The provincial election campaign is well underway and all the major parties have released their platforms. But unfortunately for those of us concerned about information and privacy rights, the pickings are awfully slim.
Information issues were smoking hot right up to the drop of the writ. But ever since, they've received hardly a mention. Looks like nobody wants to talk about the government's increasing unwillingness to create written records or its habit of sheltering public documents from FOI by hiding them in personal email accounts. Even multi-million dollar data linkage and information management programs like the Integrated Case Management (ICM) system, which has been slammed repeatedly by officers of the Legislature and civil society alike, don't rate a mention from the four major parties.
This is pathetic.
The Liberal platform runs a generous 84 pages. Yet somehow, it neglects to include a single word about freedom of information or privacy, even though leader Christy Clark has for years championed her desire to be known as the "Open Government Premier." Quite the accomplishment.
And although the rival NDP has long been considered the government in waiting, their 55 page platform contains only one mention of FOI or privacy. They promise to "Strengthen Freedom of Information laws". That's all. It's better than nothing, but still just a tad shy on the specifics. And no mention of privacy, ICM or the new provincial ID card.
For their part, the Conservatives have proposed one policy that deals somewhat with transparency in promising to create a Legislative Budget Office. This new role bears a striking resemblance to the Parliamentary Budget Officer position created by the federal Conservatives as part of their 2006 Accountability Act. One hopes that this prospective officer would fare better than his or her federal counterpart Kevin Page, whose term as the PBO came to a fighting finish in March as he battled the government in court for access to financial documents.
Finally, the Green Party's policy paper on Governance does contain some criticisms of our provincial FOI woes (such as having the 'worst in Canada' response times in the national FOI audit conducted by Newspapers Canada, and the failure of both NDP and Liberal governments to put out annual reports on Freedom of Information for the past 16 years). Unfortunately, they don't tell us what they would do to address these shortcomings, and likewise ignore privacy concerns altogether.
So how do we get a bunch of buttoned-lipped leaders to spill on what they would do to improve information and privacy rights once they are in office?
The B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association has sent out a survey on information and privacy to all four party leaders, asking for their views on issues like Integrated Case Management and the importance of creating records in the process of developing public policy.
We'll be passing their responses along to you early next month, so you can see where the leaders stand before you step into the voting booth.