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BC Liberals pledge to strengthen privacy laws, improve data access

NDP, Greens fail to respond to multiple information requests

The BC Liberal Party says it will work with the province’s information and privacy commissioner to strengthen laws and continue a review of those laws halted by the election call.

Commissioner Michael McEvoy has made multiple recommendations to improve B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the Personal Information Protection Act. These recommendations include having mandated breach reporting and the ability to levy fines.

In September, McEvoy said Victoria’s use of time extensions for information access requests is undermining FIPPA.

In August, the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association and BC Civil Liberties Association said B.C.’s privacy laws are out of date, out of step with international legislation and in need of reform.

And in June, McEvoy said the provincial government needs to do more to disclose operational information to the public.

And in February, Britain’s information commissioner and former B.C. commissioner Elizabeth Denham added her voice to those of Canadian privacy commissioners in calling for modernization of Canada’s laws to bring them into the 21st century.

The NDP and Green Party did not respond to multiple requests for information. However, the B.C. Liberals committed to several things:

  • working with the commissioner to strengthen FOIPPA;
  • adding administrative functions and officers of the Legislature to the act;
  • enforcing "duty to document" legislation already passed – meaning public servants must create records documenting key business decisions of government;
  • asked if the party would create penalties for privacy breaches, the Liberals responded, “We would work with the . . . commissioner to strengthen the protection of our personal information;”
  • continued modernization of open data policies with tools such as DataBC; and
  • asked how the party would train bureaucrats in what information they can and cannot release under information access law, the party said, “It is important that public servants receive training on their obligations outlined in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.”

The Legislature approved in February the creation of the Special Committee to Review the Personal Information Protection Act.

With the election call, that committee’s work stopped, stalling a report due next February.

“Many organizations took the time to prepare submissions over this past summer,” the Liberal response to Glacier Media’s queries said. “It is important for this committee to begin its work as soon as possible and re-engage stakeholders and the public - this work cannot be left undone as it has by John Horgan and the NDP.”

The NDP platform contains no policy on privacy or information access rights while the Green document mentions giving people “information rights that ensure we all have the access to all the information relevant to decisions that affect the environment” under a B.C. environmental charter.

The B.C. Conservative Party’s February policy document does pledge to create “a truly open and comprehensive Freedom of Information Act which would be reflective of costs of delivery of such services.”

The Conservatives additionally pledged making public salaries and expenses of MLAs, Cabinet ministers and all senior officials of at least annually. That would include senior officials of Crown corporations and other organizations owned, controlled or supported by B.C.’s government.


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