Citizens Services Minister Jinny Sims takes questions in the B.C. legislature Oct. 19, 2017 about delayed information on the Pressy Lake fire that destroyed 33 homes near 100 Mile House in August. (Hansard TV)

Changes coming to FOI rules, B.C. minister says

Jinny Sims looking at 72-hour public release policy

Weekly newspapers and freelance journalists might soon get more time to produce stories gleaned from freedom of information requests to the B.C. government.

Citizens Services Minister Jinny Sims isn’t making any promises, but a review of freedom of information (FOI) requests to the B.C. government and its agencies is underway, and the policy of releasing all results on a public website 72 hours after they are given to the applicant is part of that.

B.C. Ferries was the first provincial agency to start public release of all FOI requests, and the rest of the government followed suit under the previous B.C. Liberal administration.

“It has been brought to my attention that this is still happening, and we’re doing a review, and we’re looking at making some changes,” Sims said in an interview with Black Press.

“One of the things that I’ve also heard is that when you publish a name on a website of who has put in a request, that also has a chilling factor for some people. So we’re looking at the whole issue around this, and we are planning to make changes.”

The NDP promised in the spring election campaign to change the public release policy.

After former finance minister Mike de Jong began posting FOI responses to a public website, researchers and reporters objected. Media lawyer David Sutherland noted that when law firms use FOI for civil cases, they try to keep them secret from the other side. He predicted public release would result in lawyers using agents to file requests, adding more complexity to cases.

Sims said the on-time performance of response to FOI requests has also improved, up from 80 per cent last year to 91 per cent. She attributed the improvement to her new direction for staff, who she said have been “unleashed to do their job.”

Sheer volume of FOI requests is an issue for the B.C. government, including everything from political staff combing through ministers’ calendars to provincial prison inmates demanding menus of correctional institutions.

“We do have a small number of high-volume users, the frequent flyers on our FOI system, and they do generate significant workload pressures,” Sims said. “In 2016-17 alone, two requesters were responsible for 29 per cent of all general requests, and one of these two requesters generated 65 per cent of all media-related FOI requests.”

Just Posted

WATCH: Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 in Chilliwack trying to flee police

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Drugs and guns seized by Chilliwack Mounties in complex case

Drug trafficking investigations led to five arrests in three different locations across Chilliwack

Chilliwack RCMP trying to catch robbery suspect

Police hope someone will identify the person who appears in security camera footage

LETTER: Why is Jati Sidhu ashamed of his riding?

Lytton’s Christopher di Armani shares his dismay at the potential name change of the MP’s riding

Chilliwack churns out new generation of wildfire fighters

School district partners with B.C. Wildfire Service to prep Grade 12s for careers

Stolen Bentley spotted going wrong way down highway found in Summerland

The car has been recorded going the wrong way on the Coquihalla, found two days later

VIDEO: Vancouver fall to Seattle in Game 2 of the playoffs

Thunderbirds topple the Giants 4-1 in Langley, evening the Western Conference series one game each

Calgary captain has 3 points as Flames torch Canucks 3-1

Giordano leads way as Alberta side cracks 100-point plateau

1,300 cruise ship passengers rescued by helicopter amid storm off Norway’s coast

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Vancouver-bound transit bus involved in fatal crash near Seattle

One man was killed and a woman injured in crash with bus purchased by TransLink

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Most Read