Information denied

Nearly half of the 314 formal requests to municipal, provincial and federal governments seeking records such as pandemic flu plans, trip expenses for senior officials and public land transactions were met with denials, fees and time delays reaching as long as half a year. [The Star]

Most people don’t bother to ask because they know they will get the runaround and fear getting tagged as rabble-rousers. The ones that do have the balls to ask, get the runaround and get tagged as rabble-rousers.

“It’s a joke,” says Jeff Green, a Torontonian who fought a three-year battle under provincial freedom of information laws to obtain records he says never materialized.

After filing a misconduct complaint against a Toronto police officer, Green made a request in 2006 for records detailing what he believed to be improper use of police computers to search his personal information.

Moreover, if and when you do get information, how can you trust or confirm that information given you is complete or even accurate?

After a series of lengthy negotiations and a formal appeal, the provincial information commissioner ordered police to release the records to Green last year.

But the documents, featuring long lists of computer printout data, amount to “a pile of gibberish,” says Green.

“Whatever information they provided would be the same as providing nothing. It’s an illusion of access to calm the masses.”

We have our local examples. There is the case of the CAO letter with it’s mysterious blacked out paragraph that may or may not have been completely innocuous [but if so, why a court case over it at considerable cost to the taxpayer?] The latest is the efforts of Mr. Becker to obtain the details of the contract with Irving over the “clock park” [so called] land. Perhaps Council should take note of this from the same article [emph ours]:

Confidentiality was the reason generally cited for denial of the records.

“We could not provide the actual contracts themselves (because) they were set up as confidential legal documents and contain competitive information,” said University of New Brunswick spokesperson Cynthia Goodwin.

Last year, the Ontario Information Commissioner rejected a similar argument by Hamilton’s McMaster University and ordered the university to release contract records to the Toronto Star, stating McMaster “has not provided detailed and convincing evidence of harm.”

But of course the Irving land case may never get before a judge. Will this too be “settled”  with taxpayer money and the details kept quiet?


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