The conviction of former Ministry of Transportation political staffer George Gretes for obstructing the Information and Privacy Commissioner in her investigation of the “Triple Delete” scandal underscores the need for serious reform of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).
He was not, however, charged with the act of deleting information as that is not actually an offence under FIPPA. We need tougher penalties for those interfering with information rights as well as a legislated duty to document..
Both Commissioner Elizabeth Denham and her predecessor, David Loukidelis, have called for a legislated ‘duty to document’ and for stiffer penalties for violations of the Act. So did FIPA. This was echoed by the Special Legislative committee reviewing the Act in its report this past May. The BC government has yet to respond to any of these recommendations except for vague statements that they were being ‘actively studied.’
According to a poll done for FIPA by Ipsos Canada, it is clear that many British Columbians want action on these issues. The poll found:
- 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.
- 84% think government officials who interfere with access to information rights should face penalties.
- 85% of respondents believe these reforms should be put into law before the next provincial election in 2017.
(Full poll questions and responses can be found here: https://fipa.bc.ca/poll/)
The inaction of the BC government is unacceptable, especially since Commissioner Denham first made these recommendations more than three years ago – presumably they should be able to put together legislation to implement this amendment by now, especially since they were able to bring back the Legislature in the middle of summer to bring in changes to the land transfer tax.
There really is no excuse for delaying action to restore public confidence in this province’s Freedom of Information system.