Recent statements by the provincial Justice minister that a review should be taking place later this year on extending the parameters of the Freedom of Information and Privacy law to include municipalities, should come as good news to residents.
In 2002, when the Freedom of Information and Privacy legislation was made, other provinces across the country did not include their municipalities. Since then, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, all have their municipalities covered under their legislation, and now the Island could be following suit.
Justice Minister Janice Sherry said the issue is included in Ralph C. Thompson’s Commission on Land and Local Governance Report and will be on the table when public consultations begin later in the year.
There is a need for some kind of tool available to the public when it comes to searching information at a municipal level. Municipalities have grown and have become more complex over the past decade and the public’s desire for information has increased.
Having a Freedom of Information and Privacy law in place would have eliminated a lot of doubt and criticism that surrounded the release of the Hopping Report into the failed concert for Summerside.
The city maintained it had released the pertinent information to the general public but others disagreed. Not releasing the entire report resulted in accusations against the city of a coverup.
The matter could have been resolved through an application under the province’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Act, had it applied to municipalities.
It is good to see the issue of freedom of information being discussed through the Commission on Land and Local Governance but couldn’t the provincial government make this change on its own? It’s their law.
Minister Sherry said it is not something that can be done with a single stroke of a pen and would require a change in the legislation.
How long would it take for the province to change the legislation to include municipalities under the law? Certainly not as long as provincewide consultations and reviews of those consultations would take.
Why not deal with it on its own instead of putting it into a 163-page document where it could be substantially delayed or even lost?
It is an important issue – an important tool for the voters to have at their disposal when dealing with municipal governments. The Freedom of Information amendment to include municipalities is needed now.