Alberta among worst in responding to queries

Alberta among worst in responding to queries by Jason van Rassel, Calgary Herald, September 22, 2007
Government employees are withholding routine information that should be made public and Alberta’s privacy commissioner says their political masters are largely to blame for not encouraging more openness. … Public bodies in Alberta tied with Newfoundland as the worst among nine provinces tested in the Canadian Newspaper Association’s annual freedom-of-information audit. … “Access to information is a right in a healthy democracy,” said Liberal MLA Mo Elsalhy, the party’s shadow minister for Service Alberta, the department that administers the FOIPP Act. Too often in Alberta, it’s “denial of information,” said Elsalhy — though, like the privacy commissioner, Elsalhy said he believes civil servants are merely following directions from above when responding to freedom of information requests. … This week, Elsalhy received a $265,424 fee estimate from Service Alberta in response to a request for records documenting any breaches of policy by private registry agents over a three-year period. The estimate is based on the cost of retrieving 380,000 pages of records, copying them — and then excluding approximately 190,000 pages under exemptions to the FOIPP Act. While some politicians may think restricting access to information is better than letting potentially embarrassing records become public, Elsalhy said making citizens jump through hoops is more harmful. …. To Anne Landry, who lost her job in 2003, ensuring the records about her performance are accurate and complete is vital to finding work in her profession. Yet Landry hasn’t received the majority of the records she’s looking for after repeated appeals to the privacy commission — including three that went to inquiries heard by commissioner Work, the highest level of appeal without turning to the courts.

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