Monday, July 25, 2011

Christy Clark's "open" government? Don't believe the hype

On March 25, 2011, Attorney General Barry Penner announced British Columbians would vote on whether to keep the Harmonized Sales Tax before the planned Sept. 24, 2011 single-day, election-style poll. This referendum would be done by mail. He said it would save taxpayers $18 million and reduce voter fatigue.

Great. I wanted to see the reports that would justify that decision. So I filed a Freedom of Information request. (It's free and you can do it, too: just click here to start the process.)

Just three days letter, on March 28, 2011, I was sent a letter of acknowledgement with a deadline for response of May 10, 2011.

Intake 032811

The Premier's Office had no records, but Penner's ministry did. It sought a unilateral delay in this May 3, 2011 letter. I was supposed to receive a response no later than June 22, 2011.

AGT-2011-00073 extension 050311

June 22, 2011 came and went. Then came this June 28, 2011 letter, which said I would get a response no later than July 13, 2011 because someone at the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner allegedly granted the government two weeks to consult an unidentified public body and/or third-party.

AGT-2011-00073 extension 062811

Lo and behold, July 13, 2011 came and went. On July 22 -- at 19 minutes after 9 a.m., precisely -- I received a letter dated July 21 that included heavily censored documents.

July 22 was also the last day for British Columbians to request an HST referendum ballot. A coincidence? I think not.

Exclusive: Campbell crony helped craft HST referendum

Why so much secrecy around the Harmonized Sales Tax? If HST is such a smart tax for B.C. and the mail-in referendum such an efficient method of democracy, why not show us the report?

Or is the government embarrassed that Tom Syer, a key aide to ex-Premier Gordon Campbell (who co-fathered the HST with ex-Finance Minister Colin Hansen) has had a direct hand in the HST referendum? (Read that story here).

Earlier in the same week -- on July 19 -- Premier Christy Clark announced a new "open government" policy. Based on what was supplied and how it was supplied to me on July 22, 2011, one four-letter word comes to mind to describe Clark and co.


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