Local MLA Scott Cyr has co-released a report looking into improving the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) process in Alberta.
Cyr, who serves as the Shadow Service Alberta Minister for the Wildrose party, released the report called Fixing Alberta’s Broken FOIP System alongside Shadow Democracy & Accountability Minister Nathan Cooper.
Key recommendations from the report include:
- Ending chronic delays due to signoff by instituting presumptive signoff;
- Creating greater transparency through public reporting of FOIP response times by ministry in annual reports;
- Decentralizing the FOIP process by empowering ministries and ending Public Affairs Bureau, Service Alberta and Alberta Justice interference, and;
- Transitioning from a reactive disclosure system to an open data system.
“While in opposition, NDP MLAs decried the same principles that they now sign off on in government,” Cooper said. “Greater information sharing is in the best interests of all Albertans, and our FOIP system could drastically be improved by following these recommendations.”
Alberta’s information and privacy commissioner has criticized the NDP on this issue in the past. Jill Clayton had some scathing words for the sitting government in the preface to a report on the subject in February.
“Among the most concerning of the findings from this investigation are the comments relayed to the investigator about the lack of respect for access to information across the Government of Alberta.
“It is easy to regard access to information as a nuisance, particularly when workloads are increasing and staff levels are not; however, access to information is also a cornerstone of democracy and, as has been said, ‘democracy dies behind closed doors.’ ”
“Holding the government to account is made more difficult by a FOIP process that rewards bureaucrats for obscuring information,” said Cyr. “It must be a wakeup call to the NDP government when government managers are more focused on “publicly sham[ing] the Wildrose” than doing their job. This attitude is unacceptable in a supposedly non-partisan public service.”
- In 2012, 95 per cent of FOIP requests were responded to in 60 days.
- Last year, 82 per cent of FOIP requests were responded to in 60 days.
- A typical Wildrose FOIP request to Justice under the previous government was returned in four months. Under the NDP government it takes nearly nine months and usually has to be forced out by an order from the Privacy Commissioner.
- A typical Wildrose FOIP request to Environment under the previous government was returned in four months. Under the NDP government it takes eight months and usually has to be forced out by an order from the Privacy Commissioner.
- Alberta has less than half the FOIP volume that Manitoba does, yet Manitoba has a better 60-day response rate.