Annual FOI audit released

The Canadian Newspaper Association (CNA) has released released its fourth annual audit on Freedom of Information compliance and the results are rather grim.

Fred Vallance-Jones, the University of King’s College journalism
professor (and J-Source contributing editor) who conducted the audit in collaboration with the CNA said:

“Whether it be details of expenditures by municipalities, or federal policies on talking to the media, what you get and how fast you get it depends on where you are making the request.

Information freely available from some government agencies was denied by others. And when it wasn’t denied, prohibitive fee estimates often took it out of the reach of all but the wealthiest requesters.”

The CNA cites information about taser usage as one of the most striking examples. In Winnipeg, police forces required a $4500 fee for releasing use-of-force reports that police fill out whenever a taser gun is used.

Other highlights of the report:

• The CBC was the least transparent of the federal agencies tested. It
asked for six-month time extension to release a list of its top
employees, their classifications and their salary ranges. Most federal
agencies provided the same information within a month. The CBC
acknowledged but didn’t answer a request for its policy on employees
speaking to the media;
• The City of Windsor proposed to charge more than $103,000 for information on city payments that several municipalities provided at no cost. It said extensive manual searches would be necessary to find out why payments had been made. If some of the information was left out, the price dropped to $1,570;
• The City of Montreal twice sent back the same request for payment information. It first asked for a time period for the request, then after that was provided, refused to process the request on the basis it would mean creating a record;
• The City of Vancouver asked for more than $2,500 to provide a priority list of road repairs for the current year. Many other municipalities provided the information at no cost.

Visit the CNA website to view the report card and further information about the audit.