NEWS RELEASE · 2nd June 2010
BC NDP Caucus
With public faith in government undermined by a string of B.C. Liberal betrayals, the New Democrats are proposing legislation to help rebuild British Columbians’ trust in their public institutions by modernizing B.C.'s outdated Freedom of Information laws.
"The public can only trust government if legislators are open and transparent. But for close to nine years the B.C. Liberals have been actively reducing government accountability, culminating with their HST double-cross,” said Doug Routley, New Democrat critic for citizen services.
“B.C. used to be known as a leader in Freedom of Information, and that's something we should aspire to once again. The Open Government Act would improve transparency and help rebuild British Columbians' trust by respecting the public’s right to know in a participatory democracy."
The Open Government Act includes a number of key reforms, and requires government to:
> document key decisions, so that government cannot evade scrutiny by avoiding a paper trail;
> allow British Columbians access to information about quasi-public bodies which receive public tax dollars;
> limit government exempting information release on the grounds of “policy advice” and cabinet secrecy;
> disclose records electronically and on a routine basis.
Routley noted that the B.C. Liberals attempt to discourage the public from seeking information by delaying responses to FOI requests and charging expensive fees to access documents.
“This bill would make records available and searchable online, reducing costs associated with freedom of information requests,” said Routley.
Routley is urging the government to renew and update BC’s FOI legislation by drawing on his bill. The MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan was vice-chair of the legislative committee that this week released recommendations on reforming B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The Open Government Act contains measures, including those mentioned above, that the committee’s B.C. Liberal members blocked from becoming part of the committee’s final report.
"As I underscored in the committee, these reforms would help restore public confidence in our democratic system. If the B.C. Liberals are serious about openness and transparency, they'll take this bill and work with us to revitalize freedom of information in British Columbia," said Routley.
Carole James and the New Democrats are proposing a package of reforms to renew B.C.’s democratic system, including a campaign finance reform bill that would change the way B.C.’s political parties are financed and tough new conflict of interest laws.