"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Right to No Week 2013 (II)

Apart from the obvious cultural problem within the provincial government when it comes to the administration of the Access to Information regime, Bill 29 has, despite hysterical protestations to the contrary, had a significant impact on how ATI requests are treated.

Of all the posted responses to date, 91 were for records granted, or described as "granted in part", without refusals or redactions justified on the basis of any section of the Access to Information Act. In a few cases, other statutes, or other excuses, were used as a basis for partial refusal of access.

As previously noted, most of the "granted" requests (57) were simple, factual queries, and not requests for access to records, which is what the Access to Information Act governs. This leaves just 34 requests which were granted for unredacted records, or granted "in part", but without exclusions or redactions justified on some provision of the Act.

(These counts do not include the redaction from the posted version of the responses of the personal information of the requester, which are improperly redacted citing Access portions of the Act — the posting of ATI responses is not being done in response to an ATI request — instead of being properly redacted under the Privacy portion of the Act, which governs the information-disclosing actions of government itself.)

A total of 87 requests were either granted with redactions (60) or refused outright (27), with the redactions or refusals justified on one or more grounds contained within the Act itself. And of those, 83 request were redacted or refused based on sections of the Act which were added or substantially amended by the Progressive Conservative government's Bill 29 in 2012. Only 16 requests were redacted, and just two refused, based on provisions of the Act which were already in force prior to Bill 29. (The latter two columns total more than the second column, because some requests were redacted or refused on both pre- and post-Bill 29 grounds.)

Probing a little more deeply, the top six sections used to justify redactions or refusals in the posted ATI responses were all added to the Act, or substantially amended, by Bill 29:

Over 90% of the section-citations in ATI responses posted so far have been on Bill 29 grounds. Just 9% have cited portions of the Act which are entirely or substantially unchanged from the pre-Bill 29 statute. (Strangely, a good number were supposedly "justified" on the basis of s. 18 (1), which is an interpretation provision, not the substantive provision of s. 18 (2).)

The side-notes or brief rubrics for the various sections are as follows:

30 (1) and (4). Disclosure harmful to personal privacy
20 (1). Policy advice or recommendations
27 (1). Disclosure harmful to business interests of a third party
18 (1) and (2). Cabinet confidences
24 (1). Disclosure harmful to the financial or economic interests of a public body
23 (1). Disclosure harmful to intergovernmental relations or negotiations

7 (4). [Ministerial briefings]
27 (2). [Tax returns]
12 (2). [Refusal to confirm existence of records where doing so would itself breach privacy]
21. Legal advice
22 (1). Disclosure harmful to law enforcement

22.2. Information from a workplace investigation

So, when a member of the outgoing PC government claims that Bill 29 has made no difference to the Access to Information process, or, as their talking points even more bizarrely maintain, that Bill 29 was a "Liberal" Act, they are not being truthful.

They are lying.

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