There are far more problems with this legislation than things to keep. Commissioner McEvoy has highlighted his concerns here. Below are the pluses and minuses we and our coalition partners have identified.
1. It introduces a fee for filing Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
- This change creates a barrier to anyone without deep pockets who wishes to access information and creates a chilling effect on people submitting requests.
- It could also have significant impacts on media, especially for smaller local outlets, many of whom have limited financial resources.
2. It reduces the transparency at the top level of government.
- Hidden amongst the changes, the Office of the Premier and Executive Council Operations have been removed from the list of public bodies covered by FIPPA.
3. It fails to address key recommendations from previous all-party special committees.
- Among the recommendations was an expansion of FIPPA’s scope to cover the subsidiaries of public bodies and steps to strengthen proactive and public interest disclosure.
4. It continues to enable the Legislature to operate wood splitters in the shadows.
- The Legislature is currently not subject to any transparency law, including FIPPA, despite an all-party agreement about the need for reform following the Legislature scandal, and the urgent 2019 joint recommendations of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ombudsperson, and Merit Commissioner.
5. It fails to address priorities identified by both the current and previous Information and Privacy Commissioners.
- Current Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy has raised a number of concerns about the Bill, calling it “a lost opportunity for government to promote greater accountability and transparency”.
- Previous Commissioners have identified that Government has moved towards a culture of secrecy vs transparency and that this culture needs to change.
6. It fails to create, enforce, or oversee a legislative duty to document.
- If records are not created in the first place, they cannot be subject to an access to information request. The 2016 all-party special committee was clear in its call for government to “create a legislative duty to document within FIPPA as a clear indication that it does not endorse “oral government” and that it is committed to be accountable to citizens by creating an accurate record of its key decisions and actions.”
- The current Commissioner indicates the Information Management Act is not fit for purpose and these proposed amendments do little to improve that.
7. It removes the requirement for data residency which can expose personal information held by our public bodies in foreign jurisdictions.
- Some of Canada’s international allies are advocating for an end to encryption. This means that any of your information held in those foreign jurisdictions that may be encrypted now may not have the same protections in the future. The BC Government is choosing to remove the guaranteed protections that come with having your data stored in Canada.
To be added soon……