Newspapers Canada releases FOI performance audit
Results for the annual Newspapers Canada FOI performance audit are in, and, as usual, they aren't pretty.
Only a few provincial governments received As for speedy disclosure: Nova Scotia, PEI, Quebec, and the Yukon. Even less received the top grade for completeness of disclosure: Manitoba and Nova Scotia. Municipal governments did better, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Indeed, the report makes 10 recommendations to improve access to information and government openness.
- Federal officials should heed the government’s call for open data, and release data electronically rather than converting to unreadable image files or providing printouts.
- Officials should avoid asking for clarification by letter mail unless no other means of communication has been provided. Clarifications sent my mail create unnecessary delay in a process than can already be protracted for requesters.
- In a situation where third party interests may apply to part of a record, where practical, the remainder of the records should be released while notification and appeal procedures run their course on the portion in question. Where acts provide for appeals by third parties of disclosure decisions, strict timelines should be introduced to ensure such appeals are dealt with quickly.
- B.C. should give serious consideration to restoring the 30-calendar-day response period to bring itself back in line with established practice in the rest of Canada.
The 2011 Newspapers Canada Freedom of Information Audit shows that while access is an important democratic right in Canada, how meaningful that right is varies depending on where you live in Canada. From a total refusal to release contracts in Winnipeg to Quebec’s denial of basic accountability information about top officials’ spending, to the federal government’s stubborn refusal to release data in a useful form, there is still a lot to be done to make Canada’s access statutes work as citizens have a right to expect.
To read the full report, including all the recommendations, check out the Newspapers Canada website