Before he was elected Premier, Gordon Campbell wrote, "When government does its business behind closed doors, people will invariably believe that government has something to hide. Secrecy feeds distrust and dishonesty. Openness builds trust and integrity."
Another time, Campbell said, "Information rights are meaningless if disclosure timetables cannot be met because there aren't enough staff to do the job."
In his 2001 victory speech, newly elected Premier Campbell said, "We will bring in the most open and accountable government in Canada. I know some people say we'll soon forget about that, but I promise that we won't!"
Since then, Gordon Campbell's Liberal Government has:
• Passed amendments to make the FOI process more difficult and time consuming.
• Been rated second-worst province in Canada for responding to freedom of information requests, according to an audit by the Canadian Newspaper Association.
• Slashed the Information and Privacy Commissioner's budget and refused to fund staff needed to meet FOI disclosure timetables.
• Extended cabinet secrecy to several Liberal caucus committees, without consulting the Information Commissioner.
• Removed B.C. Ferries from the scope of the act and refused to include VANOC, the Olympic organizing committee
• Tried to pass a bill to allow final reports of public inquiries to be kept secret.
• Introduced a B.C. Community Charter to allow municipal councils to place many more subjects into closed meetings. There are no rules setting out what B.C. school boards, colleges, universities and some other public bodies can place in-camera.
• Initiated a review of the FOI act by bureaucrats in 2005 instead of adopting the many pro-FOI recommendations of the 2004 special legislative committee. This review of government openness was itself secret. To avoid public disclosure, no written report was delivered to government by the consultant who reported on the secrecy process.
• Failed to respond to urgent calls to clarify the abused section of the FOIPP act relating to policy advice so that only true advice and recommendations can be withheld, not background documents.
• Attempted to pass a bill in 2006 that would have exempted designated contracts and projects with private sector partners from FOI requirements.
• Routinely made excessive fee estimates for access to records in order to dissuade requesters.
• Routinely engaged in political interference with FOI requests. In February 2009, Commissioner Loukidelis called on government to cease using sensitivity ratings, whether these are applied to types of requesters––for example, media, political parties and interest groups—or to complex or otherwise difficult requests.
• Been asked by Commissioner Loukidelis to begin meeting the statutory obligation to report annually to the Legislative Assembly on administration of the FOI law. This accountability duty has been fulfilled only once.
On April 29, 2009, the Campaign for Open Government published the following:
Two identical FOI requests filed on the same day with the offices of Washington Governor Christine Gregoire and BC Premier Gordon Campbell got very different results.
The Freedom of Information and Privacy Association filed the requests for information about intergovernmental meetings related to the new RFID equipped drivers’ licences now being phased in across the province. The licences are designed to meet the requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) which will require a passport or other authorized ID to enter the United States starting June 1, 2009.
Governor Gregoire’s office responded in full in less than a month. Copying costs were US $5.30.The Office of the Premier didn’t provide their initial response until after the Washington Governor’s office had sent all the requested documents. They still haven’t provided any documents, but did send a bill for C $620.
Recommend this post