Freedom of information gets D on P.E.I.
Reports on timeliness of government information access mixed
Access to government information on P.E.I. is limited says a new report from Newspapers Canada, and the information commissioner herself is complaining she hasn't got the resources to do her job.
Information and privacy commissioner Maria MacDonald wrote in her annual report she is falling farther and farther behind in reviewing files where government has refused to provide information under the province's Freedom of Information Act.
MacDonald's position is part-time, three days a week. She inherited a backlog of cases when she got the job. And every year that pile of cases grows. Some date back to 2010.
"It's not a secret we have been struggling since the office opened basically with the backlog of file reviews," she said.
MacDonald has asked government to make her position full time, but that was refused. She asked for another staff person, but that was also refused. Her budget has been increased by $12,000 over the next four years so her one staff person can put in more hours.
MacDonald said that's not enough.
In a brief statement government says it's taking the annual report of the information and privacy commissioner under advisement.
Mixed findings in Newspapers Canada audit
A Newspapers Canada audit found the information office can be quick in processing some requests.
A gaping hole in government accountability.- Newspapers Canada audit
In a report this week on information offices across the country it gave P.E.I. an A for response time. The 15 requests it put in took an average of 20 days.
Fred Vallance-Jones, a journalism professor at King's College who conducts the audits, is concerned however about reports of backlogs.
"A lot of the meaning of access comes in its timeliness, and the more various parts of the process drag out the less likely it is the information will still be useful," said Vallance-Jones.
The province did not fare as well on the extent of information released, getting a D grade.
Paul MacNeill, publisher of P.E.I.'s Eastern Graphic, calls that a generous grade.
"We're the only province in the country where it is legally impossible because of the Freedom of Information Act, to get a list of who works for government, what their job is, and what their salary range is."
The audit presented 15 access to information requests. Of those, information was only released in full for three.
The report criticized the fact that Island municipalities are not part of freedom of information legislation on P.E.I., describing it as "a gaping hole in government accountability in the province."
For mobile device users:Should P.E.I.'s Freedom of Information Act be amended to allow more information to made public?