Apr. 25, 2018

There's a simple solution to Freedom of Information use

The hand-wringing over the increase of Freedom of Information requests to the city is causing concern for some people, but the solution is quite simple.

The root problem is the city’s current policy on providing information. Prior to the present management regime, all you had to do was pick up the phone and ask a city department manager if you had any need for basic information. In most cases you would get it, no problem. In many cases such information is easily available through the city clerk’s office. (Or in the past they could direct you.)

That policy appears to have been changed during the current city management setup. I’ve had instances where I tried to get information that had nothing to do with secrecy or in-camera decisions and discussion and was told to “file an FOI.”

That’s the basic problem, a philosophy of passing all requests through senior management staff who determine whether you can get the information. It’s been more about control than protection of information.

FOI requests take a lot more staff time and in some cases legal costs than before the present policy. The suggestions by some councillor that the public should be charged for information is beyond comment. In fact, irresponsible. Basic information about our city should not be for sale. It's not council's property to sell.

The Freedom of Information process is invaluable but should not be used – or abused – frivolously to exert unnecessary control through personal agendas.