P.E.I. has received top marks in a national review of access to information, but has also been criticized for gaps in its freedom of information legislation.

'You give the power to the citizens to decide what it is they want to see, not to the government.' - Fred Vallance-Jones

The most recent audit by News Media Canada singles out P.E.I. as the only Canadian province to exclude municipal government bodies from the application of its freedom of information law. 

"Charlottetown, Summerside, Montague and other P.E.I. municipalities, as well as municipal police, need to be brought under the aegis of the province's FOI law," the report continues, "so they are accountable to their citizens and others in the same way as other municipalities across Canada."

'A' for access

Criticism aside, the P.E.I. government received a mark of 'A' in the report, and was commended for responding to all information requests from the organization within 30 days.

Of the 15 requests made by News Media Canada to the province, 11 resulted in full disclosure of the information requested. Two requests were withheld in part, one resulted in a fee estimate of $540, and in another case the province said no record existed.

As part of its audit, News Media Canada also sent six requests for information to the City of Charlottetown, five of which were released in full taking an average of 2.7 days.

While noting the fast response time, the report's author Fred Vallance-Jones said as long as municipalities aren't covered by legislation, they get to ultimately decide what information they make available.

Citizens should decide, group says

"The point is that you give the power to the citizens to decide what it is they want to see, not to the government to decide what they should see," Vallance-Jones said.

Premiers Governors 20170828

In its 2015 Speech from the Throne, the Wade MacLauchlan government indicated the system would be reviewed. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

"You have the most open democracy, the most effective democracy when people have a right to know not just what the government says it's doing, but what it is doing. Freedom of information acts provide that accountability."

In the 2015 provincial election, the PCs, Green Party and NDP all promised to expand P.E.I.'s freedom of information system to take in more public bodies, including municipalities and post-secondary institutions. The Liberals, meanwhile, pledged to make the system less cumbersome.

Review coming

In its 2015 Speech from the Throne, the MacLauchlan government indicated the system would be reviewed. So far that review has not taken place.

However, a spokesperson told CBC News via email that government is still committed to a review, and details could come forward during the fall sitting of the legislature.

In the meantime, P.E.I.'s Information and Privacy Commissioner Karen Rose has conducted her own review, which is to be presented next week to the province's Standing Committee on Communities, Land and Environment.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story quoted the report as saying P.E.I. was the only province or territory that did not include municipalities. The authors now say that information was incorrect in the report. In fact, P.E.I. is the only province to not include municipalities.
    Sep 29, 2017 5:19 PM AT