Citizens Services Minister Jinny Sims takes questions in the B.C. legislature Oct. 19, 2017 about delayed information on the Pressy Lake fire that destroyed 33 homes near 100 Mile House in August. (Hansard TV)

Changes coming to FOI rules, B.C. minister says

Jinny Sims looking at 72-hour public release policy

Weekly newspapers and freelance journalists might soon get more time to produce stories gleaned from freedom of information requests to the B.C. government.

Citizens Services Minister Jinny Sims isn’t making any promises, but a review of freedom of information (FOI) requests to the B.C. government and its agencies is underway, and the policy of releasing all results on a public website 72 hours after they are given to the applicant is part of that.

B.C. Ferries was the first provincial agency to start public release of all FOI requests, and the rest of the government followed suit under the previous B.C. Liberal administration.

“It has been brought to my attention that this is still happening, and we’re doing a review, and we’re looking at making some changes,” Sims said in an interview with Black Press.

“One of the things that I’ve also heard is that when you publish a name on a website of who has put in a request, that also has a chilling factor for some people. So we’re looking at the whole issue around this, and we are planning to make changes.”

The NDP promised in the spring election campaign to change the public release policy.

After former finance minister Mike de Jong began posting FOI responses to a public website, researchers and reporters objected. Media lawyer David Sutherland noted that when law firms use FOI for civil cases, they try to keep them secret from the other side. He predicted public release would result in lawyers using agents to file requests, adding more complexity to cases.

Sims said the on-time performance of response to FOI requests has also improved, up from 80 per cent last year to 91 per cent. She attributed the improvement to her new direction for staff, who she said have been “unleashed to do their job.”

Sheer volume of FOI requests is an issue for the B.C. government, including everything from political staff combing through ministers’ calendars to provincial prison inmates demanding menus of correctional institutions.

“We do have a small number of high-volume users, the frequent flyers on our FOI system, and they do generate significant workload pressures,” Sims said. “In 2016-17 alone, two requesters were responsible for 29 per cent of all general requests, and one of these two requesters generated 65 per cent of all media-related FOI requests.”

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation load lobster traps on the wharf in Saulnierville, N.S., after launching its own self-regulated fishery on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. When Jaime Battiste was in his early 20s, cable news channels were full of images of Mi’kmaq fishermen in New Brunswick battling federal fisheries officers over seized lobster traps. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)
Nisga’a Lisims Government calls on Prime Minister to act in N.S. fisheries dispute

NLG President: “We are shocked by what’s happening in Nova Scotia”

A nurse prepares a flu shot. The public vaccine for the 2020-2021 flu season is now in pharmacies in Terrace. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
Private flu vaccines scarce at Terrace pharmacies

Public flu vaccines still available for those with greatest need

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

Ellis Ross (left), BC Liberal party, celebrated with his wife, Tracey after being named the preliminary winner of the 2020 snap provincial election.
Ross presumptive Skeena winner in snap B.C. election

Election outcome will not be official until mail-in ballots are counted

Voting has officially closed throughout B.C. for the 2020 snap provincial election. (Clare Rayment)
Map of Skeena polling stations

Watch the updates on the map below as polling stations are counted throughout Skeena riding

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Most Read