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B.C.’s freedom of information system letting taxpayers down

Author: Carson Binda 2024/02/01

Vancouver, B.C.: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling on Premier David Eby to fix British Columbia’s freedom of information system following a damning report from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.  

 

“The OIPC’s report makes it clear that B.C.’s government is systematically failing to abide by freedom of information law,” said Carson Binda, CTF B.C. Director. “Democracy dies in darkness and Eby’s government is throwing freedom of information into a blackhole.” 

 

Under the Freedom of Information Act, government agencies are required to respond to requests within a 30-day period. However, the B.C. government only met that legal requirement in 55 to 58 per cent of cases. The average response time was 85 days in the last fiscal year, representing an all-time high. 

 

FIPPA provides the government with numerous ways to extend the 30-day time limit. Despite this, in one-in-five cases, the government is unlawfully responding to requests beyond the time limit. 

 

“It’s unacceptable the government is ignoring its own laws to withhold information from taxpayers for as long as possible,” Binda said. “At the bare minimum, taxpayers expect the government to follow transparency laws, but the Eby government isn’t even doing that.”

 

In November 2021, the government introduced a new fee structure for freedom of information requests. Since that change, requests for documents decreased by more than 50 per cent. 

 

“Hiding government records behind a pay-wall makes it more difficult for taxpayers to access records we deserve,” Binda said. “B.C.’s government needs to do the right thing, remove the pay-for-access model and ensure it’s following the law by responding to requests in a timely manner.”    

 

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