Pray for response

The Right to Know Week parade celebrates the importance of access to government information; but the BC government is out of step.

The right of access to information is an important human right and is essential for transparent and accountable governance.

Right to Know Week—Sept. 22-28—is celebrated around the world to raise awareness about people’s right to access government information. It is therefore troubling to read, in the middle of Right to Know Week, the opening line of a press release this week from the Office of Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) Elizabeth Denham.

“The B.C. government has taken a step backward in providing timely responses to access to information requests.”

This statement is from the 67-page OIPC report released on Tuesday entitled: A Step Backwards: Report Card on Government’s Access to Information Responses (available for download at www.oipc.bc.ca/report/special- reports). There are seven recommendations made in the report, including one calling for a new email management system that would capture and preserve email records of ministers and senior government officials.

Current legislation requires public bodies to respond within 30 business days of receiving a request. But since the publication of the last OIPC timeliness report in 2011, the average on-time response across all ministries has dropped from 93 to 74 per cent. Significantly, on-time responses in the Ministry of Children and Family Development have plummeted from 99 to 52 per cent over two fiscal years.

Average processing times across the government have increased from 22 business days to 44 business days, and the average number of business days overdue rose from 17 to 47. These numbers add up to a sad mockery of Right to Know Week.

Right to Know Week is an extension of international Right to Know Day. To learn more, visit www.righttoknow.ca.

Or file a freedom of information request and pray you might get a timely response.