Advance View: Transparency loses to opacity

A document with the title: A Step Backwards: Report Card on Government’s Access to Information Responses doesn’t exactly inspire trust in the B.C. government’s commitment to transparency.

In fact, it should – and does – trigger a lot of serious questions.

Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s report on how the B.C. government is (or more accurately, is not) fulfilling thousands of information requests every year paints a startling picture of delay tactics, obstruction, and a serious lack of adherence to the basic principles of freedom of information.

The report says that on-time access to information requests in the past two years dropped from 93 per cent to 74 per cent.

The four government ministries with the lowest on-time rates were: Justice, 72 per cent; Energy and Mines, 66 per cent; Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, 65 per cent; and Ministry of Children and Family Development, 52 per cent.

The differences in departmental numbers is informative, but what it tells us on a larger scale is that almost every department is trying to keep information hidden.

The media have always faced stonewalling bureaucrats and politicians who hide behind procedures and paperwork. It is government’s first line of defense when the media look for information that could make the government look bad.

But nowadays, as the privacy commissioner said, “I’m concerned that it’s a trend and the issues are systemic. It’s the law and one-in-four requests are responded to outside of the legal limits, and I think that’s a serious problem for the public.”

Sure. But is a wrist-slapping report going to stop the stonewalling? Not likely. If the provincial government cared about its previous commitments to transparency it would have laid down the law internally. It hasn’t.

We think it’s time to inflict the same deterrents on government ministries that they inflict on citizens: If they miss deadlines, fine them.

And put the money towards school supplies.

Just Posted

Last year’s Langley volunteer extraordinaire pushes others to ‘give it a try’

Volunteering is incredibly gratifying and fun, says Sylvia Anderson in her call for 2019 nominees.

Langley runner nominated for B.C. university athlete of the year

Trinity Western’s Regan Yee ‘surprised and delighted’

Family band from Aldergrove wins youth music award

The Springmans won a Fraser Valley Music Award for their album Happy Beach.

VIDEO: Koch’s OT winner sends Giants to sixth straight victory

Three games, three cities, three victories for the Langley-based hockey G-Men.

Tardi earns first victory in quest for third national title

A Langley-based junior curling team is in Prince Albert, Sask. for the Canadian championships.

Keep focus on helping Canadians at home, Trudeau tells MPs at start of meeting

Trudeau said the Liberals will offer Canadians hope amid issue like climate change and global tensions

Skaters stranded in Saint John, NB, amid storm on last day of championships

More than half of the flights out of the city’s airport were cancelled due to the weather

Call for tighter bail rules after Saudi sex-crime suspect vanishes

Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi was facing charges related to alleged sexual assault, criminal harassment, assault and forcible confinement of a woman

12 poisoned eagles found on Vancouver Island

Improper disposal of euthanized animal suspected

Olympic softball qualifier to be held in B.C.

Tournament is to be held Aug. 25 to Sept. 1

B.C. resident creates global sport training program

The 20 hour course teaches the science and application of interval training at the university level

B.C. VIEWS: Fact-checking the NDP’s speculation tax on empty homes

Negative-option billing is still legal for governments

May plans next move in Brexit fight as chances rise of delay

Some say a lack of action could trigger a ‘public tsunami’

Most Read