The provincial government rolled out a new Internet tool Thursday that will allow people to see restaurant inspection reports online.
Flanked by members of the restaurant industry, Service NL Minister Nick McGrath said people can now go to the government’s website and see recent health and sanitation inspection reports.
“The general public has the right to know that the establishment in which they choose to dine is complying with all food safety standards,” he said. “Previously the general public had the ability to contact a government service centre in their area to request a copy of an inspection report. These were generally available within three to five business days.”
Keith Hutchings, the minister responsible for the government’s newly created Office of Public Engagement, said he’s looking for more and more chances to do this sort of “proactive disclosure.”
Hutchings said the government is looking for more ways to open up.
“As part of John Cummings’ review of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, it was recommended that every department have a policy on routine disclosure which should include the disclosure of documents that are commonly requested and do not contain sensitive information.” he said. “I’ve directed officials of the ATIPP office to continue to seek means to identify other opportunities for routine disclosure.”
It was the Cummings report which also precipitated the Bill 29 amendments to the province’s access to information legislation.
Bill 29 caused the longest filibuster in the province’s history in the House of Assembly, as critics said it greatly expanded the scope of government secrecy by making large swaths of government documents off-limits to public access.
“It’s hard to keep a straight face when this government talks about openness and transparency,” said Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons, who sat in on the government’s news conference Thursday. “I have no doubt that this is a response to the Bill 29 criticism.”
New Democrat MHA George Murphy was happy with the move by government to make restaurant inspections more easily available.
“It’s very public,” he said. “Food safety is a really big concern with people of course, and I just think it’s a positive move.”
For the announcement, McGrath and Hutchings were joined by Luc Erjavec from the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Industry and Nancy Brace, executive director of the Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.
They both applauded the government, saying the online inspection information will bolster public confidence when it comes to the eateries of the province.
“While these inspection reports were always available to the public for the asking, the convenience of this online service means consumers can now more easily view the current status of an establishment as well as its history,” Brace said.