What does polling tell us about how concerned Canadian are about transparency issues? And should the public have a right to know why senior public officials get fired?

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What does the latest polling tell us about how concerned Canadian are about transparency issues? Why did the British Columbia government claim it didn’t have records that actually exist? And should the public have a right to know the circumstances behind the firing of senior public officials?

Those are just some of the questions raised by stories about freedom of information that made headlines and twitter posts in Canada last week.

 

 FOI NEWS: FEDERAL

• Forum Research Inc. reports, “When presented with five major issues facing the Canadian government now, two thirds of voters say ethics and transparency in government has ‘a great deal of influence’ on their vote.” (hat tip: BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association)

• The Canadian Food Inspection Agency attempted to charge La Presse $104,050 for statistics on how often the organization has verified the nutrition facts on food labels over the past four years. (hat tip: Leslie Young)

• In response to CBC News’s request for records about food labelling, Health Canada provided a package of 400 documents. But one of those documents, an issue summary, had a “curious” redaction: “Review of serving size (deleted word) guidelines.” According to reporter Kelly Crowe, that word was deleted because it’s a cabinet secret.

• The Haisla Nation had to wait “nearly four years” for Environment Canada to respond to an access request for records related to the federal government’s proposed consultation approach for the Northern Gateway Pipeline.

• CBC News reports Ontario Superior Court Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel will decide this week whether a “secret settlement made between the Canadian government and U.S. Steel will be unsealed…While lawyers for U.S. Steel argue the deal is privileged and protected information, lawyers for the steelworkers union and City of Hamilton say it would be ‘fairness 101’ to disclose the deal during bankruptcy protection and amidst the potential sale of the Hamilton steel plant.” (hat tip: Ian Bron)

• “The federal government has decided to stop publishing contact information for all of its departments and agencies in the blue pages section of telephone directories,” reports the Canadian Press. “A spokesman for Shared Services Canada says the department has yet to receive any complaints about the dropped blue pages listings.”

• The University of Alberta’s Faculty of Extension is hosting the 2015 Access and Privacy Conference on June 11.

 

FOI NEWS: PROVINCIAL

• The Tyee reports that, last week, the BC NDP raised three examples of documents the provincial government claimed did not exist after the party filed freedom-of-information requests for them. But it turns out those documents do actually exist, with the B.C. NDP having obtained them through other means.

• The Times Colonist’s Les Leyne writes that those revaluations are “not exactly news. A national survey a year ago turned up a similar conclusion. And FOI law is a background issue that doesn’t really move too many people.”

• Reader Merv Adley counters Leyne’s claim, writing that, “The Freedom of Information and [Protection of] Privacy Act protects our democratic institutions by forcing governments to inform us of what they are up to. It’s a damn shame Leyne doesn’t find a government routinely evading the act more appalling.” Adley’s letter was published, in part, by the Vancouver Courier.

• Freelancer Bob Mackin has been successful in his four-year quest to obtain the BC Lions’ rent contract with the BC Pavilion Corp.

• CBC News reports, “Sherry Jeffers and Charlene Pitre are suing the [New Brunswick] government for allegedly breaching their confidentiality as informants to a Department of Social Development investigation into the Saint John special care home where they once worked.” (hat tip: Ian Bron)

• The Newfoundland and Labrador government has introduced a new bill implementing the recommendations of an independent committee that reviewed the province’s access to information legislation. According to CBC News, “The new law remains on track to come into effect June 1.”

• Ontario’s new information and privacy commissioner will be coming to Brock University on May 6 to “meet with regional stakeholders and talk about the trends and future direction of access to information and protection of privacy.”

 

FOI NEWS: LOCAL

• Kevin Kaardal, the superintendent for Burnaby, B.C.’s school district, was given a golden handshake worth close to $430,000. But the district isn’t saying why Kaardal left by “mutual agreement,” prompting the newspaper to ask, “What do taxpayers have the right to know, or need to know, when top brass in city positions are shown the door?”

• “A year after it was asked to disclose detailed ridership studies for the Union-Pearson Express, Metrolinx has released some of the reports,” according to the Toronto Sun. “But key financial information is blacked out from the documents.”

 

Sean Holman writes The Unknowable Country column, which looks at politics, democracy and journalism. He is a journalism professor at Mount Royal University, in Calgary, an award-winning investigative reporter and director of the documentary Whipped: the secret world of party discipline. Have a news tip about the state of democracy, openness and accountability in Canada? You can email him at this address.

Illustration photo by Dan Domme, via Flickr.