Friday, June 7, 2013

Health Minister's briefing book that the government didn't want you to see

Premier Christy Clark shuffled her cabinet on Sept. 5, 2012. Back then, some of us wags used the “shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic” line. Little did we know, the B.C. NDP, under captain Adrian Dix would run aground and the Liberals would keep sailing after the May 14 election.

On election night, Clark lost her seat in Vancouver-Point Grey to the NDP’s David Eby. She is hoping to win a by-election in Kelowna sometime this summer. Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid, who became Minister of Health on Sept. 5, 2012, also lost her seat, in Vancouver-Fairview, to the NDP’s George Heyman. I covered the Vancouver-Fairview riding for the Vancouver Courier

The day that MacDiarmid was announced as Health Minister, I sought the briefing book and transition information that staff provided her (she was not formally sworn-in until Sept. 26, 2012). I finally received that on June 4, 2013, after MacDiarmid had become the ex-Health Minister. 

The government invoked an extension from the original disclosure date of Oct. 19, 2012 to Dec. 3, 2012. On Nov. 28, 2012, it asked if I would consent to a delay until Jan. 17, 2013, so that the Office of the Premier could decide what information it wanted to withhold. I expressed my opposition. 

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner granted a 10-day extension to Dec. 17, 2012. 

It took 271 days (or eight months and 29 days) from filing the request to receipt of the documents. MacDiarmid did not last that long as Minister! 

I have complained to the OIPC. It is abundantly clear that the government preferred not to have the records about its most complex, costly and controversial ministry in the public domain until after the election. This is not an isolated case. Governing parties at all levels in Canada are increasingly exploiting the toothless federal, provincial and municipal access to information laws to delay publication of information until after elections, so as to avoid controversy. 

So, on the day we find out who will succeed MacDiarmid, I present to you her briefing book for the $17 billion ministry. The document was subject to what I believe is unreasonable censoring.

Yet more evidence of why Clark’s promises about open government were hollow. 

No comments:

Blog Archive