Monday, November 2, 2015

Orderly, efficient and accountable

Mainstream and alternative media have given a fair degree of coverage to Clark Government efforts to ensure few papers document its activities. Rather too little attention has been paid to the motivation for this blank public record.

For almost three years, the Information and Privacy Commissioner has been providing advice to improve information handling. Even today, caught in a maelstrom of controversy, the BC government avoids Elizabeth Denham's recommendations. Instead, they recruited David Loukidelis from their roster of loyalists, aiming to push the issue down the road and ultimately gather suggestions that will serve Liberal needs and protect them from further embarrassment. Loukidelis is a lawyer who has collected almost $3 million from BC's treasury during Liberal years and, as written elsewhere, "The fundamental duty of any lawyer is to zealously represent his client's interests."

Let's consider the current government strategy for record keeping. Every program of professional training teaches the importance of documentation when business is conducted. There's an adage that says, "If it isn't written down, it didn't happen." In medicine and fields of human care, the need for accurate records is self-evident. Without them, unnecessary disaster, even death, is inevitable. In large business and service organizations, a written record is vital because situations recur and consistent responses are desirable, even if the parties involved change from one instance to another, as they do. A thorough record allows actions to be understood and reconstructed and these goals are important, particularly when massive values or important policies are at stake.

In the private sector, when it comes to employing people, producing goods and collecting tax, government insists citizens keep detailed evidence of activities. Almost all enterprises and efforts oblige people to create and maintain records for years into the future and tax authorities even require that we seek permission to discard old documents.

Clearly, the purpose of any record is to ensure that people not directly involved can later understand accurate details of events. The only people who do not maintain records are those who aim to avoid acting in an orderly, efficient and accountable manner. Generally, those are people who fear disclosure of their activities.

Sometimes the fear is that a political foe or competitor will gain advantage. Other times, it is fear that subterfuge or malfeasance will be discovered. Criminals, don't want records of their crimes. Improper gifts, inducements and bribes are never intended to be disclosed to the public.

In British Columbia, much routine government business occurs with complete documentation. But, under Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark, transactions involving billions of dollars have been taken from public view. Public-private partnerships have been at the centre of this activity and the values involved exceed $75 billion. As citizens, we are not privy to fine details of the contracts, even with tens of billions of dollars at stake.

Liberals ensure that we cannot look at specific contracts but their documentation policies ensure that we cannot even examine the justifications and judgements underlying policies they choose. We rely on members of government to ensure the arrangement are honest and honourable.

I can think of no reason for this situation to exist.






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8 comments:

  1. Is there a difference between Triple-O-Delete files vs "404 - File Directory Does Not Exist" when searching on Google? Or is '404' a symptom of intentional changing of of URL to hide files that the BC Liberal government hacks haven't been able to delete?

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Document Disposal Act had very specific language detailing lawful conditions and timelines for retention of government information, and made anyone in custody of the information individually subject to the Offence Act for unauthorized destruction.

    The new Information Management Act (IMA) that repeals the Document Disposal Act makes the head of a government body responsible for ensuring an “appropriate system” is in place for managing government information and that “reasonable steps” are taken to comply with the IMA. Those nebulous mom and apple pie statements are now the legal foundation for each ministry or government body to individually concoct their own information schedules to be rubber-stamped by the Chief Records Officer, who is to be appointed by none other than Amrik Virk, who has demonstrated a very fine record of dealing with public information. And no penalties are included should anyone in any of those ministries contravene what are essentially their own rules for creation, retention, or destruction. There is no question the public interest has been trampled here with respect to access to government information, and one would have to be extremely naïve to think it wasn’t done to ensure the public is kept in the dark about many other injuries to its interests by the BC Liberals looking out for theirs. Welcome to British Columbia.

