Public promises, private practices: Submission to the Special Committee to Review the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

“The fundamental principle must be this: Government information belongs to the people, not to the government. This means, among other things, that all citizens must have timely, effective and affordable access to the documents which governments make and keep.”

Opposition leader Gordon Campbell, 1998

 

Introduction

IntegrityBC’s submission will take a slightly different tack to the more conventional approach.

There will, of course, be recommendations. But think of it also as a scrapbook of two decades of FOIPPA experiences. A walk down memory lane, if you will.

You will read the voices of your colleagues, past and present. The voices of opinion leaders, editorialists and columnists. And, most importantly, the voices of British Columbians.

These are the voices that should resonate with you as you write your final report.

Public promises…

From Atlantic Canada to B.C., party leaders and premiers have recited the same slogan for more than a decade now: they will run “the most open and transparent government in Canada.” They know the line by rote.

Each understands that the public expects that standard from candidates during an election and yet are often let down by those same candidates once elected.

There’s a common consensus on what “open and transparent government” means and all the right things to do to attain it, but few seem willing to follow through once elected to government.

In opposition, one party will decry the actions of a government in this very area and then adopt the very same practices if elected to government.

No great shock that the public is increasingly cynical when they hear the slogan, but fail to see any substance behind it. It is the height of political hypocrisy.

In 2011, Premier Christy Clark promised to run “the most open and transparent government in Canada,” implying that the Gordon Campbell administration, of which she had been a part, had failed to live up to its promise ten years earlier.

Then it was former Alberta premier Alison Redford’s turn to promise that she would run “the most open and transparent government in Canada.”

Next up was Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne who, in early 2013, promised that hers would be “the most open and transparent government in Canada.”

And finally, in October 2013, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil got in on the act and declared that he would run “the most open and transparent government in the country.”

Lofty words, but as they say: the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And slogans aren’t substitutes for substance.

Click IntegrityBC_FOIPPA_Submission to read the full submission.