Brave new world
A fascinating tale of access to information in the post-Bill 29 universe is told in Wednesday's Tellytorial:
...[H]ere’s the results of a request The Telegram made for the financial rationale behind the budgetary decision to spend $765,000 on the remediation of abandoned mines, including money to clean up the former Gullbridge copper mine site near South Brook. A simple request, really — but under the new rules, nothing is simple.
The cover letter that came with the released information sounds hopeful enough: “… (W)e have severed information that is excepted from disclosure and have provided you with as much information as possible.” The information, however, is sadly lacking.
To put the finest point possible on it, “as much information as possible” is now virtually no information.
Between the broadened exemptions for cabinet secrets, policy advice and claims that the information requested would harm “the financial/economic interests of a public body,” the new, Dunderdale-repaired legislation has completely neutered any response.
It’s almost comedic: the first page of information is a one-line email that reads “Hope this makes sense.” Everything after that sentence in the email is blacked out.
To add insult to injury, the information on the mine mess was requested on May 11. It was finally sent to The Telegram on Nov. 9. Six months to release 55 blank pages. Stellar work, folks.
Assume, at least for argument's sake, that the Telegram is rightfully aggrieved in attributing the lack of information in the release to Bill 29.
Bill 29 contains the following important transitional provision:
34. (1) Where, on the coming into force of this Act, a public body, the commissioner or a judge has begun to consider, review or decide on a matter but has not completed the consideration or review or made a decision on it, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act as it existed before the coming into force of this Act shall apply to that consideration, review or decision.Bill 29 did not come into force until June 27th.
Bill 29 was not even introduced at first reading until June 11th.
So, if the Telegram filed its request on May 11th, and if any of the extensive redactions are justified by the respondent department on the basis of Bill 29 amendments to the Act, the necessary and obvious consequence is that the respondent department either delayed "consideration" of the request for six weeks, for no obviously good reason other than to punt it into the post-Bill 29 era, or it began "consideration" in a timely manner, sometime before June 27th, but, gleefully ignoring s. 34 of Bill 29, broke the law by treating it as a post-June 27th request. Which is it?