    But wait. The Act requires all government information (if anyone cares to document at all) to be digitized. If past practice is any guide, we can look forward to the creation of a very large and very costly new computer system that purports to accomplish this. Past practice would also inform us that the system will be contracted out to BC Liberal cronies, who will go ninety miles an hour down a dead-end road and go horrendously over budget along the way. When it becomes patently obvious that the system is useless, the Chief Records Officer (undoubtedly a BC Liberal crony with just the right stature to fit under a bus) will appoint David Loukidelis to take a look at what happened and recommend a fix, with the operative word being fix. Welcome again.

    ProMedia will then begin explaining how this all started in the ‘90s under the NDP.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Liberals ensure that we cannot look at specific contracts"......perhaps there are a few instances where this is prudent, though I can't think of any....after all, the procurement process has already been completed and the vendor selected......I tried an FOI to get the amount of power produced (not the price paid, just the amount in Gwhrs or whatever unit they choose) for the dismal Tyson Creek Hydro IPP a couple of years ago.....my request was returned blank with a note that this was sensitive private company information that if released would be detrimental to their position in the market.......yet I bought this electricity.....Lord knows how much I paid for it....all I was asking is what quantity did I buy.........with no pun intended this certainly qualifies to "ensure the public is kept in the dark" .

    This was but one of many of my FOI's returned with "no records found" on the IPP subject.......funny how now a couple of years later Mackin et al have finally got some coverage of their own frustrations.

    ReplyDelete
  4. ...and I continue to shake my head in disbelief. Not that this government strategy is perpetrated on us by these AGGRESSIVE NARCISISTS (as defined above), but that there is no mechanism to check/stop it! How long can this continue? Until the next election, when the sheeple re-elect them? Surely this can't continue. Is there not one amongst the 3 million voters that has the answer?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Remember when the fast ferry fiasco was happening? The media was relentless in examining and explaining every detail and every misstep. We were told often that no business plan had been completed before government decided to invest a few hundred million in the BC marine construction industry.

      So where is the SWOT for BC Hydro's $60+ billion purchase of private power? Where is the analysis for $10B or $15B for Site C? Or for the billions of natural gas given to producers with little return to the province by way of royalties?

      Why does the corporate media stay almost quiet?

      (SWOT is a structured planning method used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a project or in a business venture.)

      Delete
  5. given the local MSM is owned by large corporations, some which have at head office nothing to do with real media, their only interest is making money for themselves and protecting those who protect them. would not expect any them to deal with the issues you write about in this post. They will start reporting on this indepth about the same time Stephen Harper admits the error of his ways and joins the Green Party of Canada.

    when this much is kept from the public it is reasonable to conclude there is something rotten in Denmark and it isn't the cheese.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Exactly! The corporate media stays (almost) quiet because they can. Where is the outrage? Where is the "I'm as mad as Hell and not going to take it anymore"? Sure, there are a few voices of dissention in the Comments column, but by and large the +/- 3 million taxpayers are sitting on their hands, or voting Liberal like the last time.
    There sure is something rotten going on, just like in Quebec, but we don't have the wherewithal to do something about it!

    ReplyDelete
  7. John, people don't get upset until it impacts them or theirs. Its that easy. Its like the shootings in :Surrey. We've heard all the b.s. there is to hear from the politicians and the CEO of the RCMP in Surrey, has anything changed? Of course not. Nothing will change until there are about 10 people per month being shot dead in middle class neighbourhoods.

    will anything change in B.C. when it comes to health care? Not so much. Not even 86 dead at Burnaby General in 2 1/2 yrs. So my estimate on that would be, we'd have to have at least one case in the media each day before people might do something.

    Dead kids in care? Well the first 4 didn't change anything. I'd suggest the government and the citizens don't care. Not until we become an international embarrassment and they come in droves and start questioning the Premier and her useless excuses for cabinet serious questions.

    Most people are too busy going to work, raising their kids, dealing with their own issues to deal with anything else. We have a bible belt which has a lot of homelessness. what did the homeless get? chicken shit and still living on the streets.

    Part of the problem is the local media. They simply are being too well feed by the B.C. Lieberals and the majority of citizens haven't been negatively affected so far.

    At some point all those bills will come due. about that time people may pay attention because the government will be in trouble. until then everyone go back to sleep

    ReplyDelete

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