One battle ends, and another one begins.
Rewind to Nov. 5, 2013, when I revealed how Premier Christy Clark was taking the “free” out of Freedom of Information.
That’s the law that gives you the right to ask public bodies to let you see their files. It is supposed to “make public bodies more accountable to the public.” Anybody can use it (not just a certain pesky reporter that Deputy Premier Rich Coleman deems to be too negative).
On Oct. 15, 2013, I made a simple request. I wanted to see the business case for the replacement of the Massey Tunnel with a bridge. How much might it cost you and me?
As much as this might ease the flow of commuters and cargo across the Fraser River from Richmond to Delta, there are environmental implications for the river and Deas Island Regional Park. It is also going to cost at least $3 billion. Schools and hospitals also want money. The provincial debt has ballooned under Clark — $16.5 billion since she became premier in 2011.
Clark promised during the 2013 election to put rapid transit funding in Metro Vancouver to referendum, but when she announced her grand plan to replace the tunnel with a bridge at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, she had no plan to ask whether you wanted to pay for it.
Clark also promised in July 2011 to run a transparent government. She even proclaimed: “After all, it’s taxpayers’ money and it’s taxpayers’ information.”
High-ranking minions in Mike de Jong’s Finance Ministry decided last October that the 60 pages of documents about the tunnel-cum-bridge that they held in their grubby hands were going to cost me $126 to see. I’m a frequent FOI requester and governments don’t ask for exorbitant fees to see dozens of pages. But this one was so arrogant that it thought it could get away with it.
Fast-forward six months and, after my complaint to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, the government has relented. No fee. But it is not a victory.
Instead of 60 pages, I got 15 on May 22 with such earth-shaking revelations as: “Plan is for the project to ready for construction in 2017” and “Plan is for the new bridge to be fully operational by the end of 2022.”
The documents mention that there are concept plans, but whether a business case exists is protected by section 12, aka “cabinet confidences.” See “more” below.
Bottom line: The BC Liberal government doesn’t want you to know about how it wants to spend your hard-earned money on mega-projects.
Another appeal will be filed with the OIPC, because you deserve to know about what Clark, de Jong, Coleman and Todd Stone want to keep secret.