Alberta privacy commissioner pushes for even more openness by James Wood, August 3, 2013, Calgary Herald
Alberta needs to establish minimum standards to ensure that more government information is made freely available to the public without a fight, says the province’s information and privacy commissioner. That’s one of a series of recommendations made by Jill Clayton in her submission to the provincial government’s review of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP). Clayton said Friday she wants a legislated requirement for public bodies to commit to “proactive disclosure” of information and minimize the need for formal access requests from citizens. “In my view, that should be sort of the avenue of last resort,” she said in an interview.
“Public information should be available to the public.” Clayton said that Alberta has taken some positive steps lately, such as the mandatory expense disclosure policy for MLAs and senior civil servants introduced by the Redford government last fall. But she noted that a 2012 study of four provinces’ FOIP legislation by the Centre for Law and Democracy ranked Alberta’s the lowest. Don Scott, associate minister for accountability, transparency and transformation in the Tory government, said he won’t commit to specific changes at this point, but the idea of proactive disclosure often came up in consultations and is on the government’s agenda. “That was a theme I certainly heard … it’s something that’s important,” he said Friday. … “Everybody had suggestions, whether it was a minor part of the act or a massive change. I believe there’s room for improvement.” Scott had originally planned to submit new legislation next spring, but says it now may take longer because of the complexity of the issues involved. Clayton said the review of the law is long overdue, and its outcome will indicate whether the government is committed to greater openness. [Emphasis added]