Dealing with open gov’t a challenge

Dealing with open gov’t a challenge by Collin Gallant, June 6, 2012, Medicine Hat News
In a humdrum spring still recovering from the election hangover, Alberta’s privacy commissioner has been busy. It’s been a frantic six weeks for the body charged with not only protecting Albertans’ private information, but also ensuring the fair, legal and honest distribution of facts and material paramount to the public good. It’s the latter half of that mandate which seems to be tripping up bureaucrats and elected officials. A half dozen recent rulings by privacy adjudicators show a disturbing trend that too often government agencies and actors are all too eager to clamp down the filing cabinets by invoking the seemingly all-encompassing matter of privacy. Well, it’s not all-encompassing, and as the privacy commissioner has found, in many cases it’s misused, if not illegal. The most stunning example was an adjudicator’s ruling that delivered both a near complete reversal of an Alberta Innovates stance as well as a tongue lashing that’s not usually seen in the legalese of government reports. Jessica Ernst, an opponent of drilling near her acreage near Rosebud, was shut down outright when she requested ground water quality reports and information about chemicals used in fracking extraction of coalbed methane. Alberta Innovates argued this was a trade secret, but lost, and eventually had to hand over the info and repay Ernst about $4,000 in processing fees for the information requests. … And how many other information requests are denied, or indeed are never begun, because citizens lack the resources to exercise their rights of appeal or general knowledge of privacy laws? [Emphasis added]

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