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Letter: Information access lagging in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s

['WS-xx-letter to the editor']
['WS-xx-letter to the editor']

If we don’t learn from history, we are in danger of repeating its mistakes.

In 2012, there was a move by the provincial government at the time to impose “a sweeping range of restrictions on peoples’ rights to know what is happening in the provincial government — and their tax dollars (CBC News, June 11, 2012).

Opposition leaders protested.

Liberal leader, Dwight Ball is quoted: “I think this actually makes the government more secretive than ever.”

Lorraine Michael, NDP leader is quoted: “It’s the most regressive piece of legislation I’ve seen.” 

From this outcry a new Bill 29 resulted which prompted the Steve Kent, Deputy Premier and Minister Responsible for the Office of Public Engagement at the time to say: “When all the recommendations have been actioned this province will rank amongst the best in the world.”

The Town of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s seems to have missed this part of history.

In May of this year a resident was verbally attacked for sending in a number of Access to Information (ATIPP) requests to the town.

As reported in a local newspaper, the council said it was “a form of revenge.”

One councilor said: “It’s frivolous, vexatious, and abuse of taxpayers’ money.”

Another councilor agreed and said it almost looked like an attempt at “municipal sabotage” (Just Imagine!)

Actually, the town cannot tell if access requests are being initiated by one person or sent on behalf of other residents. Complaints to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner by the town showed the requests were appropriate and that office instructed the town to respond to them! 

To compound the issue of openness, the town approved a Processing Correspondence Policy in April, 2017 with correspondence defined as “any and all written correspondence (including email) addressed to the town, with the exception of those marked “Private and Confidential.” There are specific guidelines for how this correspondence is logged or filed. But there is no obligation for council to respond to correspondence in a set time or any time.

I am still awaiting a response to correspondence I sent to council on April 17, and on May 8.

Do candidates for council in PCSP support discouraging residents from requesting information, and a Processing Correspondence policy that does not include an obligation to respond to residents?

This is 2017!

 

Bill Fagan

Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s 

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