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Dear Ms. Clark,
Do you remember saying these things during your short tenure as Premier of British Columbia?
And, finally, in July 2011, you announced an open data and information initiative, in which you stated at the 2:49 mark of this video the following:
“After all, it’s taxpayers’ money and it’s taxpayers’ information.”
On Feb. 10, 2012, you met in Olympia, Wash. with Gov. Christine Gregoire and missed a golden opportunity. You could have asked Ms. Gregoire about her state’s Freedom of Information Act. It is a model that should be adopted here. I’m a British Columbian and I can get information faster from Washington’s government than I can from the one in my home province.
I don’t believe you really are devoted to openness and transparency. Your words are those of a charlatan. You like government to be open only on your terms, not the terms of the people. Look at the response I received below when I asked a simple question to the Jobs, Tourism and Innovation ministry about the budget and plan for your B.C. Jobs Plan and Canada Starts Here advertising campaign. I got a denial letter, claiming all the information is secret. Hidden in cabinet. I thought it’s taxpayers’ money and taxpayers’ information. Or were those only the words that the spin doctor prescribed?
So I’m challenging you to prove me wrong. Make the following four changes to show that you really do believe in openness and transparency:
1) Issue a directive to all ministries and agencies, ordering them to favour openness and disclose records requested within a maximum 30 calendar days (not business days).
2) Follow the State of Washington example and appoint an Open Government Ombudsman. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner is burdened by a lack of resources, a caseload backlog and it only accepts complaints by mail or fax. (Isn’t this the 21st century?)
3) Order all Crown corporations to publish agendas no later than 72 hours before and minutes no later than 72 hours after every board meeting and hold an open, public board meeting at least once each fiscal year.
4) Adapt the following State of Washington openness principles for use in British Columbia, as both the bedrock of FOI and the preamble of the Act.
The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them.
The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.
The people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created.
I know you’re no fan of Gordon Campbell. Here’s the opportunity to show you are better than the man you replaced.
P.S.: If you swiftly make the B.C. government genuinely open, I won’t remind you so much about the need for a B.C. Rail inquiry.
News and views on Vancouver 2010 (and beyond) from Bob Mackin.