s. 2(b) of the Charter. BC FIPA is currently challenging similar provisions in the provincial Election Act.

BC FIPA also notes that the Local Government Elections Task Force suggested the establishment of a minimum spending threshold in its 2010 report.

Read the letter (pdf).

BC FIPA Responds to Treasury Board Consultation on Open Government

BC FIPA has made its submission on Open Government in response to this somewhat ad hoc consultation, which was announced by the President of the Treasury Board, the Honourable Tony Clement, on December 6, 2011.

Our submission is highly critical of the nature of the consultation and its focus only on open data and technology.

We did not think it was possible to create a consultation document on Open Government without making a single mention of Access to Information, but [the Treasury Board] did it … [I]t is beyond belief that a government would [do this]. The system is in crisis and the government must act immediately to make the necessary legislative and other changes.

Read the full submission (pdf).

BC FIPA also refers to its previous submission on this topic presented to the Access to Information, Ethics and Privacy Committee (ETHI) of the House of Commons early last year. In that submission, we explained how ‘open data’ cannot replace much needed reforms to the Access to Information system.

Read the ETHI submission (pdf).

FIPA Presents Submission on Open Government to House of Commons ETHI Committee

BC FIPA presented its submission on ‘Open Government’ to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (ETHI).

We have to ensure that overdue moves toward more routine release and the use of technology to make government information more widely available must also make this information useable for all Canadians.

Canadians must have the ability to request specific information from their government and receive that information in a reasonable time at no or minimal cost. This means creating a functional Access to Information system.

No one wants to head toward a dystopia where governments push out information electronically which no one uses or trusts, while occasional Wikileaks-type document dumps raise the risk of serious damage to legitimate state, business or personal interests.

Government information was paid for with taxpayers money, we own it and we should have access to it.

Read the full submission (pdf).

BC FIPA presents submission to Alberta FOI and Privacy Review

BC FIPA presented its submission to the Alberta Legislative Standing Committee on Health review of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA).

The submission consists of an extensive report prepared by journalist and researcher, Stanley L. Tromp. Based on a comparative analysis of FOI laws around the world it makes 79 recommendations for improvements to the Alberta FOIPPA.

Key recommendations include:

• Amend the Alberta Act to clarify that records created by or in the custody of a service-provider under contract to a public body are under the control of the public body on whose behalf the contractor provides services. As well, prescribe that all entities that perform public functions be covered by the Act.

• Delete Sec. 6 (4), and include ministers’ briefing books under the Act’s scope again.

• Amend the Act to mandate that when a department’s response falls into deemed refusal, it loses the right to collect fees (including application fees and any search, preparation, and photocopying charges).

• Change Sec. 22 from a mandatory exemption to a discretionary one, whereby deliberative records may be released if cabinet consents.

• Eliminate the $25 application free to file a FOIP Act request.

• The Alberta government should not proceed with any data sharing initiatives until a meaningful public consultation process has occurred, and the outcome of that process is an enforceable code of practice for data sharing programs.

• A positive duty to oblige officials to create and maintain records necessary to document their actions and decisions should be incorporated into the FOIP Act or other legislation.

• A harms test should be added to the FOIP Act exemptions for cabinet records, official advice, and legal advice.

• Amend Sec. 13(2) of the Act to require that public bodies provide electronic copies of records to applicants, where the records can reasonably be reproduced in electronic form

Read the full submission (pdf).